Driving Europe Crazy: 2005
How do you find the cheapest rental rates? What hidden charges can you avoid? What are your tips for dealing with unfamiliar signs, European driving etiquette, and driving on the other side of the road? Is it worthwhile to buy a new or used car in Europe?
Read the latest car rental advice from Rick.
Europe driving advise
Hi all. Thought I'd post my European driving experiences here for all to read. I have made 2 driving trips to Europe. The first was in Aug/Sept. 2004 and then again in September 2005. The first trip was 26 days and I drove (alone) just over 6,000 km through Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France. The second trip saw my wife come along. We drove about 4,000km in 15 days. We were in Holland, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, France, Blegium. Here are some of my observations that you might find helpful: 1) The 1st trip I leased a new Peugeot 206 through AutoEurope. I picked it up in Frankfurt. This is a great little car for touring for 1 person or 2 with light gear. Leasing is great, partly becuase you will know in advance EXACTLY what kind of car you are getting. Therefore before you lease, you casn research which car looks best for you, and you know you will get it. This year, as it was a shorter trip, we rented, again through AutoEurope, who in turn gets the car from Hertz. We had thought we were going to get an Audi A6 - the problem is is that in the contract it says "A6 or similar". This made me suspicious, rightly so. At the Hertz counter in Borispol airport in Amsterdam I groaned when the counter lady said "sorry we're all out of A6's" but here's a Ford Mondeo WAGON!! for you. No way I was going to take that car, I wanted a standard tranny A6 - ie I wanted to shred up the autobahn!!!! The Mondeo is a lame (yet practical) family cruiser!! Anyway, I whined and ended up calling AutoEurope direct in the US and worked out a deal such that I took the Mondeo BUT they cut the price by $300. I was happy with that and took the car. Actually, considering how much stuff we had, the Mondeo was a wise choice after all. Its just that it wasn't a sporty ride!! Bottom line - I like Leasing better - you get a new car, and you know WHICH car you will be getting. Also you don't have to worry as much about smacking it up as you do with a rented car. I like AutoEurope for leases. They are very easy to deal with, and when you arrive to pick up the car, it is a breeze to sign the papers and be on your way! 2) Speed - aaaahhhh, speeding...In the Peugeot 206 my top speed was 185km/h (112 mph) in Germany...woo hoo! That's all she could do. This year, in the Ford Mondeo I made it up to 205km/h (123mph)on the German Autobahn outside Berlin. What a rush! Its hard to get up to this speed, at least in this car, as you need a long straightaway and little traffic. In Germany the average speed on the Autobahn is about 140 km/h or so, although I was almost always cruising at 160km/h. After awhile, anything slower than that, you feel like you are barely moving. The highways of Europe are so well maintained that these speeds are easy to reach. Often I saw cars, even Ferrarris, going well over 200 km/h - some were going 250+!! Just be careful, check your mirrors often, hold the wheel TIGHT! and stay the heck out of the passing lane! Or else you'll hazve some speed crazed Porshe up your tail, with his lights flashing faster than you can blink. I love speed so for me the Autobahn is the best, but for some people, the speed might be too much and they'll hang back in the truck lane (ie right hand lane). Never had any close calls except I had one hairy time last year...driving 160 in the pouring rain on corners can be a little bit thrilling...I'll leave at that. 3) I drove a total of 10,000km over the 2 trips with not even a scratch on the cars...I'm quite proud of that. Yes I had a few close calls (ie I made a few bozo manouvers) but never got nicked! 4) Check your rental car carefully when picking it up! At the Amsterdam airport, you are expected to inspect the car for previous damage in a near black parkade!! Needless to say I called the guy over after inspecting the car with a flashlight! This near new car had innumerable dings and scratches in the paint and there was no way I was going to get nailed for other people's problems. In addition to noting all the damage I could see on the rental form, I video taped the car's damage that date (with date stamp on the tape) just in case. Anyways, returning it was easy and I had no hassles....they barely looked at the car...I guess that's why they get so damaged in the first place! European cars all have dings! They do not run to the bodyshop every scratch they get (especially Italians!!) like we do here. 5) Allways fill up when you get the chance! It makes you worry less and you have more flexibility to drive how far you want. Gas is easy to find everywhere. 6) To pay for the extra cost for a car over a train pass or airfares, youc an do as I did - camp out (with a car you can carry a ton of stuff, including camping equipment) or sleep in the car. On the 2004 trip, I spent about 8 nights sleeping in the car...It was too short to sleep in the back, so I just reclined the drivers seat back and dozed off. As long as you are out of the cities it is easy to find a place to sleep in the car. The German Autobahns have great rest areas with washrooms every few minutes. You can have a free nights sleep at any of them, although they can be a bit noisy with all the cars coming and going at all hours of the night! In the Swiss and Austrian alps it is super easy to sleep for free. Proper campsites are easy to find, especially along the coasts, in the mountains, or anywhere Europeans like to vacation. Just look for the camping symbol! 7) Bring a good European road atlas with you. I have the AAA version. Its great for the "big picture" but you should also buy local maps when you are on the road if you will be exploring areas off the highways. All gas stations carry maps so they are easy to find. 8) Of course the cities are more challenging to drive in than the highways (except in Germany of course! That's the exception. Other than Germany, the other countries' highways are easy driving - mostly due to top speeds limited to 130 km/h or so). Italian cities are a bit nerve-wracking. I generally parked on the outside and took transit in. I did drive into a few medium sized Italian cities without really knowing where I was going...I was just orienting myself by the Church spires which usually mark the centre of the "Centro Storico" or old part of the city. The father north you go, the easier the driving. Berlin, a large city, was surprisingly easy to drive in - we managed to navigate from the highway right into the centre of the city. And when we left by a different route, we managed to drive right through the entire city and out the other side. But in a few smaller cities such as Zurich and Luxembourg City we got lost and drove in circles trying to find our way out of town. A compass really comes in handy. Always know the general direction you want to head in and also what's the largest city near to where you are going. Generally, you can just randowmly drive around until you see a sign pointing to where you want to go!! Its faster that when then endelssly stopping to check a map. European cities have way better signage than ours, so its really hard to get lost. Over the 2 trips, I never really got lost, although quite often I was temporarily lost. I seem to have an internal compass built into my head so for me navigating around is generally easy. I don't believe in GPS navigation systems. It takes all the fun out of it!!! 9) The most fun places to drive are: Italy (fun almost anywhere as its a bit of a zoo, its hilly and there's tons to twisty roads!), Germany (FOR SPEEEEEED!!!), and Switzerland - for those high alpine roads where they film all the car commercials!! Italy is consistenly fun to drive in..it never gets boring or repetitive as some of the driving can get in Germany, France, etc. 10) Never had a break-in. Was a bit worried a few times in Italy. Of course, its impossible to hide all your stuff away in the car's trunk, etc, so I tried to put the bulky/cheap stuff in the back seat and hide the "good" stuff away. Generally in cities you park in underground parkades. Seemed secure, but who knows??!! Anyways, never had a problem. 11)Parking can be a bit of a nightmare almost everywhere. In any built-up city or large town, especially in peak summer season, you'll have to hunt high and low for parking..Many of the cities have parking garages with read-outs as to how many free spots they have. This is super useful. Parallel parking on the streets can be a bit of a nightmare depending on what kind of car you have. If you have a "boat" like I did on the second trip, most of the spots are too small for you. Even if you do park, some jerk will pull up so tight to you that you have to wait for him/her to come back! This happened to us this year in Italy. 12)You will never be able to figure out what the street signs mean...to this day I still don't know what half of them where trying to tell me what to do! Just keep your cool if you get confused! Its really simple, don't hit another car! If you are going the wrong way, just keep going till you can turn back...Never make any rash moves. The traffic is so thick in the cities that its bound to cause and accident sooner or later!! Traffic circles in the big cities can be very thrilling...had a few close calls on them, especially the double lane ones..Also you need to pay a lot of attention all the time. The margin for driving errors is a lot lower in Europe - the lanes are narrower, the buildings closer to the road, the traffic thicker, the cities more confusing, etc. In many cities there are no shoulders, just a road right next to a building!! Take it easy in the first day of driving and you will quickly get the hang of it. Last year, my first time driving in Europe, I had barely figured out my new Peugeot when I was going 150 km/h on the Autobahn, all the while sleepy and seriously jet lagged. Not recommended. 13) If you want to record your "European Driving Memories" don't do like I did in 2004 and drive a standard transmission car with one hand holding a video camera and the other on the wheel....not too safe! Rather, do yourself a favour and buy a "Chase Cam" (google it, its easy to find). This year, I bought a suction-cup video camera mount for my car. This way you can mount the video camera on the winshield and tape your driving as you see it. It works superbly! You can do as I did and tape your speed on the Autobahn just to prove you were going as fast as you said you where!! 14) Travelling by car in Europe is the best way to go as far as I'm concerned - no schedules to follow, total freedom, the ability to reach out of the way sights, going where fewer tourists go, the ability to sleep cheap or free...the list goes on and on...
