Ok, so I know a lot of you were curious about my sudden drastic change of plans. On Tuesday the 18th of August I was supposed to be heading up to Bristol and fly home to Dublin the next day. However, I ended up making a last minute decision to road trip Europe with a guy I barely knew. So, how the hell did that happen? Well, I met Ali when I was in Portugal just over a month ago. I was reviewing a kite surf camp and he was staying at the surf camp that I had fallen in love with in June. In all honesty, I didn’t really think I’d see him again. However, as it turns out, we’re terribly bad at saying goodbye to each other. We crossed paths again in England. I was doing some work not far from where he lives, so we met up a couple of times and he told me that he was off to Sweden the next week to study.
Fast forward to Monday night, the night before I was supposed to catch the train up to Bristol to fly home to Dublin. I was talking to Ali and he mentioned that his friend had dropped out and hence put a dampener on their plan to road trip Europe all the way to Sweden. So naturally my first reaction was to say, “Well, I’ll come.”. This was obviously followed by plenty of nerves on my part and glancing at my phone every two seconds to see if he was as enthused at the thought of a road trip across Europe together as I was. But hey, if you never ask you never know, right?!
I had always wanted to road trip Europe and I did promise that I would visit some friends in Copenhagen (which was on the route), plus we could split costs . There were plenty of reasons for me to want to go with him. However, if I’m being honest the main reason I went was that I just loved the idea of going on a last minute crazy adventure with a guy I really like being around. I would have gone even if I hadn’t planned on meeting people in Copenhagen. haha.
SO on Tuesday morning it was all confirmed, and instead of hopping on a train to Bristol I hopped on the train to Plymouth and called my mother on the way to explain. Luckily she’s as flighty and spontaneous as me so she was more impressed than anything. Then it was time to hit road and get ready to road trip Europe!
ROAD TRIP EUROPE
So what was the itinerary?
Let’s keep this simple!
Day 1; Drive to Harwich, Essex, UK (stay over night)
Day2; Catch the Ferry to Holland and drive to Arnhem (stay over night)
Day 3; Drive from Holland to Lubeck, Germany (stay over night)
Day 4; Drive to Puttgarden to get the ferry to Denmark. Drive across Denmark to Copenhagen (we stayed over night but you could drive on to Sweden if you had started early)
Day 5; My first day in Copenhagen and Ali drove off to Sweden
Day 6; Explore Copenhagen ( Check out my guide to Copenhagen here)
Day 7; Train to Lund, Sweden for the day to wander around aimlessly with Ali. I didn’t get to visit Stockholm but it’s only 4hrs from Lund on the high speed train and there are SO many things to do in Stockholm, so it’s worth a visit if you have time! But for me it was back to Copenhagen.
Day8; Louisiana musuem of modern art and then off to the airport to fly back to Dublin.
Harwich to Hook of Holland:
You can book your tickets for Stena Line pretty easily online. Then all you need is your passport and you’re ready to go. Make sure you take sea sickness tablets or chew some ginger in case the sea is rough. Luckily for me, the water was perfectly calm on our crossing. There’s a cinema and an outdoor basketball court on the ferry in case you get bored. The crossing should take around 7 hours. It’s worth purchasing a cabin so you can have a nap and chill out. We got one for around £28, which is reasonable considering you get your own bathroom and TV. It made everything much more comfortable. ALSO, I saw dolphins, which was awesome. Brought me back to my childhood days of being obsessed with dolphin figurines (yep, I am cool ).
Puttgarden (Germany) to Rodby (Denmark):
You can’t road trip Europe without a ferry or two. Well you probably can, but you shouldn’t! This Scandlines ferry only takes 45minutes and you can buy your ticket when you arrive. HOWEVER, it’s significantly cheaper to buy it online before hand. Also, pre-booking your ticket has the added advantage that you get to board the ferry before all the other, less organised, people that paid when they arrived. Myself and Ali did not pre-book as we didn’t want to be tied to a set time slot. However, we then ended up waiting around 2 hours to catch a ferry as the first one was full and the next one was delayed. So in case this happens to you I highly recommend bringing snacks. You can buy duty-free cigarettes on the ferry but you can only smoke them ON the ferry, so it’s really only suitable for EXTREME chain smokers. I mean, what is that rule?! Why even offer duty free cigarettes if you have to smoke them all on board?? So bizarre.
OK, so this is obviously a big part of attempting to road trip Europe. The most important thing is to drive on the right side of the road, literally. Stick to that and you can’t go too wrong. Myself and Ali found the roads in Holland particularly confusing. There’s a lot of markings that overlap each other and it’s very hard to decide which lane you should be in. We struggled a bit, and by we I mean Ali since he did ALL of the driving which I am super appreciative of. I may have a license but I am not ready for that level of driving yet!
