There are many ways to travel but what I like most is the freedom you have during a road trip. You can go wherever you want, stop wherever you want, stay as much as you want and plan your route accordingly. One of the top trips on my bucket list was a road trip to southern Europe; and last summer I had the opportunity to make it happen. From Lisbon to Florence, 25 days, four countries, 3.500 km, more than 4000 photos.
I flew from Washington DC to Lisbon, rented a car(s) and drove north along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean to Porto, then to north Spain (A Coruna, Bilbao), south France (Toulouse, Montpellier, Cannes, Nice) and finally to north Italy (Florence, Toscane).
Beautiful cities, interesting people, historic sites and breathtaking sceneries all the way on this amazing route. I enjoyed every moment of this trip and definitely suggest it if you have the opportunity and the time to do it.
A couple of useful tips to lower the budget for such a trip, if you don’t mind being a little more adventurous:
First, do not rent one car all the way. When I tried to do the reservation for the rental car, I figured out that (in my case) the price for the car was $550, BUT the fee for leaving the car in a different country was $1500! So, I rented a different car in every country, leaving it at the borders, crossing the borders on a bus or train and, then, renting a new car in the next country. This way my total cost for the rental cars was $720.
Second, be a traveller not a tourist. A nice way to come closer to this feeling is to rent a house through Airbnb, HomeAway, 9flats, etc. Even better, rent a room in a house. I rented rooms during the whole trip and it was the best experience I could ever have. It is not only the lower prices you can get (We – me and my wife – stayed in places for $15-20 per night) but most important the opportunity to stay with somebody who is actually from that city. They live there and can be a great source of information about the area. In my case, I didn’t have any bad experiences traveling this way, instead, in some places I met great people that put their personal touch on my trip and made it even better. (Special thanks to Ame in Lisbon, Jean Marie in Cap d'Adge and Loise in Aix en Province)
For the record, gas and tolls during this trip came out around to $500. A very important detail for my American friends is that the best prices were for the smallest car I could get with a manual transmission. Bigger cars with automatic transmission will be quite more expensive, but if you don’t know how to drive manual, it’s not a good idea to learn during a trip like this.
(Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain)
(Nazare Beach, Portugal)
(A Coruna, Spain)
In my opinion, and in a very general conclusion, Portugal was the cheapest among these four countries; Spain had the best food in relation to the prices; France is a place that I would love to stay – had a great balance between order and freedom in daily life and Italy had the most beautiful cities and sceneries.
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