BY MOPED AND MOTORCYCLE
Motorized bikes and mopeds use little gas, can be put on trains and ferries, and are a good compromise between the cost of car travel and the limited range of bicycles. However, they’re uncomfortable for long distances, dangerous in the rain, and unpredictable on rough roads and gravel. Always wear a helmet and never ride with a backpack. If you’ve never been on a moped before, a twisting Alpine road is not the place to start. Expect to pay about US$20-35 per day; try auto repair shops, and remember to bargain. Motorcycles can be much more expensive and normally require a license, but are better for long distances. Before renting, ask if the quoted price includes tax and insurance to avoid unexpected fees. Do not offer your pass port as a deposit; if you have an accident or experience mechanical failure you may not get it back until all repairs are covered. Pay ahead of time instead. For more info, try: Motorcycle Journeys through the Alps and Corsica, by John Hermann (US$24.95); Motorcycle Touring and Travel, by Bill Stermer (US$19.95); or Europe by Motorcycle, by Gregory W. Frazier (US$19.95).
Western Europe’s grandest scenery can often be seen only by foot. Let’s Go describes many daytrips in town listings for the pedestrian-inclined, but native inhabitants, hostel proprietors, and fellow travelers are often the best source of tips. Many European countries have hiking and mountaineering organizations; alpine clubs in Austria, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland, as well as tourist organi-zations in Scandinavia, provide simple accommodations in idyllic settings.
Let’s Go strongly urges you to consider the risks before choosing to hitchhike.
We do not recommend hitchhiking as a safe means of transportation, and none
of the information presented here is intended to do so.
Never hitchhike before carefully considering the risks involved. Hitchhiking means entrusting your life to a stranger, and risking theft, assault, sexual harass ment, and unsafe driving. Despite the dangers, there are advantages to hitchhiking when it is safe: It allows you to meet local people and get where you’re going, especially in Northern Europe and Ireland, where public transportation is spotty. The choice, however, remains yours.
Conscientious hitchhikers avoid getting in the back of two-door cars (or any car they wouldn’t be able to get out of in a hurry) and never let go of their backpacks. If you ever feel threatened, insist on being let off immediately. Acting as if you are going to open the car door or vomit will usually get a driver to stop. Hitchhiking at night can be particularly dangerous; experienced hitchhikers stand in well-lit places and expect drivers to be leery of nocturnal thumbers. For women traveling alone, hitchhiking is just too dangerous. A man and a woman are a safer combina tion; two men will have a harder time getting a ride.
Experienced hitchhikers pick a spot outside of built-up areas, where drivers can stop, return to the road without causing an accident, and have time to look over potential passengers as they approach. Hitchhiking (or even standing) on super highways is usually illegal: One may only thumb at rest stops or at the entrance ramps to highways. Most Europeans signal with an open hand, not a thumb; many write their destination on a sign in large, bold letters and draw a smiley-face under it. Finally, success will depend on appearance. Drivers prefer hitchhikers who are neat and wholesome-looking, and are often wary of people wearing sunglasses.
Britain and Ireland are the easiest places in Europe to get a lift. Hitchhiking in Scandinavia is slow but steady. Hitchhiking in Southern Europe is generally mediocre; France is the worst. In some Central and Eastern European countries, drivers may expect to be paid. Most Western European countries offer a ride service, which pairs drivers with riders; the fee varies according to destination. Eurostop International (Verband der Deutschen Mitfahrzentralen in Germany and Allostop in France) is one of the largest ride service providers in Europe. Riders and drivers can enter their names on the Internet through the Taxistop website (www.taxistop.be). Not all organizations screen drivers and riders; ask in advance.