Driving in Switzerland; A Road Trip with Dogs

swiss alps summer

Driving through the lower Alps in summer.

Driving in Switzerland, especially through the Alps is one of the most beautiful trips on earth. My eleven day road trip through five countries was my first European road trip with dogs; though my third road trip with pets in the car. For in depth advice and insight on a road trip with dogs check out my post Car Travel With Pets

Swiss Road Trip
Tanner and I on our road trip through Europe.

This particular trip encompassed Hungary, Austria, Slovenia, Italy and Switzerland. Switzerland offers drivers excellent roads, well marked tunnels and mountain passes as well as wide driving lanes in most areas. Particulars to consider when driving in Switzerland include: being prepared for the many tunnels through the Alps, purchasing a road Vignette (cost 34 Euro) and generally the cost of everything in Switzerland. You’ll find Swiss Motorways a helpful website for information about Swiss roadways and vingettes.

switzerland driving
Roads in Switzerland are well marked.

Be prepared for high costs in Switzerland. A single lunch for two at a lake front restaurant in the Lake Maggiore region cost 54 Swiss Franc’s; which is $57 US dollars. (To clarify this was not an extravagant lunch, it included two normal entrees a beer and a soda.) Switzerland is expensive; your best option if you’re on a budget is to do a day trip from another country. Consider one of the bordering countries of Austria, Italy, France, Germany or Liechtenstein. This will help keep costs lower. Remember also while traveling in Switzerland and EU countries you must have an EU Pet Passport. With appropriate documentation and vaccinations this can be obtained from your vet. Switzerland is well worth the time and expense, it remains one of my favorite countries to visit in Europe. To read further about our European road trip look at Traveling Europe with a Dog.

Lake Maggiore Switzerland
Lake Maggiore, Switzerland

Traveling With My Dog; Daily Life in Italy

Italian Life
Italy draws me into it’s warmth and puts a smile on my face despite the fact that I spend my hours on the autostrada cursing in words I rarely use elsewhere. For me Italy is filled with pleasure, simplicity and insanity. It’s a country I love, and vow to never drive in again.

A Different Italian Experience; Traveling With My Dog
This trip was different than all my other Italy experiences; this time I took my dog Tanner. In case you’re thinking a little purse dog, think again… This is the Hummer of dogs; Tanner weighs 120 lbs, (54 Kilo). Taking Tanner places requires a bit of planning but it is well worth the effort for traveling with my dog.

Life in an Italian Village
For this trip with Tanner I rented an apartment, which gave me a much deeper Italian experience. For a week we lived in an Italian village on Lake Como. It was a fantastic experience (minus the hell of driving.) With Tanner in mind I chose a village that was not touristy. We stayed in a village a few minutes drive from the more touristy areas.

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Tanner on our daily walk; there were lots of hills, cobbled streets and some speeding cars to watch for.

A Great Decision.
Living for a week in an Italian village allowed Tanner and I to experience every day life in Italy. When I woke and looked out my window I could see elderly ladies going about their daily chores. I woke to church bells and heard the sound of the train which runs along Lake Como. I watched giggly children playing and watched cats find inventive spots to nap out of the way of speeding cars. Later I watched elderly ladies going to evening mass in the village church.

A Curiosity
I delighted in the surprise on Italian faces of all ages; they were intrigued by Tanner’s size and gentle demeanor. When we couldn’t communicate well we used sign language. Everyone wanted to know how old he was and what his name was; they also wanted to pet him. He made many new Italian friends in one week.

cars driving in italian village My window ledge and the cars on the narrow Italian village street.

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A family vineyard on our daily walk in the village.

Savoring Italy
Traveling with my dog and experiencing every day life in an Italian village was a great experience. We were close enough to get in the car and have lunch in a touristy village right on the water where both Tanner and I could enjoy people and activity. Yet we were far enough away that we could experience simple daily life. It was the best of both worlds, minus the crazy driving.

tanner cafe italy b

Enjoying a break at an outdoor cafe on Lake Como. For more on my driving trip to Italy read Traveling Europe With a Dog.

Traveling Europe With a Dog; It’s a Dog’s World

Tanner Austria
Tanner in Wolfsberg, Austria on our drive home.

Eleven Days of Traveling Europe with a Dog
After traveling around Europe with a dog for eleven days, through five European countries I can say with authority; Europe is a dog’s world. Dogs are treated well in Europe and are welcomed nearly everywhere. I started my trip with Tanner in Budapest, Hungary. We drove through Austria, Slovenia then into Italy and Switzerland. Driving with a dog in Europe was a great experience; though one I recommend you prepare for.

