When you travel overseas, do you look to soak up the culture and see how the locals live? If so, pack your driver’s license and update your iTunes playlist… it’s time you went on an international road trip!
Traveling by car, bus or van is a great way to experience a foreign country. With so many amazing destinations, it’s hard to know where to go on your next trip. We asked top travel bloggers to share their favorite international road trips; read on for their top 6 picks!
>> If US travel is more your style, check out the companion post, 7 Classic American Road Trips.
1) Johannesburg to Kruger National Park, South Africa
Recommended by Matt Stablile, The Expeditioner
One Way Distance: 250 miles (at least)
Minimum Time: 5 hours
Watch Out For: Scenic views, lively soundtracks and the occasional elephant
“I’ve done quite a few road trips in my day, but one of the most memorable involved a bus trip in South Africa. Graceland is one of my favorite albums ever, and it opened me up to a love of African music in general. I can’t think of another album that so quickly transports the listener somewhere else within a few seconds of listening to it. Needless to say, it also sparked a goal of visiting southern Africa.
After a couple of days spent in Johannesburg, I headed to the bus station to catch a ride east to Kruger National Park. Of course I didn’t plan ahead and the bus was sold out when I arrived. The driver told me to wait by the door until it was time to leave in case there were any empty seats. There weren’t, but he said for a 1/4 of the price of regular ticket, he’d smuggle me on. At the first mention of the word “smuggle,” I said yes, and minutes before departure time, the driver took my money and told me to follow him. We climbed through the small door leading to the driver’s cabin of the double-decker bus, and he motioned for me to sit in the passenger seat. I stuffed my bag behind the seat and we were off. Twenty minutes later we were out on the open road, the sun-scorched earth stretching as far as the eye could see and the sun blazing down through the large windshield. The bus driver’s assistant then climbed into the cabin after passing out drinks to the passengers. He was carrying a small duffel bag, and he took out a boombox from it, put in a CD, and before I knew it, Graceland was blasting from the small speakers — our soundtrack for the next hour or so while we drove. I couldn’t have planned it any better.” – Matt
2) Florence to Pienza Italy
Recommended by Jeff Titelius, Eurotravelogue
One Way Distance: 75 miles
Minimum Time: 1.5 hours
Watch Out For: Medieval towns, hilltop views, Tuscan culture
“Where golden sunflowers reach for the skies; where olive trees and vineyards vanish into the horizon; where picturesque Cyprus tree-lined roads wind their way around sun-drenched hills; and where medieval hilltop towns rise upon their lofty perches–this is Tuscany and yes it does exist just as we imagine it! And, this is the Tuscany I experienced during my journey under the Tuscan sun!
With Florence as our home base for six glorious days, we ventured across the Arno and set course along SR2 for the journey south to Montepulciano and to the charming hilltop town of Pienza which offered up spectacular views of the Val d’Orcia. Not only were these Tuscan villages highlights in and of themselves, the journey along the way was just as sublime! If you want to see Tuscany, I mean really see it and savor the delicious sights, get in the car and drive!” – Jeff
3) Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Ko Lipe, Thailand
Recommended by Mei, CC Food Travel
Region: Southeast Asia
One Way Distance: 375 miles to the port town on Pakbara (then on by boat)
Minimum Time: 7.5 hours
Watch Out For: Possible wild elephant sightings, small villages and white sand beaches
“One of our favorite road trips is to an island on the South West coast of Thailand, Ko Lipe. Living in Kuala Lumpur (the capital of Malaysia) makes crossing the Malaysian/Thai border by car rather easy, and then a gorgeous beach holiday is only a stone’s throw away.
Ko Lipe is an island in Satun Province, near the Tarutao National Marine Park, on the Andaman (west) coast of the south of Thailand. Ko Lipe is usually reached from the town of Pakbara. Speedboats take one hour to reach Lipe, leave several times a day and cost 650BHT one way or 1,200BHT return. If you bargain hard, you might knock it down to 900BHT return/person. Once your speed boat gets to Lipe, local Chao Ley (Sea Gypsies) will come with their longtail boats to pick you up from the ferry. They will take you to any beach on the island for another 50BHT (not included in your ferry ticket!). Ko Lipe’s beaches feature white, soft sandy beaches with clear, calm, and shallow water. There are four main beaches to relax on: Pattaya Beach in the south, the most popular beach; Sunrise Beach on the east, near the Chao Ley village; Karma Beach in the North, which faces the Adang/Lipe channel, and Sunset Beach in the west, which as the name implies, faces the sunset.
We love this place because it is the perfect getaway and a brilliant place to party, have great food, and just get away from city life for a bit. With paradise so close to home, what more can you ask for?” – Mei
4) Great West Coast Drive, New Zealand
Recommended by Matt Long, Landlopers
Region: New Zealand
One Way Distance: 285 miles from Greymouth to Wanaka
Minimum Time: 5.5 hours
Watch Out For: Glaciers, rainforests and plenty of photo ops
“A good road trip is one of my favorite ways to travel, especially if it’s through a particularly scenic area. I’ve been on a lot of good ones, but my favorite is the Great West Coast Drive on New Zealand’s South Island. New Zealand’s State Highway 6 is massive, it extends from the northeastern corner of the South Island across the top of the island, then down the length of the island, initially along the West Coast and then across the Southern Alps through inland Otago and finally across the Southland Plains to the island’s south coast.
These simple descriptors do little to portray the sheer majesty of the experience. Glacier capped mountains, verdant green rainforests and a million secret corners of the island are just waiting to be found along the highway. If you do decide to make this world class drive, double the amount of time you think it will take because around each corner is yet another perfect photo.” – Matt
5) Hamilton Road in Erbil, Iraq
Recommended by Aaron Heflich Shapiro, Aaron’s Worldwide Adventures
Region: Middle East
One Way Distance: Depends on your itinerary. This drive starts and ends in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan
Minimum Time: Up to 6 hours round-trip
Watch Out For: The Iranian border– you may want to steer clear.
“Who goes on a road trip in Iraq? With no car insurance and rather erratic driving habits, why would you? Well, to drive through some of the most incredible scenery in the world along the famous Hamilton Road, of course! I had serious doubts about the wisdom of my decision to do this, but as my sputtering rental car turned into the middle of a soaring canyon, I knew it was a good choice! Nothing but the open road ahead into vast mountains. Pure bliss!” – Aaron
6) The Great Ocean Road, Australia
Recommended by Jake Semmel, Downtown Traveler
One Way Distance: 150 miles
Minimum Time: 4 hours
Watch Out For: Incredible limestone formations in the ocean and winding roads
“Before we ventured into the Australian Outback we spent a few days driving along the Great Ocean Road on the southern coast of Australia. All along the way were spectacular views, the best of which was without a doubt the Twelve Apostles, a series of limestone spires that have formed right off the coast through centuries of erosion. The coast is always rough here, and the waves bashing against the rocks make for incredible photo opportunities. When we visited it was in the middle of a powerful rain storm, which made it that much more dramatic to witness.” – Jake
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