Failing to plan well before leaving for Europe is one of the reasons the car rental stands in Europe are a hassle, and putting off attaining important documentation until you are in Europe can be more than a hassle — you may not get a rental at all. Follow these time-tested tips before you rent a car and ensure that you have a good time.
When you reach your destination, you will be expected to insure the rental. Your insurance policy in the US is probably limited to North American roads, so you’ll at least have to buy some liability coverage from the rental agency. Contact your insurance company just to be certain of your particulars. The rental agency may require you to buy insurance as part of a package when you arrive.
The second and essential thing to do is pick up an international permit. It’s called an International Drivers License — the IDL. Apart from the fact that you must have one, it’s not as thorny as it sounds. It’s designed to solve a language problem. Your driver’s license issued by the state that you reside in must be translated in non-English speaking countries, so they issue a translated form of your American Driver License — in multiple languages.
Figure out where you can find an IDL before you leave. If you attain an IDL in the US, you’ll already be road legal when you arrive. Two agencies are authorized to issue IDL: The American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATL).
In terms of age, some countries practice institutional age discrimination. If you’re over 75-years old, some countries may hesitate to give you a set of wheels to tear around in. You may be out of luck if your age 24 or younger too. Of course, you must be 18 just to apply for an IDL.
Planning, for most travelers, is a hard-won habit. Stop confusing rental services in the US with those in Europe. Plan every little detail as far ahead as possible. This not only solves hassles, it results in finding saving money. Some sources say, it’s best to have every rental arrangement done before you ever leave for Europe.
Forget about renting a big Mercedes-Benz. Favor subcompact cars like the Renault Twingo. Unless you’re traveling in a crowd, rent the cheapest car. As it usually happens, you can trade up to a larger model when you pick up the car, assuming they have one available — without sacrificing the subcompact price.
You cannot choose to ignore the rules of the road in Europe. You shouldn’t be ashamed that you drive defensively in a place you’ve never been in before. Signs look different; even the painted lines confuse. Britain requires that you drive on the left side of the road. Don’t practice that before you leave.
The reality of driving in Europe leads to the conclusion that defensive driving techniques will help. You don’t want to be blind-sided by an Italian cabbie. More to the point, you must increase your awareness of the things around you. Watch how the locals drive and consider if that’s how you should drive. Make sound judgments about your own driving.
Do you have any top tips for renting a car? Tell us in the comments section below.