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Visiting Europe? Try Carpooling!

Posted: September 20, 2014

Carpooling is cheap, eco-friendly, and offers the exciting opportunity to make new friends, says this post! Here are some tips for carpooling in Europe.

Having a valid Schengen Visa means that you have the freedom to travel to at least 22 countries in the European Union.  The next time you are in any European country I would strongly advise you to take a trip to another unexplored country in the region.  I did it when I was in Hamburg this year. Was it expensive? No. Thanks to carpooling, which is the cheapest and the most fun way to explore Europe, especially if you love road trips.

Let me share my experience and also provide you with a few tips based on my experiences and also those of my friends.

This year I was very privileged to win a fellowship for social entrepreneurs at the DO School, Hamburg. I always wanted to visit Amsterdam and The Hague, and being so close to the Netherlands, I decided to plan a trip. So, there I was checking out train fares over my cup of tea, and I almost fell off my chair because of the high rates (being a fellow one is always on a budget).

Later, my programme co-coordinator, Fabian, suggested carpooling. I was skeptical about sharing a ride with strangers, but Fabian assured me that they are quite safe. So, after a hectic day at work I finally sat down to browse through the two suggested websites BlaBlaCar and Carpooling.

My instinct was to search for female drivers offering rides to Amsterdam from Hamburg. Finally, I found a ride offered by a lady called Rieke, which was less than half the price of the train fares at € 21. By then I had got a sense of German punctuality and I reached the designated spot, Hamburg Hauptbahnhof, i.e., the central station, on time. She told me she was waiting for another girl who had also booked that ride. We waited for sometime and Rieke tried calling her, but got no response. Finally we decided to start for Amsterdam.

With Rieke and Tomas in  Amsterdam

With Rieke and Tomas in Amsterdam

Oh! A small detail: Rieke was with her boyfriend, Tomas, and it came as a surprise because I had not asked her who else would be there with her. Anyway, my sixth sense told me that it would be okay to travel with them. Thankfully, I did not back out because it is one my most memorable journeys till now. It turned out that Rieke was a lover of Bollywood and Tomas was a foodie! So, the five hours ride was spent on talking about movies and the best restaurants to eat for cheap in Hamburg.

After two hours on the road we stopped at a gas station to take a ‘loo break’. I heaved a sigh of relief to find clean toilets, because on a road trip in India I always dread the state of toilets on highway restaurants and gas stations. In the meantime, Tomas was making some kind of a drink in a blue cup with a steel straw. He offered me a sip and I said I liked it, he then said it was mate, a tea from his home country Argentina, which is drunk from the same cup with a group of friends.   The rest of the three hours was thus spent in some great conversations paired with a cup of mate being shared by three strangers – an Indian, an Argentinian, and a German.

Rieke, dropped me off at the Amsterdam Zuid, which was nearer to the place where I was supposed to stay. After this I have carpooled for three more journeys with different people each time, but the first one was the best. Of course I loved my trip back from Amsterdam with Maria, with whom I had a great chat about Catalan nationalism and with Adrian from Berlin to Hamburg, who played my kind of music.

As promised, here are my six carpooling tips:

  • Just because you have contacted the driver does not mean that she/he will get back to you. Drivers registered on these portals have every right to decline passengers.
  • It is good to have clear communication regarding the fare. BlaBlaCar indicates fares and sometimes the driver might charge you a few euros more than what is displayed on the website. So, after the driver has agreed to take you in just confirm what rate is being charged.
  • Always be clear about the pick-up point and the drop-off point. Check them on the map to see how far your intended destination is, because you might find after a few minutes of research on the portals that there are rides which might drop you at the doorstep of your destination.
  • It is good to have a functional mobile phone or at least take down the number of your driver so that you can contact them even from a public phone. I must mention that one of my friends missed his ride because he did not have the driver’s number.
  • Be respectful and nice to the driver and the co-passengers. Avoid making derogatory statements about nationality, religion, gender, etc.
  • There are stray incidents of the driver not turning up, so some of my friends book two rides with an hour’s gap and cancel the later one. I have not done it and I think it is good manners to inform a driver that you are cancelling at least an hour earlier. It is a good practice to also check the ratings of your driver.

I hope I have convinced you to try out carpooling in Europe. You might end up being friends with complete strangers or as in my friend Samira’s case get a 100% discount because the driver was offering a ride for the first time.

PS: There are probably more websites other than the two mentioned, but I have not used their services.

 Pic credit : Jumblebee (Used under a CC license)

Mayuri has worked with NGO's, research organisations and trade journals. She loves travelling on

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