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Winter Destinations Guide 2015

From classic ski breaks to festive Christmas markets and trips to see the Northern Lights, brighten up the darkest part of the year with a holiday. Whether you prefer to seek the snow or flee to warmer climes, here is our guide to holiday travel this winter.

SANTA, SKIING AND CHRISTMAS MARKETS

Winter Wonderland

Visit one of many Christmas markets, which are open, from now until Christmas. London, Manchester and Edinburgh all offer unique shopping experiences for every visitor, fun filled with crafters, artists, gift shops and gastronomic surprises. Get into the Christmas spirit!

London’s largest festive celebration has opened its doors for 2015, Christmas markets, an ice rink, circus shows and even an Ice Kingdom. Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park offers the whole family a festive experience, which you won’t forget. There is even an ice bar! There is so much for you to do, to get into the festive spirit and enjoy the most magical time of the year.

Lapland - Finland, where 200,000 reindeer roam snowy highland and trees wear white coats, is the quintessential festive landscape – not least thanks to its most famous resident. Go snowmobiling to find Father Christmas, as well as a rendezvous with Santa, the destination offers a reindeer-drawn sleigh ride and husky mushing. Visit Rovaniemi for a once in a lifetime, magical getaway. Read our guide here

Light up

Non-believers will find authentic flair, in Finland's Northern Lights territory. Warm up in the sauna of many Finnish hotels after finger-numbing activities such as snowshoeing, kick sledding and snowmobiling in and around the reindeer herding community. And then by night, head out in search of the Aurora, which puts in an appearance here around 200 nights a year.

Historic

Visiting Italy during the Christmas season offers two bonuses: You'll avoid the high summer season tourist crowds, and you'll get to see the country decked out in all its holiday finery.

Heading for Rome over Christmas couldn’t be a wiser choice. In addition to the festivities in Rome itself, you also have Vatican City's celebrations. It's like getting two cities' worth of holiday in one spot.

At the Vatican, the Pope delivers a Christmas Eve midnight mass, there's a huge Christmas tree in St. Peter's Square and a life-sized Nativity scene in front of the basilica. In Rome, the Piazza del Popolo fills with over 100 Nativities, the Piazza Navona turns into a Christmas market and Christmas Eve mass is held in historic churches throughout the city -- including the Pantheon, where you'll hear Gregorian chants.

WINTER SUN-SEEKER

White (sand) Christmas

Not everybody dreams of a white, snowy Christmas. For festive dinners and Santa Claus combined with warm seas, clear skies and a tropical sun, try St Maartens. December temperatures on the island average 27C. No one will blame you if you just want to lounge on the palm tree-lined beach. From December through till May, head to this exotic island which is outside of hurricane season and less likely to rain.

Head to Santa’s house during the whole month of December in Cripple Gate. You will be welcomed with festive decorations, music and offered cake and homemade punch.

Green Christmas

Costa Rica has no real winter period, the sun shines here throughout the year. With over 12 hours of sunshine a day, the sun rises at about 5:45 am and sets at about 5:45 pm consistently throughout the year. Much like St Maartens, December through to April are the dry season for the destination. Temperatures are on average 24C throughout the month of December.

During the dry months spot soaring Quetzals and waddling green turtles. Travel during this time of year and you'll also find vibrant fiestas taking place across the country, featuring bullfights, dancing and live music. In San José, temperatures linger in the 20s year-round, while drier regions along the Northern Plains and coast, like Nicoya Peninsula and Guanacaste, see 40-degree temperatures. In December and January, North American and European visitors head to Costa Rica for sun, splendour and a break from chilly winter months at home.


Rovaniemi – declared as the official home of Santa Claus

If you’re looking for a once in a lifetime, magical, fantasy-to-reality type of getaway, why not travel to Rovaniemi, Finland?

Up above the Arctic Circle in Finland, found in Lapland, is the small city of Rovaniemi. It is in this city where you can actually visit Santa’s Village. In this village, Santa Claus spends his days tending to his life’s mission – which is enhancing the well being of children and the kindness of adults. This of course, is in addition to spreading the message love and goodwill of Christmas Spirit throughout all corners of the world.

A visit to Santa’s Village in Rovaniemi will provide you with experiences that you cannot find anywhere else in the world.

Head to the Arctic Circle Husky Park for a fabulous husky sledge ride. The park has roughly 90 Siberian huskies to care for, and part of that care includes lots of running! Nothing makes them happier than running through the snow with a couple of friends! A visit to the Husky Park is a great way to spend an afternoon with the family.

See Christmas traditions and culture throughout the world when you stop by the Christmas House, home of the Christmas Exhibition. Watch historic Christmas films, take a peek at rare decorations and just become filled with nostalgic memories of Christmases gone by. The Christmas House is prized with having the best souvenir shop in the village so after you’ve made your way through the Christmas exhibit, you may want to stop by and do a little holiday shopping!

Be sure to visit SantaPark on your visit to Rovaniemi. This underground network of caves is chock-full of Christmas Spirit and certainly should not be missed! Here you can learn calligraphy writing, attend a class on how to be an elf, visit Mrs. Claus’ Bakery and more! A visit to SantaPark is a great day spent with the family.

This is truly a magical journey, full of wonder and excitement. How could it not be – with every inch covered in Christmas! The trip to Rovaniemi will leave you with fond memories and great stories to bring back to your friends and family (along with all the amazing Christmas souvenirs)!