Bring a GPS or just use Maps on your phone but don’t be surprised if/when it steers you wrong. There were quite a few new roads and a couple had roadworks blocking them off. You can’t road trip Europe without getting a bit lost. Again, you probably can, but getting lost is fun. Obviously the Autobahn is easy to navigate, apart from some crazy drivers (they seriously love to cut you up). It’s pretty much a straight road, which, contrary to what I had been led to believe, actually does have a speed limit in parts. Though….. it also doesn’t have a speed limit in certain places. I think at one point we were at about 120mph, which is insane. Also, there was no sign saying welcome to Germany or anything! The only way we figured out that we were in Germany was the road signs and the radio got a bit better.
The services are TERRIBLE in Germany, shockingly bad. Which is a shame because I feel like someone could make a lot of money if they just set up decent services like they have in the UK and Ireland. If you’re a vegetarian it’s a real struggle trying to get anything to eat in the services. In Denmark I ended up having to pick the meat off this little pizza thing at a service station. I don’t even want to contemplate how hard it would be for a vegan. Also, in Germany you had to pay to use the bathrooms at the services, 70c. I thought this was a bit mean. The last thing you need when you’re dying for the toilet is to be fumbling around for 70c. So yeah, bring some coins on your road trip across Europe.
Final tip, BRING MUSIC. The radio really was atrocious in all countries along the way. Germany was the best of a bad bunch. But yeah, CDS or a cable to play music from your phone is the best way to go when you want to road trip Europe.
Some of my favourite things on this trip were silly things like an epic game of eye spy (we’re so cool) on the road from Germany to Denmark or singing along to a Jimmy Eat World song that I’d almost forgotten about. I guess I just enjoyed the whole experience and the company in general. HOWEVER, there were some highlights that particularly stand out. Being cycled around Copenhagen by my friend Nathalie in a sort of bicycle taxi was terrifying, amazing and hilarious. Tourists were taking pictures of us! Oh and Nathalie’s gorgeous daughter made me a little coaster with my name on it out of Hama beads, which was adorable.
Also in the hotel in Arnhem I was ordering dinner and I wanted to get the veggie burger. For some reason they had named the veggie burger “the receptionist” on the menu. So I had to ask the receptionist if I could have “the receptionist”. Luckily she didn’t take that up as a proposition. Also in Holland, we were walking past a shop with a woman hanging around in the door. There was a sign outside the shop which I glanced at without thinking. Then I registered what it said……Masturbation Masterclass!!! Yep, only in Holland. I would have taken a picture except I was afraid if I hung around too long that the woman would try to rope me into it.
So how much does it cost to road trip Europe? Well, to be honest everyone will do it differently. We stayed in hotels because, well, it’s just nicer sometimes. However, hostels would dramatically reduce costs. We also just ordered room service and ate in the hotels most nights, which again increases costs. But for comfort and convenience it is worth it. If you’re on a strict budget you’ll want to do it quite differently. Luckily neither of us were, so we were happy to spend a bit extra.
Hotels: Premier Inn Harwich is around £50-80 for a double room depending on what time of year you go. NH Rijnhotel Arnhem is around £70 if you get an early bird special. Holiday Inn Lubeck is about £80 a night. First Hotel Copenhagen was around £100. So that’s roughly £330 ish for accomodation for 2 people over 4 nights.
Ferry: The Stenaline ferry to Hook of Holland is around £150 for a car and 2 passengers and a cabin on the ferry is£28. The Scandlines ferry from Puttgarden to Denmark was £66 because we paid on the day. SO that’s a total of £244 for ferry transport.
Then you have to add in food and fuel, which depends on who you’re with and what kind of car you have really. Petrol was fairly expensive. I think we paid about £60 to fill up the tank at one stage.
Well, there’s not much left to say. I went on a crazy last minute road trip across Europe and I had an amazing time and I highly recommend it. I think when an opportunity like this comes up you kind of have to just go with it. The journey is most of the fun and getting lost and changing plans are usually the most exciting part of anything really. It was so lovely to see my kite surfing friends again and to add 3 new countries to my list of countries visited. So, hopefully I’ve convinced you that there are plenty of reasons to love Europe and even more reasons to explore it by road. Anyway, I’ll stop rambling on about how to road trip Europe now. BUT I’ll leave you with a final question……
Have any of you ever gone on a last minute trip?? Where to and how did it turn out??