When you travel overseas, it can seem like a temptation to rent a car once you land. Sadly, this can cause more frustration than it is actually worth. Before you decide to rent a car in a foreign country, hear me out first. In addition to traveling for several months in Mexico, Switzerland, Germany, Holland, and the Middle East, I studied anthropology and know many people that travel for this degree. Over the years, I have learned a few things about whether or not renting a car in a foreign country is a good idea.
Major international rental car companies
One of the comforting things about traveling overseas for one major city to another is the continuity in rental car options. As a foreigner on a vacation, you may find that renting from the same car company you use in Chicago is somewhat comforting. This means you already understand some of the rules and expectations whether you are renting a car from the same company in Paris, Mexico City or Nashville. Nevertheless, being able to easily rent a car in a foreign country is only half the battle.
Do you know how to drive in a foreign country?
If you look through the literature regarding being a good American tourist in a foreign country, there will often be a list of driving tips. This goes far beyond which side of the road they choose to drive on, and goes into specifics signage. Over time I have learned that the longer this list is, the less likely you are going to feel like renting a car in this country.
For instance, getting a separate tourist driver’s license may not be the best way to spend your time. You may also feel uncomfortable trying to drive safely while figuring out difficult-to-read traffic signs. On the other hand, if you are familiar with the language of that country, have parentage from that country, or will have locals driving around with you, you will likely succeed with driving safely with a rental car in a foreign country. To find more tips, try searching for the “driving in” plus the name of the city.
Should you just take taxis everywhere?
When you live in America, you can think that there are only a few basic ways to get around. Namely, using inefficient buses or public transportation, walking, taking a bike, or driving a car. Naturally, when you go to a foreign country, your first instinct is to rent a car because it appears to be the most efficient means of transporting yourself around when you do not understand the language that well.
Despite this, you will see advice from other Americans that have toured the same country telling you to give up on the idea of driving while you are there altogether. In some countries, the driving is so dangerous for foreigners that they have set up hotels with cheap taxis and vans that will take you anywhere. This leads to a more relaxing vacation, and the expense is minimal. A good example of a city where taking a taxi everywhere is the norm is Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
To get a better understanding about driving in a foreign country, take a look at these information guides:
Driving in Dubai – The perspective of a female ex-pat and a local on what it is like to drive in the busy city of Dubai.
Renting a car in London, England – The official VisitBritain.com website has advice for tourists thinking about driving around the country.
Trouble-free Mexico driving – Think it will be easy to rent a car and drive around Mexico City? Just to make sure, check out this how-to article.
Car rental options in Toronto – One of the most popular online searches involves Americans thinking about car rental and driving in Toronto, Canada. To get an edge, look at this blog by a local author.
Should you rent a car in Nairobi, Kenya? – An exciting tourism destination for many Americans, getting started with transportation in Nairobi takes a little bit of homework.
Rental car driving in Japan – Before you rent a car in Tokyo, take a look at the careful instructions outlined by the United States Embassy in Japan.
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