The following is a list of six things that people who are going to rent a car in a foreign country should consider before doing so. I learned these tips the hard way when I rented a car for a few weeks with some friends in Brazil back in the 1990s.
While some of these tips might be specific to Brazil, they really are things that everyone who is going to rent a car in a foreign country should consider and be aware of.
Six Things to Consider when Renting a Car in a Foreign Country
Make Sure You Know Your Liability for the Car You Rent in a Foreign Country
When my friends and I rented a car in Brazil for a few weeks in the 1990s, we used the same travel agent who booked us our airfare and hotel rooms. When we got to Brazil and went to rent the car in Rio de Janeiro, we were told at the counter that if the car got stolen while we had it we would be charged for 60% of the car’s value.
Crime was very high in Brazil at the time we went there, and we could not purchase any kind of insurance on the rental car due to the fact that so many cars were stolen there and no insurance company would take the risk. The compact car’s value was around $8,000, so we would have been out almost $5,000 if the car got stolen.
Our travel agent never told us anything about that. We all debated whether we wanted to rent the car, but we went ahead and rented since so much of our plans of driving around the country depended on having a car.
In the end, the car did not get stolen, but we made sure to park it in safe lots whenever possible (especially at night), and if it was not possible to park it in a safe lot we switched off having one of us watch the car at almost all times.
Make Sure You Know Which Documents You Will Need for Foreign Country
In 2010, Brazil passed a law saying that international travelers can rent and drive a car having only a valid drivers license and a passport, but back in the 1990s we needed a International Driving Permit to drive in Brazil, which was easy to get at AAA. Make sure you know what documents you will need to rent and drive a car in the country you are traveling to.
Make Sure You Know the Rules of the Road in Country Your Traveling To
When we were in Brazil the police had far more serious crimes to worry about than traffic violations, so the people in Brazil, especially in and around Rio de Janeiro, would treat stop lights as if they were yield signs. It took us a little while to get used to people going through red lights, and getting honked at if we did not also go through the red lights if the coast was clear.
Know the Road Conditions in the Country You are Traveling To
The roads around Rio de Janeiro are pretty good, but when we got out into the boonies in Brazil the road conditions varied a lot. In some places there were huge craters in the road that had to be avoided if you didn’t want a broken axle. We learned to ask about road conditions for each area we traveled to ahead of time.
Watch for Animals in the Road
Believe it or not, but there are plenty of cows in Brazil. In some places in the country we would have to wait for a rancher to get his cattle off the road before we could pass. Be aware that animals can be a hazard in the country you are going to drive in.
Seriously Consider Buying Extra Insurance for Rental Car
When I rent a car in the United States, I never buy extra insurance because my regular auto insurance policy usually covers rental cars. That might not be true for rental cars in foreign countries. Check with your auto insurance carrier, and buy extra insurance if necessary for peace of mind.