Traveling Around Europe With a Dog; Trip Stats

Days Traveling: 11

Miles Driven: 1,490 (2,399 Kilometers)

Tunnels Traveled

Italy: 15

Austria: 19

Slovenia: 2

Vignette’s Purchased 3
(These are stickers that allow you to travel on highways within Austria, Slovenia and other European countries. They cost between 8 and 30 Euro to purchase.

They can be purchased at gas stations and automobile clubs. The fine for not having a sticker (which is read by a camera as you pass through toll booths) is 300 to 3,000 Euro according to the Austria info website

Number of Times I was asked for Tanner’s EU Pet Passport: Zero (Though I had everything in hand if needed.)

Average Potty Stop: 30 minutes for a walk and time to chill in the grass.

Longest Driving Day:  Over 7 hours due to traffic, an accident and constructions stalls in Austria.

Best Driving Conditions: Austria. The autobaun offers wide lanes and well marked roads and signs. Their tunnels are also well lit and labeled with the distance of the tunnel. (An important fact when you really don’t enjoy driving through tunnels.)

Most Difficult Driving Conditions: Italy, with it’s narrow autostrada lanes, high speed rude drivers and narrow village roads. Italy is high stress driving at every turn.

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Tanner on our lunch break in Hungary.

This was my third long distance driving trip with Tanner; I found traveling around Europe with a dog relatively simple, though at times challenging. It does require thinking ahead and being organized.

I recommend starting out with a short trip first; that way you learn what works best for you and your dog.  You can read about my three day solo driving trip with pets in the US.

Tips For Traveling Europe with a Dog

Have all official pet paperwork in order; and keep it with you during your travel. In Europe a blue EU Pet Passport is required. This is simply a book provided by your veterinarian which documents all vaccinations and as well as a description of your dog and your personal information. It also includes your dogs EU required microchip number and where the chip is located on your dog.

Know what your dog can handle. (Plan your drive around what your dog can accept in a day; but expect snags.)

Have treats to use as a bribe when necessary.

Carry bottles of cold water you can refill in a soft pack cooler. You will find moments when cold water might not be available or in the event of a break down on the road. (More in a later post on using a cooler pack in Europe.)

Travel with extra dog food.

Bring a rug your dog likes, many European hotels have wooden or tile floors and dogs slip easily on those surfaces.

Bring a comfort item that your dog loves, for those times he/she is alone in a hotel or unfamiliar apartment.

EU Pet Passport b

My Driving Day Dog Schedule

Though it was pretty simple, I was traveling around Europe with a dog that needs potty breaks with grass; who gets tired like a kid and who can and does get stubborn when asked to get in and out of the car multiple times a day in the heat. I kept Tanner to a two potty breaks a drive, schedule. That means we walked before the drive started for the day. Then we stopped at two areas during the drive where he could rest and potty while I also rested and got something to eat or drink. When we arrived at our destination we walked and had another potty break.

This schedule worked well, far better than the three break schedule I started with; by the third stop he wasn’t happy getting in and out of the back seat and got stubborn. I’ve traveled on the road for multiple days with Tanner solo. It can be done; it requires two sets of car keys to keep the a/c running in the summer heat, but it is always easier with a friend. This trip I drove with a friend. That really works best as you can trade off taking a bathroom break or getting food, while the other watches the dog.

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Tanner relaxing at a rest stop in Austria.

Pet Friendly Austria

austria hotel tanner b

Tanner lying on his travel rug in my Austrian hotel room.

Austrians love animals and it shows in their willingness to have dogs of all sizes in their hotels and restaurants. Tanner was welcomed without reservation in Austria and loved the attention he received. Check back for more posts on our driving trip to Italy. I will share my experiences including the hair raising moments of driving in Italy. For more on driving in Europe and my Italy experiences read; Traveling With My Dog; Daily Life in Italy.

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Tanner in our hotel lobby; where he was welcomed without mention of his size.

Driving in Europe; A Road Trip To Slovenia

Since moving to Budpapest last summer I’ve wanted to explore Slovenia. This past week I had the opportunity to drive my long term rental to Slovenia for a few days.

Driving in Europe; Everything I Hoped For and More
Slovenia was everything I hoped for and more, though the weather sucked just as much as Budapest. In three days I saw the sun for about an hour! For those contemplating driving to Slovenia, the roads in Hungary and Slovenia are fantastic! Highways are well marked and well maintained.

