When travellers consider taking a road trip, especially in a lesser-known country, they have many factors to take into account. Plenty of questions come to mind, the answers of which can make the road trip smooth or bumpy. To make these considerations more manageable, we’ve analysed 31 countries in Europe and ranked them according to 17 factors in six categories.
The index below gives a ranking of how well-suited the countries are for a road trip. Each country’s final score was derived from the weighted average of all the factors and is presented on a scale from 1-100. However, we’re using each factor’s original values below for better clarity.
You can see how countries rank on the individual factors by clicking on the factor icons.
* Tolls policy has been categorised 1-4 with: 1 – denoting toll-free roads, 2 – payment required only for certain bridges/tunnels, 3 – some paid motorways, 4 – time-based vignettes
** As there is no official speed limit in Germany, 160 km/h was used for the sake of comparison with other countries
The factors presented are in the original data values but the total score is presented on a 1-100 scale, with 100 being the best, based on the normalisation calculations. For more information, please see the full Methodology.
– Precipitation (mm/year)
– Sunshine (hours/year)
– Speed limits (km/h)
– Car accidents (per 1,000,000 inhabitants)
– Road quality (1 (low) – 7 (high) scale)
– Fuel (price per litre)
– Tolls policy (categories 1-4)
– Hotels (avg. price/night)
– Parking (2h, on street)
– EV stations (per 100 km2)
– Air pollution (avg. annual exposure)
– Road congestion (avg. in major cities)
– Passenger cars (per 1,000 inhabitants)
– Ratings (avg. all hire companies)
– Prices (avg. per day)
– Heritage sites (per 100 km²)
– Attractiveness of natural assets
(1 (low) – 7 (high) scale)
The rankings from this study are divided into six distinct categories: Weather, Safety & infrastructure, Pricing, Traffic & sustainability, Car hire and Nature & landmarks. Each of these categories uses multiple factors that each have different weights, depending on their impact on the attractiveness of a road trip.
The countries that are ranked the best for a road trip are likely countries with attractive pricing, great road conditions, plenty of nature to explore, competitive car hire rates and low traffic congestion. Subsequently, the countries that are ranked less attractive for a road trip likely have higher prices, unfavourable road conditions and/or don’t have as much nature.
Portugal landed the coveted No. 1 spot as the best country in Europe for a road trip. This is because Portugal scored well in several impactful factors, including road quality, amount of attractive nature and landmarks, and pricing of car hires. It also scored well in amount of sunshine, and has very little air pollution or road congestion.
Spain came in No. 2 for many of the same reasons as Portugal: good road conditions, good nature and landmarks, and lots of sunshine with little rain. It also has very few car accidents and reasonably-priced car hires.
While Luxembourg didn’t score high on weather, it came in No. 3 due to its amazing yet often-overlooked nature and landmarks. Reasonable car hire, accommodation and petrol prices plus toll-free roads also make it less expensive to explore.
Deep dive into the six categories below to see the strengths and weaknesses of individual countries. Here too, you can see how countries are ranked by specific factors by clicking on the factor icons.
Switzerland is a very safe country to drive in. It comes in first place as the country with fewest annual car accidents, and it also has the best road conditions. Generally, the countries that scored well here have fewer car accidents and good road conditions.
This category ranks a country based on its petrol, accommodation and parking prices and its toll policies. Ukraine comes in first place because it has cheap petrol, very competitively-priced accommodation, great prices on parking and toll-free roads.
This category encompasses factors that affect traffic conditions like air pollution, congestion and number of cars per 1,000 inhabitants. It also takes into account the number of EV charging stations for those hiring an eco-friendly car. The Netherlands has an extremely high density of EV stations compared to its total land mass, plus relatively few cars for its population. Generally, countries that scored well here have less congestion compared to other countries.
This category ranks countries based not only on how much it costs to hire a car but also car hire company ratings. Slovakia came in first with a winning combination of the second-cheapest car hire prices coupled with excellent car hire company ratings.
This category comprises two factors that can often come to mind when considering a road trip in particular: the attractiveness of the country’s nature and the number of Heritage Sites. Switzerland takes the prize here with its majestic mountains, lakes and forests, but it also has the third-most Heritage Sites in Europe in relation to its land mass.
