I’ve traveled all over the world, but the majority of the time I rely on buses, trains, subways, taxis and the kindness of my hosts to provide transportation between locations.
However, I recently traveled to the United Kingdom for a good friend’s wedding and couldn’t rely on those other modes of transportation to get to the remote ceremony. So I had to rent a car. I suppressed my terror and made reservations to pick up my vehicle at the Newscastle Airport.
The verdict? Everything went great! However, I did have to prepare beforehand, so I wasn’t surprised when I stumbled over to the reservation desk after a long flight. Follow these tips and be way ahead of the game the next time you reserve a car in a foreign country.
Rent the Right Kind of Car
In my experience, many of the cars in Europe are manual transmission, meaning you have to manually shift the car as you drive. I’m left-handed, so I never really learned how to drive a stick shift.
Luckily, the car company I used offered automatic transmission cars for people like me. I had to pay more per day, but it was well worth the peace of mind knowing I wouldn’t stall in the middle of a busy freeway.
Understand What Your Auto Insurance Covers
Many American car insurance companies cover accidents and other mishaps when you rent a car within the country. However, your insurers might not cover international incidents.
My insurance company is one that doesn’t cover international driving, so I opted to take the (expensive) insurance through the rental company. I didn’t use it, but I had peace of mind knowing I wouldn’t have trouble if I did have an incident.
On a side note: You should also make sure your driver’s license is valid in the country you visit. If not, find out what you have to do to drive legally before you leave.
Review Driving Laws and Norms Before Getting Behind the Wheel
One of my biggest challenges while in the U.K. was driving on the opposite side of the road. This wasn’t as big of a problem as I thought it would be, but I did have to be mindful of everything while turning and using roundabouts.
Be sure to review the road laws and driving style of the residents in the country you’re visiting. In some countries, road signs and traffic signals seem to be merely a suggestion, so you must know how to be a defensive driver to avoid accidents and other mishaps.
Remember Drop-Off Times
The biggest pain of my international car renting experience was when I went to return the car. I decided to fill up the car before dropping off instead of paying the more expensive price for the rental company to do it for me. However, this made me miss my drop-off time by 15 minutes. The penalty? I had to pay for a whole extra day of rental. I wasn’t pleased, but it was a good lesson that I’ll definitely remember the next time I rent a car while abroad.
What tips do you have others looking to rent a car in a foreign country?