Well, that's all I can remember to say for now. Hopefull the above has been a help to some of you, especially for those who were wondering what its like to drive in Europe. It really is a blast and I would never travel through Europe any other way!!
If any of you have any questions or comments, you can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Good luck and hit those European roads!!
Surrey, BC Canada Thu 12/29/2005
Over the past 25 years I've rented more than 50 cars in Europe. For the past 10, I've used Andy and Bob at Gemut.com. Their service is great, I get to talk to a real live person and they will beat any price. I saw the Argus website but they have canellation penalties and their CDW and theft with a high deductible is mandatory. I prefer to use my credit card insurance with zero deductible. Also, I couldn't find out who are the Argus suppliers. With Gemut.com I've always had Avis or Europcar. And who do I deal with if I get an overcharge in Europe? (Happens too often these days, BTW) Argus is in Ireland. With Gemut.com I make one call, talk to somebody I know, and they take care of it.
San Rafael, CA USA Thu 12/15/2005
I have used Argus Rentals on several occasions and have had both a better price and more free extras. I would use them again. Check them out at argusrentals.com
WA USA Wed 12/14/2005
AutoEurope Beats their competitors' price
I agree with a previous poster who said that his loyalty was not to any particular rental car company...only to his pocketbook. However, I HAVE read many positive customer service stories about AutoEurope and about how they support their customers. On 2 different occasions I've found a much better price through Sixt than AutoEurope. However AE will beat their competitor's prices if you bring it to their attention. I called AE, told them of the better price through Sixt, and after faxing the AE people a copy of my Sixt car rental agreement, AE responded with an even better price. So, "Yes", my loyalty is to my pocketbook, and if I can get AE to beat the competitors, then I've won all around!
Knoxville, TN USA Tue 12/13/2005
SIXT IN GERMANY
Al Bishop: I agree with you about Sixt in Frankfurt. They were extremely helpful to me in obtaining the car I was promised.
Before taking the car, I read the contract and found I couldn't drive into Hungary or Poland when my printed confirmation clearly stipulated that I could.
They gave be a bigger car with only 60 miles on the odometer.
BUFFALO, USA Mon 12/12/2005
Sixt in France
Just because a rental company has the lowest rate does not make it the best. Far from it. Different companies operate at different standards which can vary enormously from country to country. Often you can think you have a good deal only to arrive at the pick-up desk and find you have unmentioned local surcharges to pay or the car you thought you were getting is mysteriously unavailable and they try to unload a lemon onto you. My example is Hertz in France are superb, in Spain they stink. The same applies to Avis in Spain ( outstanding ) and in Italy ( dreadful ). Local knowledge is a huge advantage - thanx Andreas.
P.S. The staff at the Sixt desk at Frankfurt airport are superbly helpful, especially if your German language skills are a little rusty and your geographical knowledge of German roads and towns is poor. I will gladly pay another hundred Euro for the kind of help they provide.
Nottingham, UK Mon 12/12/2005
Recommended car rental companies
For rentals in Germany Sixt are the best I think. You get free GPS navigation systems, most cars are Mercedes or BMW and service and rates are just excellent. However, in France, I'd never choose Sixt as their French franchisee seems to not care about service too much. Europcar are my No.1 in France. And as far as Ireland is concerned: Hertz seem to rule that country. In Dublin their cars are parked right across the terminal building and rates and service are very good.
Frankfurt am Main, Germany Fri 12/02/2005
Car rental versus train pass
If you are traveling with one friend or more, take a hard look at renting a car. It likely works out cheaper than the trains because you split the cost of the rental & gas, and you can set your own schedule, stop when you want and adjust your routes in case you decide to change your plans (especially in shoulder seasons, when the crowds and "no vacancy" signs are non-existant anywhere). Even if it costs a bit more it is worth it. I rented from Hertz, using a Platinum card, and they were great.
After being awake for 25+ hours (delayed flight plus Frankfurt to Munich drive), I wrecked our Ford Focus in Munich during Oktoberfest. It was our arrival day, so of course I'd not had anything to drink. It was my fault because I was unfamiliar with the road markings and was EXTREMELY tired. I had to take a breathalizer test in a German police van, was taken to a police station, and then paid a fine of $750. My friend got some good pictures of my situation! Of course my only crime was being ignorant and tired, so even though I paid the fine, they contacted me several weeks later and wired the money back into my checking account. A judge reviews the case and issues a ruling. In my case I was sort of a victim of circumstance and not malice, so I was reimbursed 100%. Luckily I was able to park the wrecked car on the street next to the train station and the next day I traded our Ford Focus for an Alpha Romeo while my friends were in the beer tent (of course the train station also contained a Hertz office). Alpha Romeo for a Ford Focus...nice trade!
VISA International corporation is the company that controls the "no insurance needed" using your platinum card, so if you have questions, don't contact your VISA bank card issuer, but contact VISA International. I did not pay for daily insurance on the car as per their instructions, nor did I have to pay a deductible for the damage to the vehicle or anything else. It was all covered by the platinum card.
Once you buy the excellent maps from any gas station (~$15) you can decipher any road sign, and use the other map legend hints to figure out everything you need to know. When you decide to branch off the autobahn and take one of the 'yellow' colored side roads through off the beaten path mountain ranges, you really see the beauty and normal lifestyles of the real European small town citizens. The freedom of moving on your own schedule, and the adventure that having your own vehicle offers is worth the cost. Think about it before you shell out that money for a train pass!
Seattle, WA USA Tue 11/08/2005
Driving into Vienna
Avoid driving into Vienna if at all possible at night if at all possible. The street signs are very hard to read in the inner ring & not very good lighting. We circled around for over an hour trying to get to Pension Suzanne until we got the idea to pull over, get out of the car, & look at the street signs. Locate it on the map & count the blocks until our next turn. Then stop the car, get out again to look at the signs to be sure we were at the right place to turn, until we were finally there. It took us only 10 minutes from the start of this process until we made it to Pension Suzanne. Next time I plan to visit there I'll be sure to use the train instead of driving to save the trouble.
USA Tue 11/08/2005
Sixt in Scotland is top notch
I used Sixt in Edinburgh twice this past year and they were excellent. Highly recommended. The are located off the airport but were very quick to the airport with the shuttle.
Lock Haven, PA USA Thu 10/27/2005
We used Europecar recently to rent a car in Germany. We booked online, and arranged to pick up our vehicle in a smaller town near where our friends were living. We had great service from them... not much english though.. and while I wasn't thrilled to have my bill finalized through their head-office without seeing the final total, we were pleasantly surprised to actually see the final bill on Visa less than expected. We would definitely use Europecar again.
Prince George, BC CAN Sun 10/23/2005
rentals to Eastern Europe
Rick notes that renting cars to go into Eastern Europe is dicey because of theft rates. Twice recently we have rented cars through Avis in Venice and driven into Slovenia and Croatia. But Rick's right: tell them up front where you are going. Avis was one of the few who would do this, and the rates were reasonable. Both times they gave us extra documentation that we had permission to cross the border. Came in handy when we were stopped in a speed trap in that tiny bit of Bosnia that cuts off southern Croatia near Dubrovnik. Avis will also do a pre-pay voucher and include coverages required for cross-border. No credit card issues that way - you've already paid Avis. You just give the voucher to the desk when you rent the car. At the end, you may have a small charge or credit due to currency fluctuations. Our last one was for thrity-eight Euro cents. Big deal. We also used Avis in Normandy and had no problems. Would do it again.
Lawrence, KS USA Tue 10/11/2005
Stay away from Sixt rental in France. Terrible customer service. They did not tell me the drop off location (which for me was different from the pick up location) was CLOSED, as in new location, not just closed for lunch. When I went to the location on my reservation form, I found out, and it really messed up my day. One would think that they would mention this when I picked up the car. They also told me not to worry about the gas upon drop off and then charged me a ton to fill it up. Stay away from Sixt unless you want headaches and bad service.
