Belgium-Netherlands-Denmark round-trip?

Hello All,

We're leaving in 10 days for 30 days living and working in Cambridge, UK. So excited! This trip has come about suddenly as my husband's company asked if he'd be willing to go. We plan to spend wknds exploring England/Scotland and then will have 16 days after for a driving trip before we leave from London back home to San Diego.

We're thinking we'd like to take the chunnel over to the continent and then design a driving itinerary that takes us through Belgium & Netherlands with a 3 day stop in Aarhus, Denmark to visit Danish friends. (Husband was an exchange student there!) I'd love any suggestions for how you might do a round-trip of this nature. (Back to London.) Possibly a stop in Paris? (Love to brush up my French. I was an exchange student there 20 years ago.) Back through the Rhine? Haven't spent any time in these countries.

Normally, I'd book a trip like this 9 momths ahead and have B&B reservations, but due to my rush to get organized to just get to the UK so quickly, I'm wondering if we'd have trouble without advance reservations for the first two weeks of October.

Suggestions, stops or places to stay eagerly welcomed!

Thanks so much,

Chris

Posted by Chris F
Basel, Switzerland
1654 posts

I have just replied to your previous post about a car being a liability in Amsterdam. I now see the big picture.
Point 1 - Taking a hire car through the Channel Tunnel is a no-no. It costs £££€€€ and rental companies may surcharge you. You then have to get the Hire Car back to GB (a Right-Hand-Drive car is unrentable outside the UK).
Point 2 - International one-way car hire costs ££££€€€€
Point 3. Leave your big bags somewhere (a colleague in Cambridge, London). Then travel light.

Plan B - train Cambridge - London King's Cross (all of 100 metres from St. Pancras), London St. Pancras - Amsterdam. XX days in Amsterdam.
- Pick up a hire car somewhere on the edge of Amsterdam. Onward to Denmark,
- Need to get back to Netherlands to drop off car.
- Retrace route to London, flight home.

Variation B1 - Train London - Brugge. 1-3 nights in Brugge. Onward train Brugge - Amsterdam. Onward as above.

Variation B2 - Train Cambridge - Harwich. Overnight ferry Harwich - Hook of Holland. Train to Amsterdam. Train is within walking distance of ship at both ends. Consider as a variant in either direction.

Variant B3 - Train London Paris (only 2¼ hours!). Train Paris - Amsterdam (also High Speed). Pick up car on outskirts and continue as above.

Posted by ckroman555
22 posts

Hi Chris,

Thanks for the thoughts. However, I posted this several weeks ago before we arrived in the UK. Since them, we have solidified our plan. After crunching the numbers and considering time flexibility, we elected to rent a round trip car out of Cambridge and take it over on the ferry! Cost was about the same as flights which were more inconvenient.

Chris

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
12279 posts

Make sure to tell the car hire company where you are going so that they can provide the correct documentation for the journey across the Channel. To travel in France and other European countries you will need the original registration documents for the car and the "Green Card" replacement original insurance documents for the car. You also need their written permission to drive the car outside the UK.

If you tell them that it is for use in the UK only you won't get any of that and could run into quite large problems.

Posted by Marco
Oxford, United Kingdom
1894 posts

There is also various bits of equipment that isn't compulsory to have in cars in the UK that is in other countries. This includes such things as warning triangles, hi vis vests, breathalyser etc. Headlight adjustment is also required.

Posted by ckroman555
22 posts

Already got all the info from the car rental company and hubby knows about the equipment in different countries.

Only thing that gives me pause here is that I suspect I am like your wife! I prefer the "passive" passenger approach over the active co-pilot approach. I suppose I can rise to the occasion (I subscribe to the "you can't grow if you don't stretch out of your comfort zone" approach), but it HAS been a bit frustrating co-piloting already when the NAV we brought (and paid $100 for updated European maps) works intermittently. (Plus, we managed to leave the suction cup thingy at home so I must HOLD the Nav.) And, despite getting an int'l plan (and frequent troubleshooting calls to Verizon since we got here), cell phone coverage is also spotty for navigating.

Ah well...it wouldn't be an adventure if everything went smoothly, right?

