If you are not from Europe, the prospect of not only renting a car but driving one in Europe can be a daunting prospect. However, having commuted by all forms of public transport in Europe (bus, train, metro and cabs) I can personally vouch, car travel firmly stands as the best way to transform a ‘trip’ into an enjoyable journey. The liberty of being able to get off the beaten path, windows rolled down, wind striking your face, your best-loved tunes blasting in the background, and then all of a sudden, you spot the most sublime path leading into a lavender field. This a sign from the heavens above for you to stop, absorb and appreciate the beauty around you.
Thus, Outlook Traveller presents seven indispensable tips that one should keep in mind when renting a car in Europe.
International Drivers Permit (IDP)
Several countries that fall under the purview of Europe necessitate owning an International Drivers Permit at the time of rental. Austria, Italy and Spain are such countries, among a host of others to name a few.
While most car rental companies will rent you a car regardless of an IDP, if you get pulled over by the cops, you run the risk of getting a fine and having your car towed.
There may be conflicting information online with regards to which countries require an IDP, so my suggestion in this scenario would be the age-old motto ‘better safe than sorry’. If you plan to travel from India, here is where you can find more information with regards to getting your IDP made.
Booking Your Rental
When choosing the appropriate car, it is a given that prices range from affordable to exorbitant depending upon the type of car you select (smaller hatchbacks will be cheaper while big sedans, sports cars and minivans will be costlier). Another factor that influences price is the transmission, while manual transmission will evidently be cheaper, automatic cars will set you back a slight bit more.
Also, as a rule of thumb, always book well in advance to get cheaper rates, prices will rise significantly the closer you get to the date of your journey.
Another cost saving measure is to COMPARE, I know how tedious this gets with seven to ten different tabs open and endless options on offer but with multiple companies in operation such as Avis, Hertz, Sixt, Europcar, Budget Rent A Car and numerous others. Nevertheless, all of them offer varying prices so it’s worth checking different websites.
Carry Your Documents
In order to rent a car, you must have your passport for identification, a valid driver’s license (till the duration of your car rental journey at the very least) and a credit card to put on file in case of any mishaps or damage to the vehicle.
A word of caution, make sure your card is activated for international activity and can be used to deduct high sums of foreign currency as I was charged a deposit (also called excess) of €800 in Portugal and €1500 in Spain. This will be refunded to your account once the car is returned in an acceptable condition.
Purchase Excess Insurance
Most, if not all car rental companies will provide you with insurance built into the cost of the rental, this however does not include a significant excess amount. Fundamentally meaning that if something were to happen to the vehicle you would be liable to pay a significant excess amount (usually running a few hundred euros or more).
You can trigger an option to purchase a more comprehensive insurance that will remove your liability to pay the excess (while this may cost somewhere in the region of €40 and upwards depending upon your car) it is highly recommended!
One could also look up third party insurance providers such as iCarHireInsurance for instance which will, at times, provide cheaper insurances than the car rental companies.
Local Road Laws
Do not assume that the laws in your home country match those that are in place in Europe. Do a thorough study of the road and traffic rules of the country you plan to visit. If you plan to drive through multiple European countries, it would be to your benefit to study individual country laws as they may vary within the confines of EU as well.
For example, there are no speed limits on German motorways whereas certain roads in The Netherlands have a minimum speed limit! Minimum blood alcohol levels vary from country to country while Hungary or Czech Republic have a zero tolerance policy and do not permit any alcohol at all!
Take Photos of the Car When Renting
Something to keep in mind when picking up your vehicle would be to assess it from all sides and to photo document it during your pick up. This will act as an insurance of sorts if the car rental company plans to charge you for damage you may not have caused.
You could also point out any visible bumps or scratches to the car rental agent as a good practice.
Carry the Extras
While you could purchase GPS from the car hire company (for about €25 a day), you could obviously also make do with google maps, which, wait for it… costs you nothing! In this case it would be beneficial for you to carry a car phone holder to view the maps in a safe manner. Baby car seats also set you back a sweet penny, hence, if are able to carry yours it would be an area of huge saving.
While most cars nowadays come equipped with USB ports and bluetooth (effectively placing cigarette car lighters and AUX cables as redundant), you could still carry the same in case your luck is running out and you are handed an older model.
Have a brilliant drive, always wear a seat belt and make sure to have enough rest stops to stay alert on the road!