Getting Around

Travel Planning Tools

Once you've decided where you're going and where you'll stay once you're there, then you need to see how to get around. Here are some tools we've found indispensable in planning our trips.

Traveling by Car

The internet also has some excellent tools for navigating in Europe. The site can provide detailed directions for driving from one European city to another. Not only does it give turn-by-turn directions, it calculates estimated driving time and mileage and even tells you how much you will pay in tolls.

Even with detailed directions, you should still have a good map. My favorites are the great highway maps from Michelin. These come in different scales, ranging from a single map covering all of western Europe to very detailed maps of certain very popular areas such as the French Riviera. In between, there are maps covering each country and maps covering regions within countries.

While the country maps provide adequate detail of the autoroutes (analogous to our interstate highways) and national roads (analogous to our U.S. Highways), I prefer the regional maps because they provide good detail of the European equivalent of our state and county roads. The scale of Michelin's country maps is about one inch to 15 miles. The scale of regional maps is about one inch to three miles.

Michelin Red Guides are available for almost all the countries in Western Europe. For larger countries, like France, there is a dedicated guide. For smaller countries, the guide may cover more than one country, such as Spain and Portugal. The Michelin Red Guide provides basic maps of every city and town of appreciable size in the covered area. Between the Michelin regional maps and the Michelin Red Guide you can easily find your way around any part of western Europe. As a bonus, the city maps in the Red Guides show the locations of many of the better hotels and restaurants in the city.

Traveling by Rail

If you are traveling by rail, you need some different tools. First, you need a rail map of Europe such as the Thomas Cook Rail Map of Europe. Second, you need a Thomas Cook European Timetable for the month you plan to travel. Both are available from Thomas Cook at Public libraries frequently subscribe to the Thomas Cook timetables. It is important that the timetable be current, as schedules differ significantly from winter to summer, with the most significant changes occurring between May and June.

Another useful web site is It offers information on various types of rail passes available for purchase. It also allows one to search a database of rail schedules and fares for individual trip purchases.

At the Destination

Once you reach the town or city you are visiting, locate the local tourist office and request a map of the city. These maps are free and provide street-level detail of the most important tourist sites in the town. The tourist office is also a source of detailed information about local attractions and services. Sometimes, there are other events of interest. Once in Epernay, France, we happened upon a champagne tasting in the local tourist office.  


Copyright 2001 Harry B. Rowe