Saturday, August 30, 2008

Croatia Online - Driving To The UK


For those of you contemplating travelling to the UK from Croatia by car, for the first time, there are a few things you need to know.

We followed the recomended Michelin Route via Zagreb, Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Belgium, Holland and France. Our Top Five Tips and Comments are as follows:

1. Most Outrageous Rip Off - Slovenia

Following in Austria's footsteps, Slovenia decided to introduce a vignette system earlier this year. Though Austria's €8 for a 10 day vignette originally seemed a little expensive for not more than a couple of hours of motorway, it now seems excellent value for money compared to Slovenia's massive €35. This is "justified" on the basis that the minimum period is 6 months but it's patently obvious that it's just a racketeering scheme to extract money from tourists taking the through route. Adding insult to injury is the fact that Slovenia's roads, particularly the through route, are so diabolically poor. The "motorway" that takes you to Austria's excellent roads lasts for about 10 minutes and before that it took us 2 hours to do 20 kilometres through Maribor, on a pot holed single lane road, that had roadworks in the middle, forcing it into just one lane for two traffic flows from opposite directions. Slovenia has had billboards around for some time saying it's improving its roads. By the time it gets around to it, we expect them to be able to afford to pave them with gold!

2. Navigation - Outskirts Of Liege

With a decent map and the Michelin route planner it's all pretty straight forward as long as you have the main towns you are heading to firmly in your head (and it pays to remember a few of the smaller ones too). The one exception to this seemed to be Liege in Belgium, where we were expecting to see a sign to Brussels but saw everything else but, and made a couple of lucky and adrenalin filled last minute guesses at the motorway intersections. So just to be on the safe side, work out where you're not heading to as well, when you get near Liege.

3. Night Driving

If you want some easy night driving, do it in Belgium. The motorway surface is not as good as elsewhere but, until you get near the coast, the motorway is well lit pretty well all the way.

4. Overnighting

Yes it's fun to amble around the country side and discover hidden gems but if your mission is to get home as quickly and as rested as possible then it's hard to beat the motorway hotels in Germany at around €59 per room. They're almost invariably accompanied by a decent restaurant, bar and other facilities, and normally have modern, clean, functional and relatively spacious rooms.

5. Driving Tactics and National Features

You can tell which country you're in by the general demeanour of the drivers, as well as the marked change in landscape.

Croatia's motorway is notable for its stark mountains, empty motorways (unless you pick the wrong weekend) and mostly foreign drivers, particularly in summer.

Slovenia is notable for its bad roads, traffic jams and extortionate vignette. The demeanour of the drivers I would guess is very patient!

You know you're in Austria by the sudden change to lush green scenery and faster drivers but not too much in the way of congestion or lorries. The roads are particularly good - marked by an absence of roadworks and a long tunnel that takes you swiftly and painlessly underneath the large town of Graz.

Germany, particularly as you head further into it, is the real challenge and you need to decide whether you want speed or relaxation. Most of the motorways are just two lanes and full of lorries (no tolls as in France for example), and though maximum speed limits have now been introduced, many Germans still live in the good old days of no limits. So you need enormous concentration over several hundred kilometres and spend as much time looking in your mirrors (for a car that's come from nowhere) as you do looking forward (amongst other things to judge, when you need to pull out to avoid getting boxed in behind a concentrated lorry convoy). Scarier still are the roadworks around Frankfurt - narrow lanes with walls on either side - if you stay on the inside lane you'll be stuck at slow speeds for a long time; if you dare to pick the outside lane you'll be going faster than is comfortable with a lorry 6 inches away on one side and a metal or concrete wall 6 inches away on the other side!

So it's a relief to get into Belgium where drivers seem sedate compared to their German cousins, and what was a slow speed in Germany now seems to leave everyone standing.

Today's photo is of the roadwork sign in Maribor, Slovenia. By the time we reached it we had been stuck in a traffic jam for an hour and a half - no accidents; just roadworks.

Sretan put!

4 Comments:

Anonymous Chris said...

Hi there. I love your blog. Im a big Croatia fan.

Im the author of

http://www.millionaireblog.co.uk

I found you after you left a comment on my Croatia property investment article.

We own an old stone property in Croatia in the Kastela area thats currently being renovated. Croatia is a beautiful country. I really do think its leaps and bounds ahead of Spain, France, Cyprus etc etc that have been spoilt with western influence and an influx of new builds. I admit the process of purchasing a property is definitely harder in Croatia however I think it was well worth the pain and agony.

We have driven to Croatia from London, UK twice over the last two years.

This year we took a different route

London - UK
Calais, France
Belgium
Luxembourg
Germany - stopping in Munich
Austria
Slovenia - stopping in Maribor

Funnily enough we did see the big line of traffic in Slovenia heading away from Croatia rather than towards it. Maybe we drove past you going in the other direction :-)

Then we drove down the motorway past Zagreb and into Split.

Last year we skipped Luxembourg and instead went via Frankfurt in Germany. I did prefer the Munich route this year. Its a more exciting city than Frankfurt.

I highly recommend your readers to visit Croatia by car even if you dont own a property there. Think of the bonus's

* No weight limits on luggage
* Stop off whenever you like on the way taking in different scenery, cultures and people
* No queuing or checking in
* Save on the high cost of hire cars

One thing to be aware of though.. Croatians do seem to think foreign number plates equals - MONEY.

Make sure you only park in allocated parking spots with white lines "even though the locals park anywhere". My car was taken away by a council pick up truck and put in a car pound while I was inside a government office. I had to pay 350 kuna (£35) to release it :-(

Anyway, keep up the good work with your blog. Im also planning on heading down to Croatia on a more permanent basic (some day)..

All the best
Chris

9:26 pm  
Blogger Jane Cody said...

Thanks for the comment Chris - good to "hear" a different view. Curious to know which Kastela you are in - that's been our stamping ground for a few years?!

9:37 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fantastic blogs,full of information! I am riding a motorcycle down from UK to split later on this year and would appreciate any tips r help you can give! Do I need green card insurance or any other little hidden tips that will save me any fines! Have recently been done for not putting my foot down at a stop sign in France (90 Euros) even though the bike had come to a complete stop! Love the French Gendarmie!

7:37 am  
Blogger Jane Cody said...

Thanks for your comment. I'm afraid the Croatian police love foreign drivers! Yes you will need a green card and you'll also need vignettes in Austria and Slovenia if you use the main roads and motorways. Headlights is a favourite - they need to be on daytime as well in winter, and always in tunnels. A friend of hours got fined for turning his off a millimetre before he was out of the tunnel. Also you can normally negotiate the ticket a little. Sometimes it starts around 500 kunas but if you only have 300 they might compromise. The threat is that if you don't have enough money they will take your passport and you have to turn up in court a few days later which is not a good idea. Best website is http://www.hac.hr/en/ Sounds like a great trip - have fun.

9:51 am  

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