Our Europe road trip adventure is officially over. Nine weeks felt epic, but also flew by. Life is like that.

The afternoon we returned our faithful Peugeot to the Nice Airport, it was warm again. The chill that hung in the air through the mountains of Italy dispersed as the glittering coast came into view. We crossed the border, paying exorbitant tolls (thank you Italian autostrada), and doing our best to calculate how much fuel to get to ensure we skated into the carpark on fumes. The car adapter, which allowed us to listen to music and podcasts without a single issue for nine weeks, crapped out an hour before the airport.

I see, GPS screen, that you do not recognize my audio files, and I forgive you.

Europe Road Trip: listening to our portable speak

Europe Road Trip: taking a pic on the road

Our ambitious Europe road trip has barely come to a close and there are many feelings that I’m still sorting through. The freedom and independence and, frankly, monotony of travel. The weight of the recent history that hangs tight onto the Balkans. The pervasive feeling that we, humans, really are all the same. That I am so damn lucky.

Big thoughts and big revelations are sure to come.

But here, at the end of the road (literally), I am only able to digest the numbers. The numbers that defined our Europe road trip, the miles, the beds, the roads, the physical parameters in which we worked.

Data is my speciality. And I’ve got a ton of it.

Distance Driven: 6,147km / 3,842mi

Average Distance per Day: 99km / 62mi

Longest Drive between Destinations: 6 hours, from Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina to Belgrade, Serbia, thanks mostly to our decision to keep to back roads for the whole journey.

Number of Destinations (1 night or more): 22
They are: Piedmont, Lake Como, Trentino, Venice, Primostek (Slovenia), Plitvice Lakes (Croatia), Split, Dubrovnik, Mostar, Sarajevo, Belgrade, Skopje, Lake Ohrid, Oxya (Greece), Papigo (Greece), Bari, Ascoli, Assisi, Rimini, Reggio Emilia, Bevecchio, Nice

Our Favorite Destinations: We’ve been asked over and over. For sun and warmth, Kotor, Montenegro. For a great introduction into the Balkans, Mostar Bosnia & Herzegovina. For natural beauty, Papigo, Greece (more to come on this).

Europe Road Trip: The abandoned bobsled track in Sarajevo

Our Favorite Day: It’s hard to beat the morning we spent on a boat in Lake Como, Italy. We knew it the second we stepped aboard, but it was an experience of a lifetime and we appreciated every second of it.

Best Night of Sleep: It’s a tie, between the small hotel we stayed in Ohrid, Macedonia, and our AirBnB in Reggio Emilia, Italy. Just the right amount of squish, nice dark rooms, and plenty of extra pillows.

Worst Night of Sleep: In Sarajevo, autumn arrived when we got to town, but the heat wasn’t on yet. At night, we snuggled underneath a pile of duvets, which was great, until we got overheated and then kicked off the covers and got cold again.

Europe Road Trip: Fancy, hipster coffee in Belgrade, Serbia

Number of Bus Trips: 1, a day trip to Pristina, Kosovo from Skopje, Macedonia with a chain smoking bus driver.

Number of Nights at Sea: 1, aboard an overnight ferry from Igoumenitsa, Greece to Bari, Italy

Total Distance Walked (thank you, Fitbit!): 546km / 341mi

Number of Days over 20k steps: 5, comprised of 3 big Italy hiking days, a massive street art tour in Belgrade, 10 mile hike in Macedonia. To be honest, I think I expected more of these huge walking days. But between the driving and being in smaller cities, we didn’t cover quite as many hours by foot.

% of Days over 10k steps: 65%. My Fitbit vibrates and tells me it likes me when I hit 10k steps, so it’s a personal goal to do this as frequently as possible. Talk about a simple reward system that really and truly works.

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Europe Road Trip: Julie's hiking shoes

Number of Stops at Petrol/Gas Stations: 11. This is surprisingly low, just over one stop per week.

Average Fuel Consumption: 4.9l per 100km or 58 miles per gallon. Thank you, diesel-fueled Peugeot, for saving us so much cash. We expected much higher fuel costs.

Most Expensive Toll: $30.80, on the Autostrada from outside Cinque Terre, Italy to Nice, France. Italian tolls are brutal, which is why we avoided them for almost the entire trip.

Europe Road Trip: Belgrade, Serbia city signage

Number of Grocery Store/Market Runs: 34. Or, roughly, every other day.

