What you should know about Renting a Car Abroad

Driving in a foreign country can be a little disorienting! Be sure to read up on the latest updates about renting and driving a car internationally. To help ensure you have a wonderful (and stress-free) experience abroad, here are some of our basic guidelines for prospective renters to consider.

photo by Ugg Boy, creative commons

–          Drivers. Consider who will be driving. Drivers can miss some sights and signs. The driver needs a passenger with a talent for maps (even if they have a GPS) and for reading signs. There may be an additional driver fee to be paid at the front desk.

–          International Driving Permit. An IDP is often required to rent abroad. The permits are merely official translations of an individual’s driver’s license, and can be useful if traveling in a country where English is not widely spoken. For a full list of countries that do require, the IDP, click here.

–          Car versus Train. Small villages and quaint countrysides are often not accessible to those relying on public transport such as trains and buses. Train travel is a huge part of European networks, but it can be limiting. Cars can grant you the freedom to explore the hills of Tuscany or the Basque country on your own time and at your own pace.

–          Time period. European car rental companies rent by the 24-hour period, not by the day. This means if you pick up a car at noon and drop it off at 1PM the next day, you have rented it for 2 days, not one.

–          Insurance. Some car companies will never allow you to rent without some type of insurance. They will provide their own if you don’t have any. However, it’s definitely worth checking if your credit card company already covers international car rentals collision damage—this can save you from paying extra for insurance you may already have. Major credit card companies like VISA and MasterCard offer some collision damage coverage. Whoever your provider, double check that they do cover your destination(s). You can rent in certain countries without insurance, just be sure to purchase travel insurance that covers up to 35,000 for CDW. Speak to your travel agent for more information on insurance.

–          Fees. You should be aware of extra fees that may be included: higher fuel costs, one-way fees, per diem road tax, airport surcharges. If you are in an accident or illegality, there will be processing fees.

–          Different Rules & Regulations. Be aware that driving in Europe may be extremely different than what you’re used to—single highway speed limits, roundabouts, different sides of the road. Tail gating is not an unusual habit of drivers abroad. Ask your travel agent for a country driving guide.

–          Gas. Many cars use diesel instead of unleaded. Check with the car rental company if you are unsure.

–          Car Size. When selecting your car size, there are many factors to consider. Full size in Europe is definitely smaller than a full size in the USA. If there are only two passengers but you have a lot of luggage, economy will be much too small. A size up can mean considerably more leg room and space for baggage, while if you’re on a solo business trip opt for a smaller size instead. If you’re thinking of traversing harsh terrain, an SUV might be the best bet. Have a specialty request or luxury class in mind? Ask us about our resources.

–          Manual versus Automatic shift. Cars with manual transmission are often less expensive than automatic in Europe. If you do drive it here, drive it there! However, there are exception to the rule. We recommend that in certain countries, such as the UK and Ireland, where drivers drive on the left side of the road, opt for automatic shift as it is one less thing to think about!

–          Deductibles. A deductible is when a car company holds an amount on your credit card as collateral. This can often be very high, occasionally equal to the whole value of the car. You can sometimes ask for a zero deductible. This will add to the overall cost on your car but there will be no hold on your credit card. We often recommend to our clients to take the -0- deductible. Christina, CEO of Wittravel, has one anecdote to share: “Once we were driving in England and were rear-ended. We had -0- deductible insurance. We called the car company, and they had their nearby office drive out with a new car. There was no trip interruption at all. For stress-free driving, think about the -0- deductible if it is offered.” The bottom line is, when in doubt, as your travel agent.

–          Leasing. Renting for three weeks are more? Consider leasing instead. It’s tax-free and sometimes includes zero deductible collision and theft insurance. It could be very cost effective especially with insurance if you are renting for at least 21 days, and sometimes as low as 17.

–          Map. Don’t forget a map! Keep a detailed road map or atlas in your car at all times. If you want extra security and ease of mind, consider renting a GPS. We can offer this to you when we book your vehicle. We also have a GPS in house that clients can rent. Ask us for more details.

The best thing you can do is ask your travel agent. We have booked thousands of cars all across the globe for our clients. Call us at 503.224.0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

photo by Matt Buck, creative commons

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Filed under Features, Travel by Car, Travel Tips

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