Going on a roadtrip around Europe is as exciting as it sounds. However, for most of us the cost is a barrier. Not having a permanent residence means having to find new accommodation each night (unless you’re lucky enough to own a caravan or camper). Then there’s the cost of everything that comes with a vehicle – petrol, tolls, parking. Yes, a roadtrip isn’t something you can do on a whim. But there are definitely ways to cut costs dramatically that make it very affordable.
Tolls and Vignettes
Almost everywhere in Europe, motorways aren’t free. There will either be toll gates (most of Western Europe) or a Vignette system (most of Eastern Europe), the latter being like a weekly tax disc. In all cases, you will be able to avoid motorways – and therefore avoid having to pay for tolls or vignettes. Countries will make it especially difficult when trying to cross the border, often forcing you to use a motorway, but in most cases you can still dodge the toll or having to buy a vignette (just make sure you exit the motorway as soon as you’re over the border!)
Parking in cities is always expensive, especially in the centre where all the sights annoyingly happen to be. If you don’t mind using your legs for a bit, it pays to park a little distance away from the centre and then walk in (some cities you won’t want to drive in anyway. Avoid driving in Naples like the plague!). Look out for residential side-streets and supermarket car parks, they will generally be free. Parking on a Sunday is also free practically everywhere.
Sleeping in the car is an option. I’ve done it and it’s not pretty – especially nearing winter. You will need respite and that means finding affordable accommodation. Budget hotels for travellers are located everywhere, often just as good as hostels. It helps to book a few hours or a day in advance to avoid trawling around a city at 10pm.
Those who have a caravan or camper may still want to find a hook up now again to get some electricity, but hook-ups are cheap as chips, so this shouldn’t be a worry.
Food and Drink
No fine dining for you. What do you think this is – a holiday? That said, you shouldn’t have to live like a fugitive. Take a gas stove and some pots, pans and cutlery, find a Lidls (everywhere in Europe has one), load up on local produce and cook yourself some tasty meals in the evening (in summer, lay-bys will be full of people doing this). If you have room in the car, bring a mini-fridge for storing meat and dairy. Just remember to buy washing up liquid too, and then wash up when you get to your accommodation. For times when you don’t fancy cooking, street food is another cheap option. Live like this and every so often you’ll be able to shell out on a half-decent meal and not feel guilty about it!