::Tips for Driving in Central Europe

Before I dive into my amazing experiences in Vienna and Budapest, I feel that I first need to tell you about the actual experience of getting there/back.

You should read this if you ever plan to drive (or are curious about driving) in the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary or Slovakia.
We rented a car for the long weekend and decided we would drive to Austria and Hungary from Wroclaw, Poland. Here are a few things I learned along the way:
Lesson #1: What are Toll Booths?

Poland, like in America, has toll roads with people stationed at booths collecting money for driving on the highway. Nothing surprising there. But wait until you get in the Czech Republic! We had to stop at the first gas station, wait in a super long line, buy a “motorway pass” (valid for 10 days) and stick it in the window. There are then cameras along the highway taking photos of your windshield to ensure you have the highway pass displayed. There are no signs that tell you to do this. You’re just supposed to ‘know’ – thankfully, my husband remembered this from when he lived in Poland a few years ago. I had no idea.

Same goes for driving in Austria, Hungary and Slovakia, but:
All different motor passes.
All different costs.
All different currencies.

To Note: Know that the person selling passes likely doesn’t speak English, so be prepared to point to a Motor Menu of options. Credit card was fine in the Czech. In Hungary, we paid in Euros (even though this is not their currency). I cannot say if credit card would be accepted at this ‘rest area’ stop, so bring some kind of cash, just in case.

Costs: Assume about $10-15 per country. This adds up, but at least you only have to pay on the way there since your passes are valid for 10 days. They also offer month passes, if your trip is longer than a few days.

Lesson #2: Passports
Border crossings aren’t like when you drive from the United States to Canada. No passports required. No stopping. And border crossings sometimes look like this:

Now entering Polska!
Lesson #3: A Polish GPS enjoys taking one-lane, dirt roads through villages.
If you want to stay on the highway, write down directions. It doesn’t matter what your settings are in the GPS: Easiest? Most use of motorways? Tolls ok? Yes, Yes, Yes. Might as well be set to ‘whatever the GPS feels like’ because you will go through the craziest backroads I have ever seen. And, make sure your gas tank is full, just in case you find yourself here (image below), like we did with a nearly empty tank of gas 🙂

It’s all about the adventure, right?
Lesson #4: The Countryside is Beautiful!
I am not telling you these tips to deter you from driving. This was quite possibly one of the most beautiful drives I have ever embarked on. Sunflower fields for days, rolling hills, more windmills than the eye can see, farmers active on the land – you get the idea. Peaceful really.
All in all, I’d recommend this weekend trip from Wroclaw – just make sure your weather is good for potential driving conditions 😉

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