Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tightwad Travel Tip - Driving

After reading "Disaster in Provence," you may be considering other modes of transportation for your vacation. But don't reserve a hot air balloon just yet! Keeping a few tips in mind will make driving a car in other countries a pleasure, and there's no better way to encounter serendipitous surprises in villages along the way.

How to Get Where You're Going
Highway numbers on maps are infrequently posted on road signs, but upcoming towns are almost always listed. Make sure you know what towns, both large and small, are on your route so you can steer in that direction. But don't forget the next tip.

What's that Name?
Is it Florence or Firenze? Regardless of your mode of transportation, it's helpful to remember that some Americanized names for towns will not appear on maps or train schedules in the country itself. For example, in Italy, Genoa is Genova; Rome is Roma; Turin is Torino. To avoid problems, be certain you know how a city is identified.

Towns and cities in Europe use rectangular blue signs with a white "P" in the middle to indicate public parking. Don't forget to take your parking ticket with you when you exit the car. Usually there are no attendants at the lot, and you must pay your ticket at a machine which is often located far away from the parking lot itself.

When you are ready to return to your car, look for the parking meter machine. Follow the instructions, pay the fee, take your receipt, and use it to exit the lot. You cannot leave the lot without that receipt.

The Passing Lane Is Really Just for Passing!
In Europe, motorists do not hog the passing lane. Endear yourself to other drivers by using the passing lane only to pass. As soon as you've driven beyond the slower traffic, ease back in to the appropriate lane.

Create Your Own Passing Lane
In Mexico and Ireland, and perhaps other countries with narrow, two-lane major highways, the shoulder serves as a third lane, more or less. Don't panic when you're on a two-lane road and someone zooms up behind you and begins to pass. Ease off to the side, more or less straddling the road and the shoulder, and let the anxious driver get on by.

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