Leeds to Austria – 21hr Road-trip

Fancy a day out in Innsbruck, Austria? Got 3 days to spare and fancy a road-trip? Here’s some thoughts and tips

Back in November 2016 I wanted to go somewhere. I had the money, and my friend Carl had 4 days off over his weekend, so heck why not. A quick google of awesome places to go in Europe found Innsbruck, an extremely scenic town in the alps in Austria. Now normally even for us 960 miles is somewhat too far for a quick trip away, but we were feeling particularly spontaneous and adventurous this weekend, so we threw caution to the wind and booked a hotel there for 2 nights that weekend.
I should mention that whilst we don’t dislike flying or travelling via magic, we are big fans of the freedom we have from having our own car. And frankly flights would have been more expensive than driving considering we were trying to book only a few days in advance.

This was on the Tuesday night and that booking for 2 nights in a good hotel, in a chalet on the mountains overlooking the valley, was around £270. But be aware that this was a trip with little regard to finances, and I’m sure we could have found somewhere cheaper. Indeed a quick check on hotels.com shows 2 nights for €186 within two days of me writing this.

For the journey the choice of vehicle was either my own cute little hatchback, a Citroen DS3 1.6L petrol, capable of around 48mpg on motorway trips; or Carls wonderfully huge and uneconomical Volvo 2.4L petrol V70, capable of cruising comfortably for long distances but at the cost of around 32mpg. Given that Carl Is a sizeable chap and we brought lots of snacks and blankets; we chose the Volvo. 

Now if you don’t possess a vehicle, or have one you consider inappropriate for this sort of trip (a Ford Mustang, a Mad Max-esque gas guzzler or a Nissan Micra) then you may like to look at a hire car if you want to do road-trips such as this one. My advice would be a 2.0L diesel of some kind; a quick check reveals you could get a Kia Optima for less than £100 for those 3 days, not a bad option to consider if you don’t want large amounts of mileage on your own car.

So that Thursday evening at 6pm, after we had both finished work, we departed.

Now Carl at this point in his life was a Bus Driver, and generally pretty happy to do the driving. But he’d been at work that day so we shared what driving we had down to Dover, a relatively quick jaunt in hindsight of our recent adventures.

In the back of the car were quilts and bedding for the trip, and a cooler-box of snacks and drinks to keep us refreshed and hydrated.

We caught a ferry across the channel, much to the displeasure of the easily travel sick Carl!

We headed down through Belgium, because did you know that Luxembourg has pretty much the 

cheapest fuel in Europe? Well it does. And a small diversion taking us through it meant we could fill up our cars fuel tank; for much cheaper than it would have been in any of the neighbouring countries. A good idea at this point could have been to bring a fuel container of some kind so that we didn’t have to fill up anywhere else in Europe, but we didn’t plan ahead that far unfortunately.

At this point it’s around early morning and it’s looking very scenic as we cruise through Germany along the autobahn. The passenger seat is tilted back all the way and Carl is curled up in his quilt as we meander our way past quaint little towns and villages with their pointy roofs and hilltop castles, listening to Spotify as the kilometres count down on Google maps.

At this point the thrill of driving does give way to a simple impatience to arrive at your destination, especially as we had no stop offs planned for anywhere or anything, it was simply travelling at this point. One person drives for around 3 hours, feels tired and stops at a service station or lay-by, the other person takes over driving whilst you have a sleep in the passenger seat. Rinse and repeat for 21 hours, and you have arrived in Austria.

Although if I’m being honest once we started to drive through the alps we were both awake for the stunning views! Seriously, be sure to stop off and get some photos because you won’t regret doing so.

So after just shy of 1000 miles we arrived in Innsbruck at 3pm on the Friday afternoon, full of sweets and energy drinks and keen to sleep in an actual bed. Our hotel was not in the city centre but a little bit up on the mountains, but still near a nice little village shop and houses. The hotel was very pretty with fairly decent views from the balcony, and the staff very friendly and helpful. We went for a meal that night in a local restaurant where I failed at speaking German but we still very much enjoyed it. An early night was called for, but thanks to the hotel staff and a local information centre we had our plan for the next day.

With me wrapped up warm like a weird furry burrito and Carl casually in jeans and shirt we left our hotel for the local bus stop early the next morning. We jumped onboard confident that our newly purchased “Innsbruck Cards” would serve as acceptable tickets into town. For €48 (€50 from May 2018) for48 hours we very much hoped so. Slightly disappointedly the buses have 3 doors and the driver doesn’t check the tickets so we felt less special, but we bravely carried on. Once into the centre we did what any tourist would do, and meandered around for several hours not really doing much but enjoying this beautiful city and it’s reasonable weather. The river through the centre was the actual picture from Google which was pretty fun to see in a childish sense. We consulted some leaflets and decided to attempt to find our way to the Alpenzoo that was on a mountainside. A hopeful bus journey; that winded its way through the hilly roads that surround the valley, ended up in us disembarking somewhat earlier than apparently we should have, and so we had a walk up the mountain paths to try and find our own way. A fun jaunt through the woods and we rounded a corner to see a very large moose, which terrified us because we hadn’t clocked on that it was surrounded by a fence! We had found the zoo. I highly recommend the Alpenzoo as it was full of awesome animals and was super easy to spend most of our day there enjoying it. We wondered around some more and had some more food before we headed back up to our hotel. We hoped the next day to use the Innsbruck card more to it’s potential, as it also gives you free access to all the museums and many attractions that the city has to offer. Unfortunately overnight the weather soured and started to snow quite heavily, leaving us worrying about the possibility of being stuck in Innsbruck because the alpen road we had driven in on could easily be snowed under and impassable. We made the decision to leave a day early and make it home safely, gathered our belongings and jumped into the Volvo to head home.

Now this may not have been a super in-depth look at the beautiful city that is Innsbruck or the jaw-dropping scenery that makes up Austria, nor is it a professional piece instructing you on how best to do a road trip of 1000 miles in 21 hours. But merely a fond memory retold in the hope that it inspires you to think of doing something similar. 

The journey back was uneventful but gave time for us to think about the trip we had done and the brief insight into a city that the UK simply cannot compare too. I found myself shameful that my language skills peaked at saying hello and thank you in one or two other languages. In fact what struck me the most is when we stopped for a coffee and Carl, unable to speak German, asked if they spoke English; and this service station attendant, like ones the UK has hundreds of all around who I bet money would scoff at the idea they’d ever need to speak German, simply nodded and said “yes a little” and proceeded to take his order perfectly.

However it’s the little things that can makes trips complete, and one of my fondest memories is cruising through German towns on the highways listening on the radio to a football match whilst Carl slept in the passenger seat. I don’t know why I loved that moment, those hours of peacefully eating up the miles after a silly trip, but I did. And I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. 

Categories: Travel

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