During my last trip overseas, I decided I would no longer depend on mass transportation or taxicabs to get around. I would now decide where I went and the route I took to get there. I was going to rent a car. How hard could it possibly be? I’d rented cars in the United States for years. I soon discovered renting a car overseas is a bit different.
According to an article at DMV. Org, “While traveling abroad can be a big adventure, driving abroad can be an even bigger adventure. When you travel internationally and get behind the wheel, you don’t just experience foreign sights; you experience foreign traffic laws, too.”
Lesson 1 – Cars Are Smaller
I soon learned that cars in Europe are smaller than those in the United States. I quickly discovered this made sense. Some of their streets and roads are very narrow. Trying to make turns with a large vehicle would be a real challenge. When I was trying to book a car, I found ordering a car with an automatic transmission was usually more expensive. Some car rental agencies didn’t even offer them. If you can drive a manual transmission, it can save you money when renting a car in a foreign country. Most companies did offer GPS with their vehicles.
Lesson 2 – International Driving Permit
When Americans rent a car in most English-speaking countries, they will only need their state issued drivers license. In most other countries, an International Driving Permit (IDP) is also required. This is a document that has the drivers information in ten different languages. An IDP is accepted in more than 150 countries for driving purposes. A person wanting to rent a car will have to produce and IDP, and their drivers license. There are only two places a person in the United States can get an IDP. The American Automobile Association (AAA) and the National Automobile Club.
Lesson 3 – Driving is Different
The road signs are different than those in the United States. I did take some time to learn the meanings of different international road signs. There are also things unique to different countries. In England, you have to adjust to driving on the other side of the road. Distances in most foreign countries are in kilometers and not miles. When on the autobahn in Germany, there is no speed limit.
Lesson 4 – Vehicle Insurance
Before leaving on an overseas trip, it’s important to check with your car insurance company to see if they cover rental cars in foreign countries. In my case, unless I was renting a car in Canada or Mexico, I wasn’t covered. This meant I had to purchase car insurance from the vehicle rental company. Understand that each country will have different vehicle coverage requirements. I would recommend getting the country’s minimum coverage requirements, and then anything additional to make you feel more comfortable.