Data in six categories has been collected in order to rank European countries in terms of their road trip-friendliness: Weather, Safety & Infrastructure, Pricing, Traffic & Sustainability, Car Hire and Nature & Landmarks.
Within these categories, a total of 17 factors have been defined to reach a comprehensive overview of aspects that travellers may encounter and care about when deciding on the destination of their road trip.
A total of 31 European countries have been included in this analysis. The remaining European countries have been excluded due to incomplete data.
All sources have been accessed and data retrieved between 22 February – 10 March 2021. The numbers collected are based on the latest available data. See the full list of data sources.
The same procedure has been applied separately for rankings within individual categories to determine category winners.
The Weather category comprises two factors:
Avg. sunshine hours per year in a country, based on avg. in major cities.
Avg. precipitation in depth (mm per year).
Source: The World Bank
Safety & infrastructure:
The Safety & infrastructure category comprises three factors:
The highest possible speed limit has been taken into calculation (i.e. on motorways or the next highest speed limit in a country if no motorways exist). Since no official speed limit is in force in Germany, the value of “160 km/h” has been used for the sake of comparison with other countries.
Car accidents resulting in injuries and deaths per 1,000,000 inhabitants.
Source: OECD (2021), Road accidents (indicator). doi: 10.1787/2fe1b899-en (Accessed on 10 March 2021)
The road quality factor is measured on a scale of 1(low) – 7(high).
Source: World Economic Forum, Global Competitiveness Report 2017-2018
The Pricing category comprises four factors:
The countries have been divided into four groups based on their method of toll charging:
1 – toll-free motorways
2 – tolls only for certain bridges/tunnels
3 – toll collection at toll gates (fixed price or distance-based)
4 – motorway charged by vignette (time-based)
These four groups have been weighted with 1 ranked the best and 4 the worst. Due to the difficulty in comparing distance vs. time-based payment methods, the simplification has been made here that vignette as the unavoidable cost should be rated the lowest.
Euro-super 95, Price (USD) for 1 litre.
Source: GlobalPetrolPrices.com (Data from Feb 8- Feb 14 2021)
Avg. hotel price per night in USD for standard double room across all hotel types. Prices based on the search period 01/01/2021 – 23/02/2021 for the travel period: 01/04/2021 – 31/12/2021.
Source: KAYAK internal data
Avg. prices in USD for 2-hour on-street parking. Data from 2019 (Global Parking Index) or latest available (calculated as an avg. from big cities in a country).
Source: Parkopedia Global Parking Index 2019 & Website (Accessed on 22 February 2021)
Traffic & Sustainability:
The Traffic & sustainability category comprises four factors:
EV charging stations
Calculated as the total number of EV charging stations per 100 km².
Source: Open Charge Map
Avg. congestion level (2020) expressed as a percentage, calculated as an avg. from major cities.
Source: TomTom Traffic Index 2020
Air pollution exposure
Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is the air pollutant that poses the greatest risk to health globally. Data refers to population exposure of more than 10 micrograms/m3 and is expressed as annual averages.
Source: OECD (2021), Air pollution exposure (indicator). doi: 10.1787/8d9dcc33-en (Accessed on 10 March 2021)
Car rental category comprises of 2 factors:
Car rental companies
Avg. ratings of all car hire companies in a country on a scale of 1-100, where 100 is the best.
Source: KAYAK internal data
Car rental prices
Avg. prices for a car hire per day in USD and across all vehicle classes. Prices based on the search period 01/01/2021 – 24/02/2021 for the travel period: 01/04/2021 – 31/12/2021.
Source: KAYAK internal data
Nature & Landmarks:
The Nature & landmarks category comprises two factors:
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Calculated is the number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in a country per 100 km², based on the total number of Sites in a country.
Source: UNESCO Heritage List
Attractiveness of natural assets
The extent to which international tourists visit a country mainly for its natural assets (i.e. parks, beaches, mountains, wildlife, etc.) (1 = Not at all; 7 = To a great extent).
Source: World Economic Forum, “Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2019”