Who doesn’t appreciate traveling in the comfort of their own car? It’s convenient, fast and reliable.
I live in the U.S. and travel both short and long distances, but as much as I love my car, I can’t take it oversees. Europe is the place I visit the most where a great public transportation makes the car less desirable. I did rent on a few occasions and here is what I learned:
Be aware! Most rental companies in Europe offer cars with manual transmission. You have to make it clear what you want when making arrangements, or you will be for a big surprise. I had a hard time finding with auto and when finally found was slapped with additional fees.
Pros: peace of mind
Cons: you will pay extra and spend more on fuel
I almost missed my flight when I decided to rent a car in Interlaken, Switzerland and drive it to Zurich airport. The distance is only a little over a hundred miles, but it took me almost three hours to get to my destination due to slow mountain roads and steady accumulation of traffic as I got closer to Zurich.
Pros: convenient, scenic
Cons: slow; fighting traffic, narrow streets, pedestrians
Parking is a huge problem in big European cities. For someone coming from America and seeing a parking spot in Italy could be a nerve-racking experience. Parking places are very small. How many SUVs did you see in Europe?
Pros: feeling of accomplishment when able to find and squeeze into a tight spot
Cons: very expensive, hard to find, sometimes impossible to fit in
If you decide to drive on German Autobahn, or for that matter Swiss, or Austrian: be aware of “robocops.” Autobahn is not a racetrack. It is highly regulated. I once got such a ticket, which was kindly forwarded to me by a rental company. It was of course in German, but I had to pay it.
Pros: learn from the lesson
Cons: very expensive, time-consuming
Driving in Europe can be stressful. Do a lot of research about “written” and “unwritten” rules of the country you are going to. I never rent if I’m staying in a big city: the public transportation does the job. But if my location is remote, then yes, I will rent. Good luck! Obey the rules and drive like European.