Friday, February 21, 2014

When renting a car abroad, think small and don't be shy

Keller prepares to take the wheel of a rental car  on an autumn trip to Olbia, Sardinia.


Roundabouts are the norm in much of Europe and the United  Kingdom. 
 Here, a Dali sculpture in Figueres, eastern Spain, decorates the curve.
DRIVING WHILE abroad can be a delightful way to discover new terrain at your own pace. We've made friends in rental cars, gleaned information and tips, discovered off-the-beaten path treasures. But renting a car successfully, getting the best deal and returning the auto safely take courage and know-how. Wednesday, we laid the groundwork for getting your rental agreement before you leave the U.S.  We also talked about ways to prevent extra charges -- from dents that you didn't cause to gas that you didn't use.
Here are more tips to help you renting abroad:
 Go small:  Tight, narrow streets laid out for horse and carriage, centuries before cars, are common in many European, South American, Middle-Eastern and Asian cities.  Parking areas are small or non-existent so think small, to allow you to maneuver better. In a traffic jam, you can sometimes back or turn your way out in a small car.  Not so with a large car which will also be much more expensive.

Driving a rental car in the Middle East may yield more than cars!
 WHEN MAKING reservations for your car pickup -- particularly at an airport -- remember that the company's fleets are often stocked with larger cars, for use by business travelers on expense accounts.  You might receive a free upgrade for a subcompact booking and could still end up with a car size to maneuver easily.  European cars are smaller than their American counterparts.  If you're only a couple or threesome, no problem. Small may not suit large or tall Americans, or those carrying lots of luggage, or traveling with a group or big family. Consider all that.

Safely delivered to her Costa Brava hotel, Cookie prepares to celebrate!
Parking in large cities calls for ingenuity as these Roman cars attest.
 In many countries, manual transmissions are the norm. So we pay a higher price for an automatic. If you are comfortable with a stick shift, you will save money. Remember, though, that driving overseas is much more taxing than driving at home. FIRST, YOU probably have no idea where you're going, roads are often narrow, winding or  poorly paved, or precariously constructed on mountainsides or ocean cliffs. Road signs and street markings are different. A recent drive from Barcelona to Spain's rugged Costa Brava was spectacular but yielded some frightening moments. Another drive from Florence south to Sienna was breathtaking but terrifying. Many Italian drivers have lead feet and we were passed and honked at by many aspiring Mario Andrettis!
 Neither of us likes to drive with a stick shift. So if not all  drivers in your group are comfy with a manual transmission, get an automatic and suck up the higher price. Remember, too, if you're in England, Australia or other "left side of the road" countries, driving has additional challenges. Navigating those roundabouts calls for clear thinking and determination. Be sure everyone's comfortable with driving on the left side of the road -- it can be challenging.
Navigating a busy Rome street calls for clear thinking, then action.
     BE AWARE: many countries have a minimum and maximum age for renters. Drivers under 25 or
over 70 may face surcharges or not be permitted to rent at all.
  International driving permits:   If you're traveling in an English-speaking country, you can get by with an American driver's license. Check with the consulate or embassy of the country you're visiting to find out policies on international drivers.  Many countries will ask that you also obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP). This is basically a paper that translates your into into 10 languages. It is recognized by over 150 countries. If you are renting a car abroad, you may be asked to present one along with your regular state license. You must be at least 18 years old to get an IDP. The car rental agencies can give you information country by country.
car europe

  are authorized to issue IDP's: the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the National Automobile Club. Fakes are also available on the web so beware!
Get your IDP before leaving home: it must be issued in your home country. An IDP is not a license; it's merely confirms and translates the license issued in your native country. If you are stopped by officials abroad, you must present your home country's license and IDP where needed. Be careful to obey local tolls, rules and lights. Any citation issued abroad will find its way for payment through your rental car company.
Finally, check with your auto insurance before you go to determine if you are covered while driving abroad.  If not, we recommend purchasing minimum insurance.  You might be the world's best driver, but if someone smashes into you in transit, or in a hotel or restaurant lot, you'll be covered. It's worth a few extra Euros for the peace of mind.
 To GPS or not?  We'll answer that in the next post.

Keller is ready for his close-up on overseas technology.
COMING UP:  You're rented your car and are off to foreign places and discoveries.  Now, how to get technology to co-operate with you overseas. You may have to file a plug to fit into an outlet -- but we can help you avoid checking with an engineer! More on technology wherever you're going.  Travel in Europe with technology, but don't necessarily plan on phoning home.  Remember to explore, learn and live. Tell your friends and check us out Wednesdays and weekends at:

1 comment:

  1. I like this fantastic post, which is regarding renting a car abroad.
    Thanks for sharing