USA Tue 10/11/2005
Rental Car Return to Geneva
My wife and I rented a car from BA Avis for 9 days in France this September. We booked on their web site, arranged to pick up in Marseille and return in Geneva on the France side of the airport as listed on their site. This would avoid the extra surcharge for return to another country. We booked a Logis Hotel nearby leaving us plenty of time in the morning to return the car, catch a commuter train to Geneva and then our train reservations on the Cisalpino to Florence - we assumed. After reviewing road map plans on ViaMichelin, from home, we became aware of a motorway tax, car permit, which has to be purchased to drive in Switzerland. We first contacted Rick's help line and receiving confirmation of this tax and some good advice on where to research further. We then contacted BA Avis (long distance) without much help, and the Avis staff in Marseille advised us not to pay it. On the day of return we took the Motorway, arrived at the Swiss border and were waved to stop and told we need the car permit. I advised the customs officer that we were only returning the car to the airport. This didn't faze the officer, as he said that we could be fined 100 euros if stopped before the airport, or we could go back to where we started on the motorway, in France, and go via other roads to enter the France side of the airport. We ended up paying CHF 40, for a sticker that I never placed on the car (expensive souvenir). Things, however, got worse. We followed all the signs to the Geneva Airport and found the car rental return in the parkade easily, but were advised that this was the Geneva side and not France. They gave us a simple map (which I'm sure many get) highlighted for our route to the France side. We tried to follow the verbal instructions but ended right back at the same parkade. The Avis attendants then gruffly advised my wife that we weren't to follow certain signs. Well, we made another wrong turn and were now traveling through residential streets! We finally saw a Swiss police car at a gas station and asked for their help. They had some English, looked at the map and said, follow us. They took us through an area which may or may not have been on our map, but got us to a turn off which would lead to the French side. We finally returned the car to the proper side, but unfortunately, missed our train to Florence. With some help from the ticket agent we booked the next train, and were happily on our way a few hours later. Moral of the story? Don't return to the Geneva airport - French side or else leave plenty of time before any departures.
Vancouver, BC Canada Mon 10/10/2005
Renting vrs. Leasing and various musings
We had a very enjoyable fly/drive month holiday this past summer (last week of June into July / 05) in Provence/Cote D'Azur / Northern Italy / Allgau Germany / and Vienna Austria.
Although having used Auto Europe successfully in the past, my loyalty is to no one except my pocket book. So after shopping through about 15 companies including several mentioned on this page, I settled on a Hertz rental and not a lease. We picked up the car, a lovely brand new light metallic blue Peugeot 407 SW 6 speed (600kms on the gauge) at the Cote D'Azur airport in Nice. I was also happy to get a diesel, since diesel fuel at the time was about 15-20% less than gas and you also get better mileage per liter.
We drove on every type of road imaginable, from twisty, sinuous stretches with 180 degree hairpins in the Gorges de Verdon and Drome, Provence to high speed autobahns in Germany and Austria. The car handled magnificently and didn't at all feel like a station wagon. But even though we were only 2 people, we managed to fill up every nook and cranny with our luggage and purchases made on the trip. Features such as automatic wiper initiation and automatic folding in side mirrors upon locking the car were also greatly appreciated.
Parking was toughest in cities such as Avignon and Vienna; however this is expected and the best thing in this situation is find a secure lot or garage with camera surveillance and pay the going rate for the service. Theft or hit and run damage is not something to be encouraged on your annual vacation when time is particularly precious. Highest rate we paid was 3,75 euro/hr at Schonnbrunn palace in Vienna, this cost me about 30$ for the day Canadian. Yes, I could have arranged something else but hey, you are on vacation and sometimes time and other considerations are more important than just money
Since we were flying open jaws, I found the best option was to drive from Vienna to Munich to drop the car at the airport and then take an overnight train back to Vienna for our flight back to Canada the same day. In all we put 6,500kms onto the Peugeot in 27 days and each kilometre was a happy one. When I got home I was curious and weighed our 5 pieces of checked luggage and 7 carry on bags. A little over 300 lbs, but shhhhh, please don't tell Austrian airlines. They were one of the nicest and friendliest carriers I have ever used, Air Canada is also an excellent, excellent airline despite of their recent financial problems, (which airline, by the way, hasn't had any ??)
Hertz is an outstanding company with first rate service, and the price for 27 days was 973 euros. In converting the currency to Canadian, Auto Europe was quoting me the same price but in US dollars for a smaller car, so I came out about 21% ahead plus had a much better car. Also the fact that the car was also almost brand new was like getting the car directly from the "Buy / Resell" program. Although renting and not leasing, American Express covers the CDW insurance for rentals of under 30 days so that was the final price including the drop in Germany. I saw while researching our trip that when leasing you are forced to take the CDW which is already built into the price, so those who have credit cards covering auto rental collision/theft should factor in that they don't need this coverage when comparing prices.
In closing, I have rented with Alamo, EuropeCar and Sixt through Auto Europe, Avis and Hertz in Europe, and have never been disappointed. Stick with a well known brand, shop for the best price considering your budget and all the financial tools at your disposal, and go for it !!
Montreal, Quebec Canada Thu 10/06/2005
Car and Camping in Europe
My husband and I traveled Europe with a Peugeot on a lease through Auto Europe for 11 weeks during the summer of 2004. We had a wonderful experience with both Auto Europe as a company, and our rental car, a Peugeot 206 sport wagon. We picked up the car at Milan Linate airport with the greatest of ease from an english speaking woman who was able to answer all of our questions, and dropped it off at Rome Fumicino airport without a hitch 11 weeks later. We had to contact Auto Europe several times to change drop-off locations, check on extra mileage, etc, and every time the customer service representatives were extremely kind and helpful. We drove through England and Ireland with separate rental cars, also arranged through Auto Europe, both with good experiences as well. England and Ireland are great countries to drive in, and as long as one stays calm, navigating the drive on the "wrong" side is super easy. The drivers in Italy are crazy, but probably the best drivers in the world. Just keep your eyes open and, when passing in the far left lane on the autostrada, mind your own business and fight the urge to tap the brakes when you see that Audi comin' in the rearview mirror! (and move back over asap :) France and Germany were easy to drive, but everyone goes pretty fast, and Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Austria are all easy to navigate and handle the drivers. The only cities that I actually drove in were Florence, Italy, Liverpool, England (highly recommend the Beatles tour!), Catania (Sicily), Italy and the outskirts of Paris and Rome. Our trip was done through car and camping, which allowed us to leave our car safely at the campgrounds, which were always on the edge of the town, and utilize the wonderful public transportation systems in the large cities. It was a great trip, one that we will never forget, and for those of you out there thinking of travelling by car and camping, I would definitely recommend it!! If anyone wants more info, feel free to email me
Idaho USA Wed 10/05/2005
We navigated Europe quite well on a recent trip. For travel between cities I would suggest a map with a scale of at least 1:500,000. I also found it helpful to plot my course on www.viamichelin.com. This allowed me to anticipate the lay out of exits and turns. The routes suggested by viamichelin were often better than the those recommended by the locals. They did however fail to tell us about a few of the road closings that we encountered.
Little Rock, AR USA Sat 10/01/2005
Driving Europe with GPS Maps and Cell Phone
KEEP this a secret!! We will never spend $300 on maps for europe again! Sure, the autostrada/highway maps are fine, but as soon as you pull off into a city or town, the orange blob for Lyon or Rome (for example) is not useful for navigation. You must stop and buy a city map. Multiply this by 2 dozen cities and it gets expensive and cumbersome, not to mention a fire hazard. After months of researching, I found the best bang for the buck GPS mapping program is Microsofts's Autoroute 2005, now version 2006 should be in stores. But you cannot get it in the USA or have it shipped from an online retailer from UK or Europe due to licensing restrictions. It is the same software as Streets and Trips and it works great with a laptop or PDA. We found a B&B in Paris at 11PM using it and route planner (built-in). If you buy it in france it is in French, but that's cool as you learn more of the language that way. If you were in UK you can get an english version. It is cheap ($45-55 euros). We will never buy a paper map again. Absolutely the only way to see all of europe and never be lost! Take you laptop and buy a $100 GPS receiver (USB or now bluetooth). We also use our USA vonage softpone number/software with Boingo wireless account and a Canary WIFI detector to find a hi-speed connection and make and receive calls to the USA free. Use vonage softphone on my PDA as well after some simple programming. Also use Eyebeam videophone on my laptop with vonage software for twoway video and voice communications. Works great. Email me if you can't figure it out. We also found out how to get local SIM cards for use in our quad band (unlocked) cell phones and pay only what the french citizens pay, so we can have easy, inexpensive in-country access). Don't buy the ones available over the internet, they are way too expensive and expire if you dont use them for four months or so. We also use mobal.com SIMs for backup and emergencies, but they use a UK number and are $1.50.minute inbound and outbound. When we get back in November I will tell you how to get free inbound cell calls and pay only about 6 to 7 cents per minute in-france outbound cell calls. Still experimenting with two SIM suppliers who will sell to US citizens in france. Bonjour! Its fun figuring how things work! Glad to share it with you.
winter springs, FL USA Sat 10/01/2005
car rental and insurance: france vs.italy
After multiple trips to france and europe in the fall (everything is cheaper, airfare, lodging, and fewer crowds). if you only stay 15 days or less, leasing from renault.com or others does not work, as 17 days is minimum. Also, if you are a AAA member you save as much as 20% from euroopcar. Calling from USA to europcar's UK customer service is CHEAPER than booking online!! You can negotiate with the agent who sometimes pushes certain cars (due to overbooking of certain models or commission deals for them). You cannot get the AAA discount using their website. Call 877-940-6900 from the states. ANY visa card (check website: www.visa.com/benefits) for details. Get an email from visa stating you have coverage and you must decline cdw as well. Take the letter with you to rental counter in france. some liability in included in france rentals already. We use europcar and are familiar with their terminal 2-D CDG (PARIS aeroport) lower level counter. Also, when dropping a car in another country surcharge applies, but not in france, say Nice for example. We are flying back easyject from nice to CDG to avoid the 8 hr drive on the day before we leave CDG for the states. Car rental in Italy costs more, so we will drive there again. good luck!
winter springs, fl USA Sat 10/01/2005
Rental in Small Towns
I learned something I hadn't considered when in Ireland and the UK recently. If you are picking up a car in a small town, especially on a Saturday - make sure you are on time or call the agency if you are running late. My Stena ferry from Rosslare to Fishguard in Whales was 2.5 hours late! We got to Fishguard at about 4 and everything was shut down, even some gas stations. I should have known better than to expect every European to keep American style hours. I suppose I was too distracted by the fact that Stena was silent, not telling anyone why we were late and what our ETA would be. But, once I stopped freaking out in Fishguard, I called the AutoEurope number. I was connected to a local on his cell phone and he drove down to the garage and checked the car out to me. Needless to say, I was VERY greatful! Stena Lines, on the other had, was horrible. I'll never use them again.
Seattle, WA USA Sat 10/01/2005
Re: Credit Card CDW
Seeing the post about the failure of AMEX to cover in Ireland reminded me of my own planning for renting in Ireland. I have MC Platinum and heard that possibly some countries are not covered by different cards. Well, my MC customer service was not helpful...they were not sure; Hertz USA (and I am a gold card holder)said ask Hertz Ireland, or specifically the desk at Dublin Airport if they would accept it; long story short...I bought the Hertz CDW for the several days just for ease of mind. Later, I heard the best advice yet. Call your Credit Card, ask for the name and number of the insurance company contracted for coverage, and talk to them direct, find out exactly what your coverage is. This seems worth doing for any foriegn rental.
IA USA Thu 09/29/2005
Auto Europe happy customer.
You should have picked up the phone and called AutoEurope when the desk agent informed you of additional charges. That's why AE has a toll-free 24/7 phone number. Then you would have walked away a happy customer. I've read of others receiving those "additional" charges, and the ones that call AE on the spot are the ones who don't pay additional. AE is totally pre-paid...unless of course you have damaged the car in someway.
Knoxville, TN USA Mon 09/26/2005
watch out hidden fees at AUTO EUROPE
My jaw dropped when the car rental attendant told me that my final rental bill was almost $100 over the estimated rental cost. We had rented a midsize sedan for a weeklong family vacation in England. The rental agent showed me a list of fees and taxes, which added up to the total as he explained that estimates often don't consider average fees and taxes. I left England feeling like the car rental company had pulled one over on me. So deal with the rental compnay directly - Auto Europe is a middleman staffed by surly, ill-informed young customer service agents.
Portland, OR USA Mon 09/26/2005
When you don't get the car you expected to get.
So you have done all your homework and booked a car from a reputable worldwide operating rental company. You arrive at the airport rental desk and do the paperwork and they wheel out a completely different vehicle from the type you ordered - what do you do ? Just return to the desk and tell them that the car is nothing like what you ordered and you will not take it. ( OK if you ordered an Opel Astra and no Astras are available due to damage caused by previous dirvers - so they give you a Ford Focus, that's OK - they are very similar types of car and so long as it's got the specification you need there should be no real problem ). Tell the person behind the desk why it's not acceptible. Maybe it's because you ordered a 1600 cc engined car and this is a 1200 cc car, or you requested an automatic and they have presented a stick shift version, or you had ordered a car with air conditioning and the car they gave you doesn't have it, or it is in some way damaged - whatever. Look them straight in the eye and tell them the car is not acceptible and you will not take it. If they do not do something to your satisfaction ( and they usually do - double quick ! ) ask for your contract back, tear it up and walk away. Catch the bus into town and hire a car there. Some poor sucker is going to drive off in a car that will ruin their vacation - don't let it be you.
Nottingham, UK Fri 09/23/2005
Driving to Arcos de la Frontera
Be warned if you are driving to Arcos, the street leading up to the Plaza del Cabildo is extremely narrow. It also requires you to make a 90 degree turn into the plaza. We had to close our side mirrors to get in and out of the plaza in a compact car. We saw a mini van stuck at the turn for 15 min before finally able to get into the plaza. But, the view is worth it.
Los Angeles, CA USA Thu 09/22/2005
Beware of renting a car in Ireland and using American Express
I just returned from Ireland and survived my first international car rental experience. I rented a car in Galway Airport from Hertz. I did not get a car I requested which was not so bad nor was it bad driving on the opposite side. We ended up getting not one but two flat tires because of the narrower roads in Galway while driving towards Cliffs of Moher. I ended up paying for 2 new tires and the towing fees which was almost $500. We were very fortunate to have some of the locals in Ballyvaughn assist us in contacting the gargage (and was even offered tea and cakes while waiting for the tow truck.)
I had used American Express to pay for the rental and signed up for their insurance which was a BIG STUPID ERROR on my part. AMEX car rental insurance does not cover Ireland!!! I did not know this until I contacted AMEX from the hotel to notify them of my tire/towing mishap. Needless to say I was mortified when I found this out. (I am very meticulous about planning trips and overlooked AMEX's non-coverage) Fortunately we did not encounter any serious accident or damages. I also contacted Hertz in Sligo to confirm my charges before I left and that I was not charged more because of the incident.
I now have second thoughts on renting cars internationally. I may just sign up with tours next time instead of driving.
Regretfully I did not look into Rick Steve's website before my trip. I just saw a comment from the Grafiti Wall archives on car rental in Ireland and cautioning of using AMEX.
New York, NY USA Wed 09/21/2005
Driving in Tuscany
We rented a car from Hertz in Florence and then spent 3 days driving through Tuscany. Make sure you have the attendant show you how to operate the car before you leave (my in-laws had an Alfa Romeo that needed a special button pushed for it to start). Also, the cars are typically stored in a garage a distance away from the actual rental car store. Remember to obtain a good, detailed driving map, pay attention to all road signs (Italy road signs are remarkably accurate especially for the towns), follow the signs exactly, stay alert always, yield to faster, more aggresive drivers, watch for Vespas and don't expect the Hertz office in Orvieto to be open when it says it will be (call the phone number and the attendant will come and open the store).
Snohomish, WA USA Tue 09/20/2005
Peugot lease/driving tips France/Germany/Netherlands
I leased a vehicle from Peogot in July/August for 20 days and drove from Frankfurt to Munich to Baden Baden/ to Paris, to Amsterdam/ then back to Frankfurt.
Some things I learned:
1) When in Paris with a rental car, it is good to park the car at the airport and take the train into city center. I parked at DeGaulle and my wife and two daughter took the RER into Paris, we paid 12 euro a day to keep the car at long term parking, compared to over 30 euro a day (if you're lucky) in Paris.
2) Don't try to park in Amsterdam. Take the train, bike, or bus. Parking is expensive, strict, and a pain. We stayed in Haarlem and enjoyed when we trained.
3) Stay on the autobahn/freeways. Once you get off of them, the roads are winding and terrible, especially with young children prone to car sickness. Some side roads work, but not too much
4) Small towns are tickery then big cities. Often the city center is blocked off and getting around in small towns (such as Baden Baden) can be frustrating - get good directions and know where you are going.
over 3200 KM put on that diesel six gear stick shift - trip of a lifetime. And finally, get a car with some guts, you don't want to be on the autobahn struggling to merge into traffic.
Bethel , AK USA Mon 09/19/2005
Amsterdam Rental/Parking Advice?
Zorro, I have to agree with Al Bishop - it's not worth trying to drive in and around Amsterdam. You can take buses and trams all over the city, and bikes are everywhere. There's even a Dutch-style park 'n ride near Centraal Station that holds 10,000 bicycles!
Most of the destinations beyond Amsterdam are so close that you can reach them by train in at most an hour, and usually far less. If you take a rental bike along, as Rick points out you can ride around 4 or 5 times as fast as walking but you're still in contact with your environs instead of being insulated in a car.
King of Prussia, PA USA Sat 09/17/2005
driving in Germany
We flew into Frankfurt but had arranged to pick up our rental car from AutoEurope in Koblenz. I wish I had called the night before to confirm our reservation. When we arrived on a rainy Sunday after our non-English-speaking taxi driver had departed we discovered that our reservations were in Mainz (where we had originally made reservations, but changed to Koblenz). There were no cars available. But after calling Avis next door who quoted us 120 euro/day, the agent at AutoEurope found us a car. We happily put about 3000 km on a PT Cruiser convertible. All the drivers of the Mercedes/BMW/Audi were all looking at US, and would come up to ask questions about how it drove, etc. We found the German drivers to be extremely polite, skillful and accommodating, very unlike the states. We didn't even think they were all that fast, since we communte weekly down the I-5 corridor in Washington State. But if you miss your turn, there is no such thing as "making the block" to turn around. Navigating was a challenge. Get a good map over there, and try to find one that has the different roads in different colors. (Autobahn is blue, lesser roads are yellow. They correspond to the road signs)
Vancouver, WA USA Fri 09/16/2005
Don't Rent from Alamo
I (thoroughly) researched and finally rented, using Orbitz, a vehicle from Alamo. Upon arriving at CDG (Paris), was informed that the vehicle I was led to believe I'd be getting wasn't in fact the vehicle they'd give me. The Alamo site misrepresents the vehicles available in Europe. So at the desk I was forced to pay A LOT more money than if I had simply booked through another company in the states. And the Alamo customer service stubbornly (and ridiculously) refuses to acknowledge that their site is VERY misleading.
Sheridan, WY USA Thu 09/15/2005
Driving in Portugal
We are three women who just returned from spending ten days in a small town on the Portugese coast 35 km west of Lisbon. We learned a few things about renting a car that we'd like to share.
1. Make sure you understand the terms of the insurance you purchase. We may be stuck with the cost of replacing a window that was broken when our car was broken into . . . which brings me to. . .
2. NEVER leave anything visible in your care when you park it -- for any length of time. Lisbon police very nice, but lost luggage is still lost luggage.
3. Be prepared for very narrow roads in the countryside and small towns.
4. Manual transmission costs less to rent than automatic, but you may want to factor in the innumerable hills to be negotiated.
5. When renting a car, ask what kind of gas to use -- specifically the color of the gas pump -- or you may be putting deisel in when you don't want to.
6. In cities, traffic lights aren't placed where we are used to seeing them. It's helpful to have a non-driving "spotter".
7. Be patient with traffic circles. When you become used to them, they really are great.
And lastly -- smile, be patient, and have fun! Portugal is a warm and friendly place.
Antioch, CA USA Sat 09/10/2005
Ireland, Nissan Micra
I agree with a previous writer about the Nissan Micra. We had one for 12 days in Ireland in July 2005. Sometimes it started and sometimes it did not. More with photos is at http://www.rsok.com/~jrm/budget/ I do not reccomend renting the Nissan Micra either. The previous trip we had a Seat Ibiza which was a very nice car. I read the tips in Rick Steves book before both trips. If there was a place to pull over, I would stop and let traffic go by so that I did not slow down traffic. Some of the very rural roads have a speed limit of 80, but it did not seem safe to me to drive faster than about 40 km/hour. We rented a self-catering holiday cottage for a week in County Donegal, Ireland.
Norman, OK USA Sat 09/10/2005
I drove through the Alps during August. I had no problems. The highways were wonderful! There was no problems with tunnels. As we passed from country to country, I had my "navigator" read me the info in Rick's book about driving in that country (so that I knew things like the speed limit in places like Austria were seriously enforced, yet in Germany they were merely "suggestions" but in Germany if you are in an accident and it's determined that you were going over the posted speed limit that it's likely that the insurance you have won't cover the accident).
Abingdon, MD USA Sat 09/10/2005
Car Rental Discount code from Insurance Company
I was pricing out car rentals in Germany and wasn't sure about including the insurance. I contacted my insurance company, who informed me that they would cover most things if I was in an accident and to check w/my credit card company also (who also said that they'd cover accident costs). However, besides that valuable info, my car insurance company gave me discount codes to use for some car rental companies. Using the discount code saved me a lot of money. I ended up with an Opel Meridia for 2 weeks (a nice size car, w/good gas mileage) for 318 Euro (including taxes). That was better than any other price that I could find!
Abingdon, MD USA Sat 09/10/2005
DRIVING IN THE UK
Driving is difficult enough without learning during the peak traffic period. I did that at 5 pm in Paris once. And never again.
If you take your car during peak traffic time, stay where you are until the traffic lessens.
And I agree about buying maps over there. Having them here may be an advantage. But maps in Europe are much better. Don't try to drive without one.
And don't be deterred by the cost. I have found any good map is worth the cost-even if it seems high.
Your navigator is critical. You must have one who can read a map! And is ready to watch for highway information signs. Knowing a little of the language is a big asset. Of course, driving in the UK is easier than on the continent.
The one lane roads are a challenge, but if you drive slowly and be alert you won't have many problems. And getting lost is not cause for surrender.
It is usually easy to turn around and back track. I have done it more times that I like remember in the UK.
If you miss your exit on a round about, just keep going around until you see it again. Stay in the outside lane of traffic and you can get off wherever you want to.
TULSA, USA Sat 09/10/2005
Driving the Alps
Anyone have advice for driving the Alps? I'm currently planning a trip with my wife's family to Italy and Germany. This will necessitate getting through the Alps. I'm currently looking at renting a van for the 6 of us rather than taking a train. It looks like it will be cheaper.
Any advice on driving the Alps? We'll be going in summer, so I don't think we need to worry about snow storms. We can either leave Italy from Venice or the Lake region/Lugano area. Our goal is to get to Munich. Is any particular pass through the Alps better than another? Is it better to put the car on one of those trains through the mountan tunnels?
Cary, NC USA Wed 09/07/2005
Driving the UK
My wife and I recently drove the UK. After a few days in London, we picked up a car at Heathrow and headed out. We drove as far North as Inverness, Scotland, and then back to London. A few tips:
-Picking up a rental car at Heathrow during rush hour was daunting. Learning how to drive on the left side, using my left hand on the stickshift and navigating the early morning traffic was an adventure. You may want to choose a less busy time and location for your pickup.
-Just keep repeating to yourself "stay left".
-Buy maps over there like Rick recommends. I wasted a ton of money buying Ordnance Survey maps of the UK here before I left, but ended up making much more use of a local road atlas I bought at a motorway rest stop.
-Rely on a navigator. It would have been much more difficult without my wife helping navigate our way around Britain.
-On one lane roads (common enough in Scotland) look for the pull-offs. If there's oncoming traffic, the first person to the pull-off area (regardless of what side it's on) should pull over and let the other car pass.
-You will get used to it! After 8 days of driving, I was whizzing around downtown Edinburgh with the rest of the crazy locals.
Cary, NC USA Wed 09/07/2005
Speeding ticket in Switzerland
I got a speeding ticket for 180 Swiss francs (about $150.00) in Switzerland for exceeding the speed limit by 17 kilometers (about 10 miles an hour)! I've been driving in Europe for years (Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Austria) and never gotten a speeding ticket. The ticket was mailed to me in the USA, but it was all in French (and some German) so it took awhile for me to understand it. Does anybody know what happens if I don't pay it? I rented the car from AutoEurope and used my VISA card.
Eldersburg, Md. USA Wed 09/07/2005
If you want to work the system & theres only 2 of you, then ensure that you pre-order the smallest compact car you can before you arrive in europe with a big agency, but ensure that you specify that an Auto gear box is essential. The smallest Euro cars rarely come with Auto box, so the agency will usually upgrade you to the next auto car they have.... usually something of a decent size & comfort at executive level, at the same cost as your original booking.......
USA Tue 09/06/2005
Amsterdam Rental/Parking Advice?
I'd be inclined to go Dutch on this one. When the Dutch want to explore the countryside they take the train and a bicycle. Bicycles are cheap and easy to hire. Even in Haarlem you're going to pay a lot to park. Save money and act like a native.
Nottingham, UK Tue 09/06/2005
Amsterdam Rental/Parking Advice?
I am considering renting a car for 3-5 days while in Amsterdam for three weeks in order to be able to explore the countryside. I'm going to check with AutoEurope first since it appears that people have had good luck with them.
Parking in the Amsterdam Centrum is my biggest problem. My hotel tells me that it is 3.20 Euro per hour. Yipes! I understand that it is possible to park on the edge of the city, or even keep the car in Haarlem, etc. I don't need the car right outside my door, so I am happy to travel via bus or train and drive from there. (A car is ridiculous in Amsterdam. The city invites a person to walk!)
Any first-hand experience appreciated!
USA Mon 09/05/2005
Driving directions in the UK
I live in the UK and prior to getting a GPS based route finder I used multimap.co.uk. I still do use that site to get travel distances / approx times when planning a journey as it's easier than loading up my pda. I'm not sure what hotels you are trying to get to, but they should all provide either a street name or a postcode.
Coventry, UK Mon 09/05/2005
driving directions in the UK
Does anyone know the best website for getting driving directions in the UK? The addresses of the hotels are not always available, so Mappy and Mapquest are not a lot of help.
Yorba Linda, CA USA Sun 09/04/2005
Renting in Germany
Just returned from another succesful rental in Munich with. Sixt. As I posted before, there is a 19% added tax for pick ups at Airports or train stations in Germany. Pick up at the City Centre (Zentrum) locations and avoid this tax.(But you can drop off at the Airport, no extra charge.) Completed 3100 K.M. in 18 days. Mercedes 270 Diesel. Much better than gas cost!
Victoria, BC Canada Sat 09/03/2005
I've been pricing cars for an upcoming trip to France and have found www.thrifty.com to have the best rates by far. Much better than argus and sixt. I have rented from them twice in Gare de Lyon and they've been great.
Phoenix, AZ USA Mon 08/29/2005
Transportation between Naples International and Sorrento
We found the name of Michy Morra on Tripadvisor.com and confirmed months in advance with him by email that he would drive us from Naples International to Sorrento at a particular date and time. He didn't show and let us stranded.
Belfast, Ireland Mon 08/29/2005
Switzerland Flooding - Road Closures
If you're planning on driving through Switzerland in the near future you should make yourself aware of the floods and the major roadways that are closed. Many roads and rail lines are closed because of severe damage. Some portions of roads just don't exist anymore...washed away! Sounds like a dreadful time to visit Switzerland!
Knoxville, TN USA Wed 08/24/2005
I used Argus and found them to be the lowest price, they have a lowest price gaurantee. I called VISA and inquired about the insurance and they told me that as long as it was included in the price they would cover it, and I had them email conformation to that effect. The admin fee was low and I feel that if you have to cancel that early to the rental time there should be a charge. If your whole trip is canceled that is what travelers insurance is for. I would always look for the best deal, on this trip I found Argus was it and had no problem with them.
WA USA Wed 08/17/2005
Why Argus is not a good deal. To cancel you must notify them in writing and there is an administrative fee. If you cancel within 24 hours or are a no-show they keep all your money. You cannot rely on a credit card for collision or theft insurance because they include that in their price, but with a hefty deductible (your cc has no deductible). Argus is one of several Irish brokers, meaning you'll get a car with Avis, National, Europcar, etc., and if those companies make a billing error in their favor, as is often the case, you'll have to handle your post-rental complaint via email or transatlantic telephone. (Understand that Avis Europe has no connection with Avis in the U.S.) In addition, it's a lot harder to get a European company to issue a credit to your credit card than a U.S. company. Finally, I just compared their price for a compact car for one week in Berlin; Gemut.com is $228 (email quote) and Argus is 369 euros - $450.
Hayward, CA USA Tue 08/16/2005
Senior Citizen Rental in Sicily
My experience is that the major rental companies have both minimum and maximum ages they will not rent to for insurance reasons. This need not stop you renting an automobile. Simply ask the desk clerk at the hotel and tell them how old you are. The desk clerk will almost certainly know a local company that will be happy to let you rent a small compact and it will often cost you less and have better all round insurance cover.
Nottingham, UK Tue 08/16/2005
Just got back from France and England and we used Argus in both countries. the cars we got came from Alamo, but the prices we alot lower. Just over 100 Euros in France. Picked up the car at CDG, no extra charge and dropped it off on Le Harve at the ferry terminal, no extra charges. The same in England, got the car in Portsmouth and dropped it off in LHR Airport. CDW included, plus more.
WA USA Mon 08/15/2005
ARGUS RENT A CAR
Hello All I'll be traveling to Austri, Italy and south of France I was hoping to this by car. Has anybody have had any experience withArgus rent a car? If yes how are they? Moreover is driving through those countries a good idea or should I stick with the train? Thanks
MONTREAL, CANADA Mon 08/15/2005
CDW clarification request
Will somebody please try to clue me in? My friends and I are from Washington state where I understand from reading here that the CDW insurance is not available.
It seems that when we go to Italy the CDW insurance is added in automatically.
What does one have to do with the other? Is there something that would prohibit the coverage I get in Italy from kicking in just because I am from Washington?
WA USA Mon 08/15/2005
Still too old, no matter what
Are you saying that when I get old I'll lose my reasoning skills and my memory...I won't be cognizant enough to know that I need to relinquish my driving privileges or that I won't remember what I told myself 20 years before??? You're exactly right! That's my point...reduced thinking abilities along with slower reflexes. But just because I change my mind 20 years from now doesn't change the fact that I'm "just not what I used to be".
USA Thu 08/11/2005
TOO OLD TO DRIVE
Amanda: That's what you say NOW. You may be programming yourself now, but when you get to that age you will be fighting to keep your driving privileges just like everyone else.
Mardy A Zoudie is right. You may have told your kids, but they wont listen to you.
Rose Marie W.
St Albens, USA Wed 08/10/2005
Too old to drive
MARDY ANNE ZOUDIE: I'm programming myself right now to KNOW that when I'm 60-65 I need to seriously consider retiring from driving. Why? Not because I want to, of course not! But because I observe old people behind the wheels of massive cars (Buicks Cadillacs) driving 40 mph in the fastlane, not looking when they back up, driving down the wrong side of the road. Yes, some young girls are bad drivers...so what does that have to do with older bad drivers??? Not a darn thing. It's a fact of life with progressing age comes slower reflexes and reduced reasoning abilities in some cases.
I've told my kids to tell me IMMEDIATELY when they notice a decrease in my driving skills. I want my license taken away whem that happens...not just because I may be a danger to myself, but because I may be a danger to others.
It's a pity this country has chosen highways, automobiles, and foreign oil dependence instead of rail systems that COULD safely be used by drivers who need to retire.
USA Wed 08/10/2005
Can anyone tell me about Eurolines buses? I am thinking about taking a coach from Tallinn, Estonia thru the Baltics on to Krakow. They seem to be much faster than the trains.
Saratoga Springs, NY USA Wed 08/10/2005
TOO OLD TO DRIVE
Amanda... Wait til you turn 65. Then you will be happy that you can drive til you're 70.
I agree with you that SOME older drivers should be restricted, but old folks resist giving up their right to drive. YOU WILL TOO WHEN YOU GET TO THAT AGE.
All my friends who are over 60 still drive safely. You SHOULD be concerned with the young idiots driving fast cars on our expressways....especially some young girls I see.
MARDY ANNE ZOUDIE
ST LOUIS, USA Tue 08/09/2005
SENIOR CITIZEN AUTO RENTAL
Joe: The last time I rented a car I was 75 and no one asked my age. I have rented 4 times after I read that age restriction on their webpage.
If you look like you are awake and can walk and breath at the same time, they will rent a car.
Don't ask about it and I will guess that they will give you a key and say have a happy trip..
DETROIT, USA Mon 08/08/2005
Too old to drive
Personally, I think that 70 is a little too high. I would rest a little easier behind the wheel knowing that everyone 65 and older had retired their driver habits!
Knoxville, USA Mon 08/08/2005
Senior Citizen Rental in Sicily
We are planning a trip to Sicily in October, and are finding that many agencies have a maximum age limit of 70, which our ages exceed (slightly). Does anyone know of an international rental agency with more liberal (and realistic) age limits?
Wayne, PA USA Mon 08/08/2005
Driving in Cornwall, UK
Well over a year ago a friend and I decided that to properly see Cornwall we needed to rent a car. We were staying in a fairly remote cottage in Crackington Haven, and public transportation was not very helpful there. I did the driving and had a blast. Quickly got used to all the differences, driving on left, increasingly narrow roads, signage, roundabouts (loved them! they really keep the traffic moving). Before I left home I got a copy of the "Highway Code" and bought a book written for North Americans driving in the UK, what a great help! We went all over Cornwall, from Boscastle and Bude in the North, to Newquay, to St. Michael's Mount in the South and Truro, too. It may not have been the most economical way for 2 people to travel, particularly since we chose to rent an automatic which pushed the price up a bit, but it was flexible and perfect for getting around a more rural part of England. One word of caution. Be very careful when you "gas-up" your vehicle! In America the diesel pump handles are green. In England they are black. Without thinking one evening I filled up our car with unleaded petrol. We got less than a mile from the petrol station, well down the country road to our cottage when the car conked out. A farmer and his son helped us push it off the road. The next morning our hosts gave us tons of help in contacting Enterprise and arranging for AA to come and get us and our disabled car to Saltash, the nearest Vauxhall dealer in the area. I have to say everyone was wonderful, very kind, and went above and beyond the call of duty to assist us. Even the counterman at the Vauxhall dealer in Saltash refrained from commenting on my "stupid" mistake. It was a costly mistake to make, but fortunately the car was not damaged. We ended up paying only for the draining of the petrol from the tank, replacement of some hoses, disposing of the useless petrol, etc. 250 GBP later we were on our way. Oh well, a hard lesson learned and not forgotten! I'd drive over there again in a minute, though, in spite of that experience. Just watch out for those pump handle colors!
WI USA Sat 08/06/2005
AutoEurope Car Rental
AutoEurope Car Rental Tony, I don't know why you had such a bad experience with AutoEurope. Email Christian at email@example.com and see if he will help. See my note below: Wow, I just had to tell you about AutoEuope Car Rental. I reserved and paid in full for a car rental in Ireland for September, 2005. I just received a notice from AutoEurope with specials and the rate I paid had gone down by $125.86 USD. I sent an email and requested the lower rate. I received an email saying they are refunding the amount I paid and will recharge my credit card for the lower rate. No questions asked. Now that is service. This now pays for one more night of a B&B since the rates in Ireland are now per person and not for the room. How tings change in four years. It was about $40 USD for the room in 2001. Tony, I will make sure that they did in fact refund the first amount to my credit card. Hopefully you get your credit card straightened out and AutoEurope will give you a credit.
Portland, OR USA Wed 08/03/2005
Auto Europe car rental
I had a bad on-line experience with Auto Europe (AE). I wanted to compare AE's prices with Avis, so I entered all my data on the AE web site (as well as on Avis's). Rather than give me a total price on-line, AE insisted on sending me a "voucher" to my email address. Avis gave me a total price on-line, and for a variety of reasons I decided to use Avis. So I replied to AE's email that same day, instructing them to cancel my voucher. AE replied back, asking me to let them try to beat the Avis price. Since price was not the only factor (though Avis was cheaper), I ignored AE's request. To my surprise, my next monthly credit card statement included a $515 charge from AE! This was the price they quoted me on email, and which I immediately canceled in writing. AE's on-line system required that they send me this "voucher" but AE never indicated this would amount to a contract, or that any payment was implied. Avis, meanwhile, has my reservation and contract, and I do not have to pay a dime until I pick up the car in Florence. I have since (re-)canceled this reservation with AE, but now I must hassle with my credit card bill. And, of course, I might never even have noticed it.
Gallup, NM USA Wed 08/03/2005
Leasing a car
i just wanted to let people know that i am using ideamerge.com.. it is a leasing program instead of renting, this only works if you are renting over 17 days...it is cheaper then renting and has many perks that renting does not offer, if you are interesting or want to know more email me...oh before i found out i was going to go with argusrentals.com they were the cheapest i found and included CDW.. Good luck
UT USA Tue 08/02/2005
AutoEurope makes it easy! Having dealt directly with Car Rental agencies in past European trips, I have had the usual run of hidden fees suspicious language barriers("look mate, CDW is the same in any language. I don't want it!") and a feeling of being treated more like a floor mat than a customer. AutoEurope were excellent and put a brick through the windshield of lousy service! Paying AutoEurope I was informed I would be getting an Avis car (alright, I'm going in suspicious and ready for trouble). But no. At Frankfurt am Main airport, we arrived, found the Avis counter, met friendly staff and was upgraded from a VW Passat to a Mercedez-Benz C class station wagon. Being a family of four, all were pleased. We found the car in the garage with no problem (Try that at Hamburg HBahnhof)! Then off for 2 weeks of family adventure. Here's some tips: 1. Have an excellent navigator. Don't skimp on maps. Praise your navigator, call them a veritable Magellan and ply them with tidbits. My 16 year-old son navigated for Gummi Saur-Frites, Bifis (European equivalent of Slim-Jim-rat-parts-beef sticks, and Kinder Surprise eggs. 2. Don't sweat it. You will arrive. Expect wrong turns, and turn unexpectedly. It took us three tries to get near the center of Delft. Parallel parking next to a canal with no barrier is a proud achievement. So too is not falling in when I opened the driver's door. 3. Using a car for a family gives you flexibility. With a car, the kids enjoyed luge rides in Austria, a U-boat in Northern Europe, Kinderdijk in the Netherlands and the whole family Schloss Hellbrunn in Salzburg. By train or bus this would have been time consuming or impossible. 4. Gas is expensive but even the MB (diesel) got great mileage. 5. European drivers are a combination of politeness and maniacal speed demons. In the right mood, a Smart car can zip by a MB. Watch out for Audis. I'm sterotyping but those "four rings of death" always seem to come up fast. Be respectful, and yeah, take 'er up at least once and see what she can do. 6. Forgive me Avis, but the AC vents work very well for quick chilling gummi bears and sour-fries. 7. Do get local music CDs. Rick is right, Yodelling music is magic while driving through the Alps. Works well in the Sierra Nevada as well. 8. Find parking garages and use them. Salzburg was cheap and easy. I parked on the street by our Hotel in Amsterdam and fed about 3 kilos of Euros (38 in fact) into a parking meter. That only with assistance from the Hotel staff.
Did I say, you will get there, just relax. Oh yes, after six hours of travels, families mutiny.
Stockton, CA USA Mon 08/01/2005
Think before you decide to rent
If I can help it, I will not be driving in Europe again. Perhaps if I travel with my husband, he will drive some; but we will mostly be taking trains. Driving on the autostrada in Italy and Germany can be very stressful. I scraped the rental car on the railing of an entrance ramp; but that's pretty minor. I'm alive. If you decide to rent a car--and for some people it's a good choice--think about: 1. what kind of traffic are you used to driving in? (I'm from rural Minnesota.) 2. How well does the car you're renting accelerate in traffic? (Mine didn't very well.) 3. Do you have a partner capable of helping with navigation? (I didn't.) 4. How good of a driver/parker are you? (I'm OK here, but my lack of depth perception makes squeezing into tiny parking places challenging.)
MN USA Sun 07/31/2005
BILL~~AUTO RENTAL SUGGESTIONS
I have rented several times from Kemwel and can recommend them. Go to their webpage and get the toll free number to talk with an agent. I never rent from the web page without talking with the agent. The last time I rented from Kemwel I picked up my car at Frankfurt and it was a car belonging to Sixt. I guess Kemwel is a wholesaler for other agencies.
R. M. CZUP
DALLAS, USA Thu 07/28/2005
Bill S. Check out www.gemut.com for your car rental in Germany. We used them last year and they got us a great rate and were very helpful with advice. Excellent customer service
Mansfield, GA USA Sat 07/23/2005
Heading for Germany in Sept. and it sounds like the best car rental deals can be found at Sixt,Argusrentals and Kemwel. Yes? Any suggestions appreciated. We're real novices (never been)
Salt Lake City, UT USA Sat 07/23/2005
Hertz at orly airport, Paris
Used Hertz rental cars at orly airport. Although the staff spoke little english, I was able to communicate in broken french about the car. they were fine and we had a great time spending 3 days driving around normandy (2 - 3 hours from Paris)
Greenwich, ct USA Sat 07/23/2005
International auto insurance
Beware of Avis. We rented three cars from Avis in France in June/July and we were charged 25.50 euros per day for insurance. Before departing I checked with Visa (this is how I paid for the rentals) and was advised that Visa would cover the rental car but nothing else. In all three rental locations we were advised by Avis that I could take the full insurance from them or nothing, and that my Visa insurance would not work. So, we paid $34.00 a day (equivilant of $12,000 a year) for insurance. Does anyone know if it is possible to purchase international auto insurance from a private provider?
Arlington, WA USA Mon 07/18/2005
CAR RENTAL IN EUROPE
Jim.....I agree with you about Sixt. My experience in renting from them in Frankfurt was a very pleasant experience. They handled every question and corrected a mistake on reservation. I had requested a car which they would permit me to drive into Czec Rep, Hungary and Poland. As I read the contract I saw a section denying me permission to drive into those countries! When I pointed that out, they brought another car for me immediately. When I chose to drop my car in Stuttgart, I phoned and they permitted me to drop it there without a drop charge.
C. H. A.
RENO, USA Thu 07/14/2005
DRIVING IN THE UK
Annie~~~~no one gave me advice before I drove the first time, but I soon learned. Every time you turn a corner you have to think keep left.~~~~ Crossing intersections requires the same thought because cars will be coming at you in a different lane than you are accustomed to ~~~~ When you enter a roundabout stay in the right lane and watch for your exit carefully. ~~~~ If you don't turn when you should, just stay in the right lane and go round again and try again. Driving alone is difficult because the signs are so hard to read. You really need someone with you to help read them.
