21 August 2010

Copenhagen to Oslo ferry from DFDS Seaways

Driving holidays in Scandinavia remain popular with British motorists, but currently there are no car ferries between the UK and Norway or Sweden. You can always fly and hire a car on arrival, but then you still have to put up with all the stress of airport security, delayed flights, baggage restrictions and extra payments.

The appeal of taking your own car lies in the freedom from all that. So how do you get to Scandinavia without flying? You can of course take any of the ferries that operate between the UK and Northern France, Belgium or Holland, but that leaves you with a long drive up through the Netherlands, Germany and Southern Denmark.

There is an alternative thanks to our partnership with DFDS Seaways. Drive-Alive has always offered the DFDS ferry crossing from Harwich to Esbjerg in Western Denmark. We are now able to supplement this crossing with the DFDS ferry between Copenhagen in Denmark and Oslo in Norway.

Combining these two routes allows you to design a really interesting and enjoyable driving holiday. Harwich is easily reached from most of England, either along the A12/A120 from London and the South-East or along the A14/A120 from the Midlands and the North.

Once you arrive in Esbjerg you could either take a break nearby in the lovely old town of Ribe, or visit Legoland, or set off on the easy 3 hour drive to Copenhagen. This is a fantastic city for a short break. Make sure you visit the Tivoli Gardens funfair with its midnight firework display - simple pleasures reminiscent of times past. Children and grown-ups love it.

The ferry to Oslo departs daily in the early evening. The ships that operate these routes really are more like floating hotels, a very different experience to the ferries that come and go from the UK. The Scandinavians demand quality, and these ships deliver, with 11 different caf├ęs bars and restaurants, cinema, shopping and very comfortable en suite cabins.

You arrive at your destination next morning ready to explore the fabulous scenery that Norway has to offer. But stay awhile in Oslo, as this is a delightful city set at the head of the Oslo Fjord. Visit the islands, walk in the woods, enjoy the parks and open spaces and admire the modernist architecture around the harbour, where you can also spend a fortune eating out on Aker Brygge. Yes, Norway is expensive, although if you self-cater food in shops is much the same price as in the UK.

No holiday in Norway would be complete without visiting the Fjords, and Bergen is the perfect small coastal town from which to explore this dramatic coast. It's an 8 or 9 hour drive from Oslo, so it's a good idea to break your journey. Or head north towards Trondheim and the Arctic Circle. Although the main roads are well surfaced, many alternative routes are compacted dirt and offer a great opportunity to find out why the Scandinavians excel at rallying!

You can either return on the Oslo-Copenhagen ferry or maybe drive down through Sweden and cross back into Denmark via the Helsingborg short ferry crossing. Another possibility is to continue south in Sweden and cross the amazing Oresund bridge that connects Sweden to Denmark, then back to Esbjerg and catch the Harwich ferry back to the UK.

7 August 2010

Scary things can happen when driving abroad

Another incident sent in by a reader as a warning.

"My husband and I recently returned from touring round Europe for the fifth year in a row. We had never experienced any problems before this year. We were driving from Brno to Bratislava via Babkov on the D1 E50 when an old Bmw came up behind us with five men inside. The driver started flashing the lights and coming really close to the back of our car, while his passengers were frantically pointing at the passenger side back wheel. We slowed down for a time but no way were we going to pull over as my husband is a mechanic and had checked the car before we left the hotel.

When they realised we had no intention of stopping they started to get quite frantic and were getting dangerously close. My husband started to go faster and pull away from them when the Mercedes in front of us started braking and weaving and we realised he was in on it as well. When the BMW started to fall behind the Mercedes pulled over onto the hard shoulder and we drove on as fast as possible.

We are convinced it was the car they were after as we have a Golf GT Sport. All their cars are either black or silver and ours stuck out like a sore thumb as it is red. We also hadn’t seen another Golf.

It was a really scary ten minutes driving at high speeds but it hasn’t put us off our driving holidays. We just won’t be back in Czechoslovakia and we would suggest if any of your readers are going please don’t go in a Golf."

I have been driving abroad for over 40 years and I'm happy to say I've never experienced any similar problems, so we are not saying you shouldn't take your car to Europe - and neither is the author of the above piece - simply be aware these things can happen. Luckily they are very much the exception.