Why rent a car?
Travelers usually rent a car for two occasions – to move from city to city, or from A to B (or between attractions) and this is simple rental, you rent a car and drive between two locations to avoid buses, trains or other public types of transport. The second type of rental is when renting car during entire duration of your vacation and use it as you would use your own car back home – move around, go shopping, go between places, etc.
Renting a car has many advantages and some disadvantages, and we will explore them here.
How to save when renting a car?
Book early. As with any other travel booking (flights, hotels), demand for cars would increase and price of rental will go up. Booking during last minute or asking for a car once you have already arrived at your destination will make you pay highest price or rent a car that is not suitable for your needs. Booking early will also give you time to explore various car rental options.
Bring your own car seats. If you are travelling with children, bring your own child seats – or buy new ones while abroad if current ones are due for replacement. Car rental companies charge about $10 on average per day per car seat, so you can either bring them with you from home or buy new ones in the country of destination.
Bring your own GPS navigation. Most of the cars in the middle range offer GPS navigation with the car, but lots of models are being rented with GPS as an add-on, so it would be advisable to bring your own GPS or download navigation app on your phone. If you will be using your phone then hands-free holder would be a good idea:
Car insurance. If you have a bank (credit) card that offers complimentary insurance when used to book the car online, use this option, but with caution. In case of major car accident and massive damage, you will need to cover damages yourself and then submit claim to your card company for reimbursement. This might put you in financial problems and will require time to get paid back.
Pros and cons of renting a car while abroad
Freedom of movement – you don’t have to wait for a bus, train, taxi, you can leave and move anytime you want. And you can choose which way to go, so you create your own itinerary. You might visit some attractions that were not even on your list, but with a car available you might as well do it!
Saving money – for families and groups of up to four or five people intercity transport or long distance routes can be cheaper if taken by car, plus more freedom to change the route, stop anywhere.
Good for emergencies – especially if traveling with kids, you can always use rented car to move quickly when something urgent happens – sick child, bad weather or even to take moody kids to their favourite restaurant.
Moving with luggage is easier – you don’t have to tow your bags and suitcases to trains, buses and metro stations, just load the car and go.
More savings and convenience – you can rent a home outside of city and move easily with your rented car. This will enable to rent bigger place outside of city and cheaper.
Driving in foreign countries and unknown roads – this can be a bummer for inexperienced driver and add unnecessary stress during your holidays.
Driving car type we are not used to – this can can be linked to the previous one, usually we try to rent a car type we are familiar with, but often we end up with some new model that we don’t have much experience with.
Additional stress in case of accident – having a car accident (even a minor one) is stressful enough and this only multiplies if you have it in a foreign country.
Parking – this is a big one. Unless you are staying in a hotel with ample parking space, you will need to have accommodation that offers free (and secure) parking space for your rented car. Also, parking around city might cost extra, so every time you stop – you pay.
Above are some basic pros and cons and it will give you some clarity in what is good and what is bad about renting a car while travelling, but it is up to you to decide what is the best.
What you need to consider when renting a car abroad?
There are several items you need to consider when renting a car in general, and especially when renting a car abroad and we are listing them here not in any particular order and they should be all treated as important.
- A valid driver’s license is a must, but In addition to this, you might need to obtain international driving permit if you are planning to rent a car abroad. Please check this website to obtain info on applying for international driving permit in your location:
- Rent a car that you are comfortable driving. If possible, go for the model you are already driving back home. This way, you will be quickly adjusted to driving rented vehicle. In case you want to rent different model, please get acquainted with all necessary car elements to have a safe and comfortable drive – adjust seats, steering wheel, double check indicators, light, gear shift, wipers, and even radio and sound system control, so you don’t have to discover these features while driving, which would be very unsafe.
- Inspect car for any damages before signing papers to take it over. Major rental companies have thorough check-ups when receive cars back from the customers, but it is always good to report any damage or inconsistency with your rental. Better safe than sorry.
- Double check what is prescribed tire pressure and what type of fuel is needed (this can be actually very confusing part when abroad) with car rental agent so you don’t have to learn about that the hard way – at some remote fuel station with nobody around.
- Inform yourself about speed limits or any specific traffic rules, both within metropolitan area and intercity. There are of course road signs to tell you this, but better be mentally prepared for new limits and rules while in a foreign country.
- Record GPS location of car rental office (if you are returning car to the same place) so it will be easier to navigate at the end of the trip. You should also record all possible points of interests (POI) on your GPS device (or your mobile) for easier navigation while driving (this would be a topic of completely separate travel tips post).
- Drive safely!