Whether you’re cruising Germany’s celebrated Autobahn, circumnavigating Iceland’s fascinating Ring Road or driving Argentina’s endless Ruta 40, the romance of the road is alive and well around the globe. But before we hand you the keys, here are 5 things you should know before renting a car abroad.
1. Plan well in advance
This is even more true when traveling abroad than it is the United States where even the smaller airports offer a smorgasbord of rental car companies with price points to match every budget. But when traveling abroad, the last thing you want to do is arrive on an exotic island or small town and be held hostage to whatever price the rental car company wants to charge for the single Nissan Sentra left on the lot.
2. Reserve an automatic
We’ve made this mistake before. In the United States the assumption at rental car companies is that your gear shift will be an automatic, but that’s not the case in other parts of the world. In Europe, for example, if you simply show up at the car rental desk at the airport or metro area without anadvance request for an automatic, you might be greeted with a sea of stick shift vehicles and nary a single automatic in sight.
3. Know the rental insurance rules
Things like navigating unknown terrain, interpreting foreign traffic signs and potentially driving on the other side of the road in countries like Britain, Australia, India and about 200 others, could make you a little more accident prone that you’d otherwise be. According to Allianz Global Assistance, having a good rental car insurance plan offers the best recourse in case of collision or theft. And remember, most U.S. auto insurance policies don’t cover driving abroad. Plus, Allianz Global Assistance says some countries require higher insurance limits than your everyday car insurance policy provides. Add to this the knowledge that some developing countries have unpaved roadways and much more daring drivers (see a full list of the most dangerous countries for driving here), and you’ve suddenly got plenty of good reasons to get covered.
4. Know the rules of the road
Remember in National Lampoon’s European Vacation when the Griswold’s ended up in a loop in front of Big Ben and Parliament because they weren’t accustomed to entering and exiting the traffic circles common in the U.K.? Although many countries adopt traffic signage that is akin to what is used in the United States and Canada, it might help to internet search “rules of the road” for whatever country you’re visiting. Again, you can rest just a bit easier with a car rental insurance plan, available through companies such as Allianz Global Assistance.
5. Obtain an International Driving Permit
An International Driving Permit or IDP is a valid form of identification in 150 countries and will be recognized in places where a U.S. driver’s license isn’t. It contains your name, photo and identification in ten languages and is easily available for purchase at both AAA and the National Auto Club. Regardless of where you’re traveling present your IDP at the rental car counter.