Going off the beaten path when traveling in a foreign country may mean that planes, trains, or even long-distance buses cannot get you from A to B. An automobile rental is your only choice. While renting a car in your home country may be hassle-free, renting in a different country requires more planning. Pre-planning could help you save money, prepare for unexpected costs, and prevent any serious legal issues if the renter gets into an accident.
First of all, driving a stick may be required, or at least save some cash. Learning to drive a stick will save money and make it easier to find a vehicle. If an automatic is required, then make sure that you are guaranteed an automatic. Some rental companies offer a guaranteed automatic at a much higher rental cost, but the same vehicle can be requested for a less expensive rate. Requested means that you could get either type of steering.
Renting a car overseas can be full of obstacles if there is not any pre-planning. Before renting a car, confer with the car rental agency on travel requirements in the country you will be visiting. Some countries will not rent a vehicle to anyone with a DWI, even if it was decades ago. Some countries may go as far as refusing entry into their country if a traveler has had any jail time, drug, or drinking offense. Printing a copy of your DVLA driver record may be a requirement as well.
A paper driver’s license will most likely not be acceptable. AA suggests an IDL, an International driving license for anyone driving outside of their country.
— Texas Tower (@txtpassportvisa) July 26, 2016
Next, ask what all is included in your car rental fee. Some car rental companies bundle the cost of insurance with the final car rental cost. Ask what sort of insurance is included and if you should have insurance available through a contract plan or credit card. Ask if there is a car rental quote without insurance, to prevent doubling up on insurance. Your own car insurance policy may apply to car rentals in your home country, but will most likely not apply to an international car rental.
— FCBT – Australia (@fcbtAU) June 6, 2016
There are four common insurance coverage plans. These include third-party liability, collision-damage, personal accident, and personal property. Never assume a credit card company covers car insurance for an international rental. Contact each of your card companies and find out what is covered or if there is a plan that cardholders can join.
The other big expense is taxes. Always ask which taxes are included in the final car rental cost. Many countries charge a VAT (value added tax) to the final cost. This may be added on top of country, city, or county tax. Ask the car rental agency to list the costs of all of the taxes and include a grand total. Most agencies will give the base rate without taxes added on. This is often because taxes can change and rental companies do not want to commit to something that is beyond their control and can change. Asking for an estimate will be closer to the total.
When paying for your car rental, put all expenses on a single credit card. This includes everything from tax to car seats. If prepaying a rental car with one card and then using cash or a different card for VAT, extra driver or a car seat, any credit card benefits become null and void.
Before taking off with your rental car, make sure you know what side of the road to drive on, the rules of the road, and make sure everything is working on the vehicle and is inside of the vehicle. Some countries require that a sign indicating that a foreign driver is behind the wheel be put up in the window for other drivers to see.
During the winter months, be aware of the snow tire rules. Many countries require winter snow tires. Not only is it dangerous to drive on ice and snow without these tires, it can also be illegal. Should a driver not add the tires and get into an automobile accident, the insurance will most likely be voided.
Lastly, drivers should be aware of where they can legally drive. Some rental charges will only include one country and will be more expensive if traveling to other countries. Should a driver venture into a disallowed country and get into an accident, the insurance will be voided and the driver will be responsible for the full cost of the vehicle and any medical expenses.
Keeping organized and making a few calls can turn your international driving experience into a fun adventure.
Have you ever rented a car in another country? Do you have any advice to give first timers?
[Featured Image by Denis Doyle/Getty Images]