Most Expensive Meal: $70.60 at Le Bistro du Formager in Nice, France (highly recommended!)

Cheapest Meal: $5.99 for two falafel sandwiches and salads at Dr. Falafel in Ohrid, Macedonia. This doesn’t include the ‘snack meals’ that we ate on many drives. Gas stations around the Balkans kept us fueled with mixed nuts, Coke Zero and many more Peanut M&Ms than are actually necessary for survival.

Best Food Region: Emilia-Romagna, Italy. There’s a reason why food fanatics come here. It has to do with aged vinegar, parmesan cheese, parma ham, Lambrusco wine, tortellini, and ragu. You win, Emilia-Romagna, you win.

Worst Food Region: Macedonia. Our enthusiasm to eat Balkan food every day started to wane around the Macedonian border. So, Macedonia, it’s not you, it’s us.

Europe Road Trip: Tortellini in Brodo in Modena, Italy

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  • November 11, 2016

    This is such an interesting read!
    I’ve been wanting to make a long European roadtrip for quite a while, but then there’s always that lack of time/money (my route would be from Croatia-where I’m from, trough Poland, the Baltics and then Scandinavia).
    I definitely know what you mean about unbelievably expensive Italian tolls! But then again, if you go to Sicily, there are no tolls. And Sicily was the most magical travel destination for us. 🙂
    I am now interested to read more about your European road trip.

    All the best,
    Anja

  • December 6, 2016

    A road trip of the Balkans is definitely high on our list of things to do! We visited Ohrid as part of our trip earlier this year and loved it!

    I’m amazed though that you picked Macedonia as the worst food region though, we loved almost every meal that we ate in Ohrid. Favourite by far though was the village meat we got at Via Sacra, if you haven’t tried it, its worth going back for for sure!

    • December 7, 2016
      Julie

      The food in Macedonia wasn’t bad, it was just that after over a month of eating almost exclusively Balkan food, we were ready for anything else!

  • March 18, 2017

    Hi Julie-

    My wife and I just discovered your awesome site as we prep for our first major trip since having a baby in November – two months in the Balkans.
    I would love to go by car, but everything I have read says that the rental car companies won’t allow you to take the car to “high insurance risk” areas like BiH, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia, and the rental car companies in those countries won’t let you take the car out of the country. How did you manage that? Which rental company did you go through? Did you have any difficulties at border crossings?
    If these are all answered in another post I apologize- just haven’t seen it yet.

    Best wishes and thanks for the great write-ups!
    -Mike, Kiri, and Leo

    • March 18, 2017

      Car rentals in the Balkans can be complicated. We did a rental through Auto Europe, which allowed us to take the car anywhere except Albania and Kosovo. We really wanted to explore Albania, and literally drove past the border crossing while driving through Macedonia, but wasn’t worth the risk. We did manage to take a bus into Pristina from Skopje for the day, which was weird and bizarre.
      If you are flexible with your plans, Auto Europe has an amazing deal with Peugeot for 30+ day rentals with a factory-fresh car. The kicker is that it is cheapest to pick it up in France (it’s a French car company and will charge $300-500 for pickup outside France).
      It was $1500 for 2 months, with full, zero-deductible insurance, and with only 1km on the odometer. We picked it up at the airport in Nice, France, as close to the Italian border as possible so we didn’t waste any time driving through France. Border crossing were no problem, and had no issue at any of them. We had to show our car registration, but not with every crossing. We had no crazy long lines, and no issues with our immigration. There are a few quirks, like the €1 toll we had to pay to enter Serbia that we had not seen anywhere online, and a cow blocking our path into Bosnia after immigration.
      Looking on Auto Europe, I see that if you pick up in Croatia for instance, you can take it to some of the bordering countries (with an additional fee), but not Albania, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Kosovo. That is a bit of a bummer. I guess it depends on which countries you want to prioritize.
      Hope that helps. I would recommend looking into the Auto Europe Peugeot deal (http://www.autoeurope.com/buyback.cfm/?aff=DRIVEONTHELEFT: that’s an affiliate link, for full disclosure). They are actually great to deal with on the phone, so calling might be the best route to figure out what works best. I was confused about the whole border crossing thing as well, which is why I booked over the phone. Hope that helps and let us know if you have any other questions. Always glad to help! We loved the Balkans too, so great pick for a destination!