- Category: Europe Travel General
Until you've done it a few times, legally driving as fast as you want on Germany's Autobahn is an exciting prospect. Many years ago, on a quiet Sunday morning on an almost deserted stretch of newly-paved Autobahn near Saarbrucken, I briefly hit 210kmh (131mph) in a 5-series BMW. But the road wasn't entirely deserted and in doing so I overtook a couple of much slower vehicles. As I did, I realized that at a certain point in the passing process there was a moment when my safety was totally dependent on the car being passed. Had the other driver(s) decided to change lanes at the wrong time, drastic evasive action would have been required to avoid a collision—and quite frankly I wasn't at all sure I could have maintained control while braking and/or swerving at that speed. There is always danger, of course, in passing at such high speed, but the greater danger is the difference in speed between the two vehicles. If, at 70mph, you are two car lengths to the rear of a car going 55mph, and that car suddenly changes to your lane, you can avoid a collision by simply backing off the gas, or by braking. Even if the slower car is only a few feet ahead and decides abruptly to change lanes, at a last resort the faster car can move onto the left shoulder. But at 115 to 130mph, there is no time for braking and only the most skillful driver would be able to move onto the left shoulder without going into a skid that could end in disaster.
These days, when conditions are right, I'm comfortable cooking along at 150 to 160 kmh (94-100 mph). That speed requires a lot of lane changing, because the faster Audis, Beamers, and MBZs rocket past me in the left lane, while trucks and slower passenger cars dawdle along in right lane.
For years there have been predictions of Autobahn speed limits. To a large extent, that has already taken place. As traffic increases, new signs limiting speeds to 80 kmh to 130 kmh seem to pop up every day. The Munich-Salzburg section of Autobahn was once a veritable race track for almost its entire 140 km (88 miles) length. Now there are only a few brief 'any speed goes' stretches. It is said that half of Germany's 12,000 km of Autobahn has no speed limit, but that undoubtedly includes many kilometers of highway where the speed can temporarily be reduced by electronic signage when traffic and weather conditions warrant.
Applying more brakes to fast motoring in Germany is the city-state of Bremen which has imposed a speed limit of 120 kmh (75 mph) on its 60 km of Autobahn. It thus became the first German state to introduce a general Autobahn speed limit. It did so for both safety and environmental reasons, and hopes other states will follow suit.
So if you need to get some really fast driving out of your system in Germany, you'd better do it soon because those little circular 120 kmh and 130 kmh signs are going up all over the country. (Recommended reading: Driving the Autobahn)
- Category: Car Rental in Europe
Hear this: you want a rental car contract that does not include collision damage waiver (CDW)–LDW (loss damage waiver) in Europe—or theft insurance. Naturally you want the coverage, you just don't want it from your rental company. Why? Because, as the UK magazine Which? Holiday says:
Most car-hire fees automatically include some kind of car insurance, however, in most cases, these policies protect the company and not the consumer. Customers with damaged cars often have to pay out large excess fees. The article goes on to declare, The excess (deductible) fee that the consumer would have to pay in the event of an accident if they had rented a car from any one of the five most popular car-hire firms in the UK and collected their car from an airport in Ireland, ranged between €779 ($1207) to €1,947 ($3,018).
We've been saying this for years, but it's nice to hear it from another source. When renting a car through a Europe-based company, such as Argus or Nova, or directly from a supplier such as Europcar, the insurance is almost always included, but with a high deductible (excess). In addition, this included insurance, which "protects" the renter from damage and theft, often excludes damage to many parts of the car including the windshield, wheels, roof, undercarriage, tires and interior. When you make a booking online from all the Europe-based companies I've seen, this information is unearthed only after a diligent search and the clicking of several links. And, just as soon as you sign a rental car contract including theft and CDW, it is extremely likely that your credit card insurance will be invalidated, because, except in rare cases, in order for your free, zero-deductible credit card insurance to be in effect, you can't have any other coverage...regardless of the amount of that coverage's deductible.
Most gold, platinum, Amex, and Diners' Club credit cards offer free CDW/theft. Visa's Website contains a fairly clear and straightforward description of what its insurance does and does not cover. Most ordinary passenger vehicles are covered but travelers who plan to drive a nine-passenger van, a Porsche sports car, or a Mercedes-Benz, BMW, or Audi, with a sticker price over about $45,000, should check with their credit card company.
- Category: Car Rental in Europe
The price of a liter of gasoline today in Berlin is about €1.462. I'll save you from the math: that translates to about $7.47 per gallon. You can always find up-to-the-hour prices for gasoline and diesel fuel at Gasoline-Germany.com.
You can expect to get about 35 miles per gallon in a compact rental car in Germany. Thus if you average 100 miles per day on a 14-day vacation you can expect to use 40 gallons of gas at a total cost of about $299.
- Category: Rail Travel Europe
Recently, my wife, Liz, and I were fortunate to host visitors from Germany, friends we have known for several years. One of them travels the German rail system frequently and told me he often does so without a seat reservation (it is possible to have a ticket or rail pass that allows the ticket/pass holder to ride the train but does not provide a reservation for a specific seat). I explained to him that many Americans, even though they have a rail pass or a ticket, are leery of boarding a train not knowing where they will sit. My friend offer these tips: