View Full Version : Drove to Europe on Jan. 2nd - small report

09-01-2011, 18:51
Well we took the difficult decision to drive to Belgium. Several reasons really, no suitable plane tickets available, couldnt find a mechanic for my car in moscow and a slight sense of adventure.

I read a lot of stories online first, but altogether I had a quiet trip. From Moscow to the Latvian border we did not get stopped by police at any point. The roads were mediocre to bad however and mostly snow covered. My car was AWD and with snow tires there were never any problems. Traffic very low. 4 hours at the border to get into Latvia. It should have been a bit quicker but they were having big computer problems on the latvian side which slowed things down a lot.

Latvia was pretty poor road wise. We needed to get to Vilnius on day 1 and this meant 350km of normal roads through Latvia and Lithuania. There was a lot of snow, it was pitch dark and the roads were iced over and twisty. We made it to Vilnius a bit before midnight but it was the longest day of my life.

Next day we went as far as Warschau before resting there for a day. Last leg Warschau straight to Belgium 1260km. Things were OK from Germany onwards.

In Latvia we actually did run into the police. The roads went from a 90 limit to a 50 in the towns. When we hit one of them, I noticed the speed change and started to apply the brakes but the blue lights already lit up in front of us. A nice lady who spoke russian (but no english) talked to my gf and explained we did 86 kmh in a 50 zone. I explained my side and they wanted 60 lats. We had zero cash with us so that was an issue. I offered to go to an ATM but frankly it was so deserted in that area I doubt there was one within 30 minutes of us. barely 1 car every 15 min on that road! They didnt seem to want to go through the trouble so they told us OK, dont do it again :10220:
I think they were just chilling there not expecting anyone to come past there...the other cop in the car just sat there smoking a cig and never bothered to come out.

In Poland on some road I had just overtaken a bunch of lorries when I saw something next to the road but couldnt make it out. When we were right next to it it turned out to be a gigantic Moose :jawdrop: luckily he was standing barely on the road and did not move....would have been a huge crash if he had decided to cross.

Couple pics


And a video I made now and then with my old phone cam YouTube - Road trip Russia-Belgium Jan 5-8 filmed w/ Nokia phone

Not sure when I'll drive back, probably not before early march. I'm a bit sick of driving at the moment! Total was 2773 km, barely 40 percent of the distance was genuine highway. But all things considered it was not too difficult. Just driving through the middle of nowhere can occasionally get you praying for your car's reliability though!

09-01-2011, 19:05
Hi JanC,
thanks for the report!
really useful for those who considering the same. My friends and me are thinking about the same, but didn't dare so far.
Hope your report will encourage us :)
you and your gf are brave people!

09-01-2011, 19:23
Hi JanC, thank you for sharing your experience. Actually me & my friends are planning for a trip around europe in April. When you get back to Moscow, wish to meet with you to get to know more in detail. We are planning to take 2 SUV and 6-7 people.
Hi SandraOk, where & when you're team planning to travel ?

09-01-2011, 19:28
You're a brave man, Jan, putting your life at risk - there are some drivers out there who take photos and videos while doing 100km/h on icy roads in the dark. Lucky you didn't meet one of them.....

09-01-2011, 19:44
the core team is me and my female friend
there are some other friends of mine who are considering but they seem to be not very active and would decide after the specific plan is worked out.
Suppose the route much depens on duration the the trip.
But uppermost I dream of Italy and France :)
Let's meet JanC when he's back to Moscow and also discuss maybe we could team up...

JanC, would you share some more details with us once you come back?

09-01-2011, 19:58
Nice report! :)
I actually have been planning more or less the same route (to The Netherlands rather than Belgium), good to read that it is more or less do-able.
As for the Latvian border - normally a border crossing to EU by car will take an hour. I did one to Finland last summer and it just took an hour without any difficulties. Note: if you drive a car with Russian license plates, getting a temp insurance ("green card") is a must.
How much time did the whole trip take you, JanC?

@Tasel: good chance that you won't need winter tyres in April. If you still have them on your car(s), be aware that spikes are not allowed in many EU countries.

09-01-2011, 20:10
Tasel and Sandra : Sure wouldnt mind meeting you guys when I'm in Moscow, most of the time I have nothing to do anyway.

Mickey, the ones on the dark road were done by the person sitting in the passenger seat. The ones during the day were not exactly a safety hazard either. Both eyes on the road, full control of the car. As is obvious in the video the car kept driving 100 percent straight not weaving around. I would say its a lot safer than anyone using their mobile phone in the car for example.

Ezik, I have to check but the trip computer in the car was 40 something hours. That is the time the car was running though, so includes several hours at the border and in the german traffic jam. We left Moscow around 7 in the morning and checked into the Vilnius hotel just before midnight.
When there is no snow on the ground and the latvian computers are working I would expect it to be a bit quicker, I feel we encountered a worst case scenario almost.

In total my average speed was in the high 70 km/h region. Considering I tried to keep around 150 average in Germany it gives you an idea of the painfully slow progress the first 2/3rds of the way. But again without snow it would be a bit better.

09-01-2011, 22:47
Thank you JanC & SandraOk :)
SandraOK, actually we are planning to attend our friends wedding in Denmark and the other important goal for me is to go to Switzerland for bungee jumping. But also, we will be visiting our friends in Berlin & Norway (Norway would be sea cruise trip). And also we are ready for other options to add to our trip :)
Also, Itlay to has a good bungee jumping spot and I would love it.

10-01-2011, 00:00
I've driven Netherlands -> Moscow twice now, and once Moscow -> Netherlands, and my experiences are more or less the same. (Well, two drivers anyway, not just me :)) Last time it took ages to get into Russia though, we waited for about 8 hours... First time around was a lot easier, no lines at all, but then again it was the day after Christmas. Not taking the waiting at the border into account, the trips usually took around 32 hours of driving.

Roads in Latvia and Lithuania indeed suck, Poland is getting better, with all their new EU financed highways, but not all of them were open yet last summer.

If you have at least someone with you who speaks good enough Russian (because anything else is useless at the Russian border), it shouldn't be too much of a problem to make the trip.

10-01-2011, 11:26
you already have great agenda for such trip :) Especially bungee jumping sounds great! )))
Hope to have a chance to hear more about bungee jumping as I never tried!
Have a nice day :)