Book your car hire in Rovaniemi and enjoy the holiday season in a low emission, environmentally friendly vehicle. We’ve even upgraded Santa to a new Nissan Leaf!


Croatia: Home of the Festivals

A mainly coastal nation, Croatia suffers an embarrassment of riches. Historical sites from all eras, incredible food, stunning natural beauty and a rapidly growing party scene has resulted in Croatia developing into one of Europe hottest destinations.

The capital Zagreb is a highly cultured city. The fairly small Austro-Hungarian streets are filled with cafes, art galleries and museums; however a simple tram ride away provides some great skiing or hiking. Whilst Zagreb is Croatia capital and cultural hub, the crown in its jewel is the costal beauty of Dubrovnik. The set of Kings Landing in Game of Thrones, Dubrovnik is a conglomeration of glistening marble set against the crystal blue of the Adriatic. A simple tour of the medieval walls provide more than enough awe, but trips to the scarily named Cathedral of the Assumption and Rectors Palace really show off Dubrovniks medieval charms. A cable car up to Mt Srđ gives a gorgeous view of the city and surrounding areas, whilst an ever popular Sea Kayak lets you get up close and personal with the glorious Adriatic.

Croatia’s natural beauty and culture are impressive, but those with slightly more lively tastes will be happy to know Croatia is quickly becoming a festival capital of the world. Soundwave, Hideout, Ultra and Outlook are all massive festivals and all take place on Croatia’s sandy beaches.

Croatia has trove of inland beauty, Plitvice Lakes National Park is particular gem, all of which are best explored on the road. 

Hire your Green Motion Audi A6 to cruise the coastal roads, and arrive in style in the city streets.


What happens to your car when winter strikes

Whilst driving abroad it's important to adhere to the driving laws in that country. Failure to do so could result in a fine or temporary loss of your vehicle.

Wherever you drive, you are responsible for equipping and controlling your vehicle correctly. You may be liable to a fine if you impede the normal flow of traffic or cause an accident as a consequence of not adapting your vehicle (tyres/snow chains) to suit weather and road conditions.

In Italy from November 15 to April 15 in many Italian provinces it is mandatory to travel equipped with either winter tyres or snow chains on board specific to the type of vehicle rented. We recommend you check in advance whether your travel itinerary or any stretches of road you may drive through fall under this obligation.

Winter tyres are made from a different rubber compound so they don’t harden when it is cold, providing increased grip on the road and greater safety.

Motorists will benefit from using winter tyres whenever the temperature dips below seven degrees centigrade. They are suitable not just for snow-bound roads but are effective on slush, ice, frost and even wet roads, providing improved road handling and reduced stopping distances.

Snow chains

Snow chains are compulsory in some parts of Europe (depending on local conditions) although different countries have different snow chain laws, so it is important to check these before travelling abroad.

The use of snow chains is taken very seriously in relevant countries, with heavy fines potentially issued for failing to carry them. In addition, if your vehicle is involved in an incident where snow chains should have been used, it is automatically considered to be your fault.

To be on the safe side, you should always carry snow chains when visiting the countries outlined above and use them wherever and whenever necessary.

Only use snow chains when the road surface is covered in snow or ice. If you try to use chains on a road that has been cleared of snow and gritted, you risk damaging the road surface and your vehicle.

We cannot be held liable for any loss howsoever arising as a result of any errors or omissions in the information below.

Country Snow Tyres Snow Chains
Belgium There is no legal requirement for the use of snow tyres. You are permitted to use snow chains where there is ice or snow, but this is not a mandatory requirement.

Cyprus There is no legal requirement for the use of snow tyres.

Finland Whilst travelling in Finland between 1 December and 31 March it is a legal requirement
to use snow tyres.
You are permitted to use snow chains but this is not a mandatory requirement.

Greece There is no legal requirement for the use of snow tyres.

Iceland Between 1 November and 14 April and it is a legal requirement to use snow tyres.

Ireland There is no legal requirement for the use of snow tyres. You are permitted to use snow chains but this is not a mandatory requirement.

Italy In Italy from November 15 to April 15 in many Italian provinces it is mandatory to travel equipped with either winter tyres or snow chains on board specific to the type of vehicle rented. We recommend you check in advance whether your travel itinerary or any stretches of road you may drive through fall under this obligation. You should carry snow chains when travelling in Italy. Road signs across Italy indicate when snow chains are compulsory.

Latvia If your vehicle weighs less than 3.5 tons, then between 1 December and 1 March it is a legal requirement to use snow tyres. You are permitted to use snow chains but this is not a legal requirement.

Lithuania Whilst travelling in Lithuania between 10 November and 1 April it is a legal requirement to use snow tyres. You are permitted to use snow chains but this is not a legal requirement.

Netherlands
There is no legal requirement for the use of snow tyres. You are permitted to use snow chains where there is ice or snow, but this is not a mandatory requirement.

Serbia Whilst travelling in Serbia it is compulsory to use snow tyres. You should carry snow chains when travelling in Serbia.

United Kingdom There is no legislation requiring the use of snow tyres. You are permitted to use snow chains but this is not a mandatory requirement


Please be safe this winter, and do everything you can to avoid a winter automobile accident. Contact your Green Motion branch for more information on how to stay safe this winter throughout your travels.

We strongly recommend you check The European Commission which has additional information on international traffic rules concerning winter tyres.