Europe is one of the most charming continents on the planet, with a lovely mix of rural countryside and cosmopolitan cities. With nearly every European country being connected to another, Europe is also one of the easiest continents to travel through by road, which is why if you’re travelling to Europe you’ll probably want to consider renting a car to make the most of your time. But, there are a few things to be mindful of before you sign on the dotted line –
1. Protect Yourself With Your Flexible Friend
The standard insurance provided when you hire a car usually doesn’t cover your car if accidental damage is not considered to be a write-off. Hence, most car rental companies offer you the opportunity to “upgrade” your car insurance. Don’t be fooled, though. If you have a credit card, you may find that your credit card provider will actually provide the additional cover you need, so it’s worth contacting your credit card provider before signing up for unnecessary additional and expensive insurance.
Rookie Tip – Remember that unless you inform the hire company regarding whether the car will be used by multiple drivers, only the named driver will be covered by the compulsory insurance, meaning you could get into trouble with the law if anyone other than the named driver is caught driving.
2. Be Law Compliant
Travelling within Europe may require you to apply for an International Driving License (IDP). IDP’s are a valid form of ID in more than 150 countries, with an expiry date of 1 year from the date of issue. Remember to apply at least 6 weeks prior to your intended travel date, and make sure you carry your current driving license, too. You’ll also need to check the minimum age requirement for your designated driver. Most car rental companies will only hire to over 21’s, yet there are some European countries in which cars can only be hired by over 25’s, and there may be upper age restrictions, too. Do your homework!
3. Go for The Full Tank
When picking up your car rental, you will usually get the option of returning the car with a full tank or having the car hire company fill it back up for you upon your return. Just be aware that the cost of your car hire company re-fuelling will be passed on to you and it’s usually much higher than if you fill it up yourself. Re-fuelling yourself gives you an opportunity to shop around for the best fuel rates, so you can get a much better deal.
4. Beware of The Tolls
If you’re planning to use highways or toll roads while travelling in Europe, make sure you do your research before you use them. Not all toll roads are equal. There may be operational similarities between European countries, there are also many that operate differently. In most of France and Italy, for example, a ticket will be taken on entry and paid on exit. However, in the UK and Paris, drivers are charged a fixed fee. Some countries also require that a sticker known as a ‘vignette’ is used instead of passing through toll booths, and a vignette for each country you cross borders into must be purchased. However, other countries, such as Hungary, operate on an electronic vignette system.
Rookie Tip – If you do intend to pass through borders, remember to have your passport, driving license and IDP.
5. Follow The Rules of The Road
European roads can be confusing. Not understanding the road signs will make driving and navigation difficult, and you face a safety risk if you break the rules of the road. Do some research before-hand to familiarize yourself with how things operate. For example, www.autoeurope.com is a rental car comparison site that offers a handy pictorial guide to help you understand the road signs you are likely to come across in your European destination.
Rookie Tip – Make sure you also comply with seat-belt requirements and speed and alcohol limitations of the country(s) you drive in.
6. Plan, Plan, Plan
“Fail to prepare and you prepare to fail,” is an expensive way to holiday considering renting a car at a railway station or airport in Europe will guarantee you paying premium rates. It’s also worth knowing that if you only require a car for a few days, it would be much cheaper for you to rent closer to your hotel from a local office than to rent direct from your arrival airport. Checking sites like www.autoeurope.com and www.rentalcars.com will help you get the best price when it comes to car rentals.
7. Rent accessories from India
If you are planning to take additional car accessories such as a baby car seat, GPS, charger etc, the price per day charged by the car rentals in Europe are likely to be quite steep. If you are picking the car from one city and returning it in another city, then the car rental will charge you an additional and often exorbitant fee for that. It is thus always better to rent/buy such car accessories from India, even if you are going to use it for only part of the trip. Check out Bragpacker’s collection of road trip gear available to rent for a fraction of the buy price or rental price in Europe, including a car safety kit, some form of which are often compulsory in Europe.
Road trips are a great way to discover Europe but can become an expensive mode of transport, especially if you are not careful with the less apparent costs associated with it. So do you research and ask questions before you book a car anywhere!
Wish you happy travels!