Before heading to Europe my first time, I talked to friends and family about their experiences driving there. Everyone told me about their experiences and the consensus was, don’t do it. Adventurous as I was, I decided to go with my gut and rent a car. I do not regret it.
When I travel, I like to have the flexibility to change my plans for the day on the spur of the moment. Having a car ensures that I can do things my way.
Having driven in a few countries now, here are some things to consider when planning to rent a car in Europe:
1) Automatic v. Manual: If you do not know how to drive a manual transmission car, make sure to reserve a vehicle that is automatic. Most cars in Europe are manual and automatic vehicles are more expensive and hard to find. Not all rental car companies have them available. When booking a vacation package, most include a manual car. You will need to pay more for an automatic. If you really need an automatic, be sure to call the rental car company (even if you make a reservation online) to be sure they make a note on your reservation to hold one for you.
2) International Driver Permit: Some countries require that you possess an International Driver Permit. These can be secured in the states at a AAA office. No test is required, just proof of a US driver license. It is good for one year.
3) Car Insurance: As I mentioned in last week’s Tip Tuesday: “Renting A Car,” your credit card may include insurance for a rental vehicle, but make sure the country you are visiting is covered. For example, due to the high number of accidents on the roads in Ireland, insurance companies do not cover car rentals there.
4) GPS: I have taken road trips with and without a GPS. I must say that having it makes your trip that much less stressful, especially if you do not speak or read the language of the country you are visiting. Nowadays, cell phones have navigation systems, but the data use may end up being more expensive than renting the GPS or Sat Nav.
5) Roads: I have found the roads in the European countries I have visited to be pretty comparable to the roads in the states. For a while, Ireland was notorious for having bad roads, but they have invested a lot of money in infrastructure to improve their roads.
6) Fuel Prices: European fuel prices are way higher than ours in the states. Make sure you budget for the gas or diesel you will be consuming on the road. And remember that they are measured in Liters not Gallons.
7) Opposite Side Driving: The United Kingdom and Ireland are two of the countries in the world where cars are driven from the right side of the car and on traffic runs on the left side of the road, not the right. It is not that difficult to make the adjustment, but it will take you a little time for your mind to make the full adjustment. I find that to be one of the best parts of driving there.
8) Scenic Drives: Don’t be afraid of taking the scenic roads. Europe has some beautiful scenic drives and the roads will take you through some incredible small towns. Getting lost here is something everyone should do once in their lifetime!