Slovenia driving

Have You Driven on the Autobaun?
Minus the idiots driving fast as hell and practically on my bumper I highly recommend driving to Slovenia! For those who haven’t experienced the German autobaun I suggest a careful start, and staying out of the fast lane. Just as in Germany, here you will find drivers flashing their lights at you from behind and coming up on you at a high speed. For those unfamiliar with driving in Europe flashing of headlights from behind means move into the slow lane. It isn’t optional and these drivers are very aggressive!

The Reality of Driving in Europe
I realize that European drivers in the fast lane go at a high speed. What I don’t agree with is drivers coming up on my bumper at a high speed when I am passing semi trucks, with nowhere to go. That’s both dangerous and stupid! My solution has always been to tap my brakes slightly to ask them to back off. It generally does the job. Once I can safely pass the semi I always move out of the fast lane.

In fact I make it a fast rule in Europe not even to pass a semi until I carefully check that the road behind me is clear for a great distance. This is self preservation and the fact that high speed drivers do come from nowhere. You can look in your mirror once and it’s clear, pull out to pass and vhoom, just like that a car is coming up on you at a high speed.

Hungary’s Rules for Trucks
One really interesting fact I learned on this trip is that Hungary has very strict rules for semi trucks driving on Hungarian highways. Big rig trucks are required to stay in the right lane, no passing (unless there is an emergency, accident or other road obstruction.) That was very nice! It meant that I didn’t have to navigate between high speed cars and fast moving semi trucks in the same lane. That keeps the flow of traffic moving along and the trucks follow it implicitly. In a five and a half hour drive I saw two semi trucks move into the fast lane, one for a stalled big rig truck and another for one lane construction. The downside, you will sometimes have to pass a line of up to six semi trucks at one go. That was daunting for me! Another fact I learned is that the day after a national holiday is maybe not the best time to take a long trip. There are a huge number of semi trucks on the road. On this drive I passed over two hundred trucks. Like nearly everyone they must have enjoyed the Easter Monday Hungarian holiday.

Driving in Europe; Well Marked and Rest Ahead
As I mentioned previously, the roads are well marked. For example when you are driving toward Hungary from Slovenia the highway splits toward Hungary and they have markings on the pavement in big letters as well as several well marked overhead signs. It is well done, and impressive! They also include small oval logos A for Austria, RO for Romania and H for Hungary. This lets you know which countries your highway will connect with. I found that quite helpful.

Along the highways in Slovenia and Hungary I found a number of rest stops as well as fuel stations with restaurants for necessary stops and breaks. The facilities I visted were well maintained and offered the necessary amenities.

European Road Stickers
Driving on the highway in Europe requires a road sticker for the countries you will be driving through, (at least for those I’ve driven in, including Germany, Austria, Slovenia, and Hungary. I don’t recall if I needed one driving in Italy.) Be sure to check with a service station or a tourist information center in the country you will be driving in, or with one in the neighboring country to confirm what is required. For my trip to Slovenia I paid approximately 15 Euro for a sticker, which was good for a week. These road stickers must be attached to the windshield. Drive without one and you risk a fine.

Slovenia

Slovenia’s Tunnels and Toll Booths
There are quite a number of tunnels in Slovenia which are well marked, and well maintained. I drove through at least 12 tunnels through the mountains and valleys on my way into Ljubljana. Toll Booths are more confusing in Slovenia. I’m familiar with toll booths from my home state of Florida, in the U.S. There cars and trucks pay a fee based on size and the number of wheels. In Slovenia the signs leading up to the toll booth say PAY TOLL. You’ll find as you come upon the actual toll lanes marked for cars, that there is no payment booth. It’s quite confusing and it left me wondering if I would receive a ticket later, (as many toll booths have cameras that take a photo of your license plate.) Later I asked at my hotel, they said there is no payment required, just the road sticker.

Slovenia

Overall my experience of driving to Slovenia was positive. I ended up driving through a snow and rainstorm in April, so plan your trip knowing that weather conditions in Europe can change often. I departed on April 2nd and I expected spring weather. Road conditions made my drive daunting, thankfully the excellent roads and well marked signs made for a safe trip. The weather was more cooperative on my return drive. For more insight into driving in Europe, read my post Traveling Europe With a Dog.

Ljubljana architecture
One of many beautiful walking streets in Ljubljana. Look for my post next week on the beautiful sights of Ljubljana, Slovenia.