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
12279 posts

Pop into a Maplins (one in Cambridge at 46-48 St Andrews Street, Cambridge, CB2 3AH or another at Unit 7a, The Beehive Centre, Coldhams Lane, Cambridge, CB1 3ET) or a Halfords (several in Cambridge) and they should be able to sort you out with an inexpensive mounting (try the bean bag mount, they're great), but BE CAREFUL. It is just like letting a kid loose in a candy store. Anything electronic at Maplins, anything car related at Halfords.

Remember that the beam benders need to be on before you hit France, and in France the high vis vests, the reflective triangle and the alcohol testers (2) need to all be in the main part of the car and not in the boot/trunk. Take some alcohol wipes to try to help you remove the beam benders when you return - the hire place won't appreciate the gunk on the headlights. They need to be off before you drive again in England. (Hint - they stick better when it isn't raining and after the headlights have been on for 15 minutes or so - - voice of experience here)

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
12279 posts

Oh, and don't have the Sat Nav feature which tells you of speed cameras enabled. It is illegal in France and other parts of Europe.

Posted by Wonderful
Europe
529 posts

You cannot hire a car in the UK to drive in Europe. I have never found one and I have never read the travel boards about this. But if I am wrong please let me and the rest know who does this.
Referring to several pointers above.
This includes such things as warning triangles, hi vis vests, breathalyser etc. Headlight adjustment is also required. All good ideas expect the breathalyser it is not obligatory any more in France.
Oh, and don't have the Sat Nav feature which tells you of speed cameras enabled. It is illegal in France and other parts of Europe. This is again sort of correct except it is only in France that speed warnings on navigation systems are illegal.
This website looks at what is compulsory.
If you have found a UK hire company that will let you take the car to Europe, does the hire include a breakdown service? Getting removed from the road in any country is very expensive.
I think, that as you are non Europeans you will need IDP to drive in France.

Posted by ckroman555
22 posts

Wonderful—Hertz in Cambridge, England has no problem renting us a car here to go to Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark, which is our itinerary. In fact, they explained all the docs we'd need. There IS a surcharge, but frankly, it's a wash between that and the airplanes. We'll have to ask about breakdowns.

Okay, everyone. I appreciate all the advice! I am now signing off of this thread :)

Posted by cap240306
1 posts

Hi Chris, Just wondering how your trip went and any advice as we are planning similar although flying into Amsterdam and looking into driving around Netherlands Belgium Denmark. Thanks

Posted by ckroman555
22 posts

Hi there...I just wrote you a novel and then it disappeared when I previewed it. Let me try again, but perhaps more briefly. We had a lovely trip! Re: advice, suggest you skip driving into city center Amsterdam. We had a place city center but this involved meeting our AirBnB hosts who grabbed our bags so we coud then drive out to the park n ride and tram back in. Driving in Amsterdam is among the more stressful driving experiences we had (for comparison: we were completely unphased driving our British car on the continent and would do it again in a heartbeat). The combination of all the pedestrians, cars, and cyclists with Dutch street signs and lots of one-way pedestrian streets are Nav tried to guide us onto was not good. Perhaps worth it if you don't mind the noise factor late at night city center. But next time, we will likely get a B&B on the outskirts of the city, especially with a car. (The car was great though for hauling groceries around for inexpensive picnics and breakfasts when we had kitchens in our Air BnB place. You can great and inexpensive salads in the grocery stores!)

Spent 3 nights in Ghent (GREAT AirBnB full apartment...I can find it for you if you like) with day trips to Brugges and Ghent. LOVED both cities. Spent one night in Liege at Matin Traquille B&B (highly recommended). Enjoyed how everything switched to French (signs, menus, street language) by driving an hour east. Recommend you not to drive in downtown Liege either though. Taxi it in for dinner! I'd go back and spend more time in Belgium in a heart beat. Between the beer, chocolate, mussels and fries, what's not to love!

However, you don't want to be lugging lots of luggage up the likely 3 flights of steep, narrow stairs to accommodations in Netherlands and Brugges. So pack light or if you can't (we were in Europe 7 weeks for work) then consider bringing a backpack so you can put your overnight things in there and leave bags in the car.

Loved Denmark, but no recommendations as we were visiting friends. Did spend one night at Kasteel Terworm in southern Netherlands which was lovely. Nothing to do there but a great place to take a rest day. Skip the overpriced restaurant though and head out for a day trip to beautiful Maastricht just a 30 minute drive away.

I hope this helps! Enjoy!!