If you can rent an automatic transmission it will be easier for you; because with a manual transmission, you have to shift with your left hand. ~~~~ I suggest when you take your car that you drive to the nearest parking lot and practice driving for 15 or 20 minutes.~~~~ Also practice backing up.~~~~Also practice driving into a parking space.~~~~ Do that until you become comfortable in handling the car.~~~~ It might take a lot longer than you think.~~~~Also check the pressure in the spare tire. Once in Australia, I remember that it took me 2 weeks of driving to lessen the tension of driving on the wrong side.
M. K. CYRA
DALLAS, USA Thu 07/14/2005
Driving in the UK
Need tips on driving on the 'wrong side' in England-by myself!
miami, fla USA Thu 07/14/2005
Car Rental in Europe
We rented a car in Berlin and drove over 2500 miles in 12 days. I found the transaction went easily with "Sixt" and the dropoff was easy.
Nashua, NH USA Wed 07/13/2005
Driving 2500 km in France
We always fly open jaw now, so we flew into Paris and out of Nice two weeks later. Our travel agent had a our car for us at Gare du Nord (about 10 blocks from our hotel). This was great! The TDI Passat was big for driving and parking in Avignon, Antibes, Nice and Monaco, but great for the 880km day from Mont. St. Michel to Avignon. If you don't take any other advice, please heed these tips: 1.) Buy the Michelin Regional maps (scale 1:200,000) before you go, and 2.) Find the TI in each town and get a city plan. These will make your trip easier. Roads in France aren't labelled like they are in the states (i.e. no East, West). They are labelled by town direction. You should have a good idea of the towns you will pass through on your planned itinerary. The autoroutes are great! You can pay tolls with your VISA or AmEx card at most peages (toll plazas). Finally, be prepared to take detours... you will make a wrong turn or two, or three.
Westerville, OH USA Mon 07/11/2005
International Drivers License
I was asked for my Driver's License at the Swiss Border. I was extremely happy with myself that I had been so smart as to purchase the International Driver's License. I whipped it out and handed it to the border guard who looked at it and said "No, No, No...your USA Driver's License"...maybe I wasn't so smart after all.
Knoxville, TN USA Fri 07/08/2005
International Drivers License
Concerning the International Driver's License, if you do not plan on getting pulled over (and nobody ever "plans" on it) then you don't need one. Otherwise, in Spain, Italy, Greece, Eastern Europe and Austria it is mandatory that you have one. For one, it is required on the toll roads in Austria and Czech Republic. Rental companies will sometimes ask you for them at the counter to pick up a car (this is always true in Austria and Greece) and if you do not have one, get pulled over and do not have a fluent grasp of the native language, you can almost guarantee a 200 Euro or more fine, which you must pay on the spot. The police are rarely lenient on tourists (where do you think all their income comes from?)
Portland, ME USA Wed 07/06/2005
INTERNATIONAL DRIVERS LICENSE
Grazie; look in the yellow pages of your phone book for American Automobile Association. They will provide the photograph required and issue the license for around $15. Personally, I would not buy another one. I have driven in every country in Europe, some of them several times over the past 20 years and never have I needed one.
UT USA Wed 07/06/2005
Where can I purchase an international drivers license. I'll be in Italy for 6 months and would feel more comfortable if I had one.
Kalaheo, HI USA Tue 07/05/2005
DROPPING CAR AT AIRPORT
As I read experiences of travelers trying to find where to drop a car at an airport, I am reminded of the only successful attemps I have had. I take a room at a hotel or B&B near the airport the day before and drive to the airport watching for signs directing me to parking space for my car. Once I find the space I want to park in I return to my hotel. The next morning when I am ready to leave the car and fly home, I can do it easily.
M. P. CYRES
DALLAS, USA Mon 07/04/2005
Rod: CDG or Paris?
Rod, Don't drive in Paris! CDG is bad enough, but nothing like Paris.
We always drive to CDG late in the evening when the traffic is not as bad (it can be crazy even at 11 pm)drop the car off and complete the transaction the next morning. Or sleep the night at IBIS or something close and take it back early the following morning.
Or, if you rent through a large company like EuropeCar you can drop it off in a city like Rennes, Reims or Eperney and take the train in.
Houston, TX USA Sun 07/03/2005
Slovenia and Croatia
I rented a car for 7 days form budget direct www.budget.com. It had a/c and was new. I droped it in Croatia at Zagreb and picked it up in downtown Lubjlana. All the other car rental places were not even close. 100+ more euros! Mostly for the drop fee. Car in slovenia is a must and even northern Croatia.
Littleton, CO USA Thu 06/30/2005
Want to lease/buy a car in Ireland for 20 days. Any suggestion as to what agency, Europebycar/Argu/etc. I'll rent if it works out better. What has your experience been? Thanks.
Portland, OR USA Tue 06/28/2005
Best place to rent a car
Munich is the best place to rent a car when going to Austria, Italy, Switzerland etc. A third less in most cases. We use Sixt rent a car. Beware though 19% added tax for rentals at airports and train stations. Take the subway into the City and pick up at the "Zentrum" location.
Victoria, BC Canada Tue 06/28/2005
Car Rental in Paris
We just returned from Paris, having rented a car there to drive to Normandy. My advice? Take the train out of Paris and rent the car there! We will NEVER AGAIN rent in Paris. It took us 2-1/2 hours to get from Auvers to central Paris on a Thursday evening. We expected traffic, but not like that! And they drive like madmen! We rented from Avis and got GREAT service. We turned the car in late, and they were very understanding. We declined the insurance since we had CDW from American Express (we called and they sent us all the details via e-mail). With that said, DEFINITELY rent a car to go through Normandy. It was awesome.
Deltona, Florida USA Sun 06/26/2005
Car Rental for Tuscany
I used NOVA to get a car in Florence and drove to Sienna, around Tuscany, and dropped off the car in Venice. I used a portable GPS for navigation.
NOVA arranged a car rental with Auto Europa. They didn't have the compact I ordered and gave us a subcompact. Total cost for three days was 128 euros.
Although I brought a portable GPS (Garmin Street Pilot 2610), I got lost within the first mile of getting out of the city. It couldn't figure out where it was because I was 7000 miles away from where it was last used. Tip: Plan on initializing your position on your GPS, when you first pick it up.
Eventually, we got to San Gimignano and I figured out how to get my GPS working again.
I used my GPS to get to our hotel in Sienna. Unfortunately, it was just inside the restricted area and the GPS directed me over restricted roads. My room clerk faxed our license number to the police to waive any fines. Otherwise, I would have had to pay the fine to the rental company. I was able to park in a residential area about 1/2 mile away from our hotel.
The next day we drove through southern Tuscany per RS recommendations. We drove on beautiful country roads between Montalcino, Pienza, and Montepulciano. Although RS recommended Pienza, we were disappointed in it (too small and not much to see). We enjoyed Montepulciano much more (a very large midieval square with nice views over the surrounding countryside). The GPS was very useful for navigating in the samll towns.
The next day we drove from Sienna to Venice and stopped off in Padua. There was a 45 minute traffic jam on the outskirts of Florence to get on the Auto Strada (toll was 11 euros). The hilly countryside north of Florence was nice, but the agricultural countryside north of the hills was boring.
We hit another 30 minute traffic jam outside of Venice and it took me about 20 minutes to find the car dropoff at the Bus Station in Venice (It wasn't very well marked and we kept on passing it. They had to lift a gate to let us in to their lot.)
I really enjoyed driving in the Tuscan countryside, but I think it was a mistake to drive up to Venice. It would have been more convenient and quicker to take the train.
I had to get the electronic maps for my GPS for Italy. The cheapest was for Metroguide Europe ($100 on ebay). Unfortunately, calculating routes could only be done with a portable computer. I had preloaded my routes before the trip, but the GPS could not recalculate routes if I took a wrong turn. I could have gotten electronic maps that would have allowed recalculation, but they were really expensive (around $300). It was still nice to have an electronic map of Sienna, Florence and Padua. There were lots of one way roads and I would have gotten lost if I didn't have my GPS.
Total cost (rental, gas, tolls and software) for three days of driving was around $340 and I thought it was worth it.
San Diego, Ca USA Thu 06/23/2005
Best Price Car Rental
I use argusrentals.com and have always found them to be the lowest price way to go. Many extras included with the price. CDW, one-way drop off, you may want to check them out.
WA USA Wed 06/22/2005
Rod in Santa Cruz/ Car
Last October, I picked up a car in Rouen and dropped it off in CDG 2 weeks later. There was no difficulty except 1) You should have 10-12 euros (that is, in cash) for the road tax. Don't count on the check-in clerk having change for a 20 or 50 euro bill 2)if you don't know the airport, drop off during daylight. The airport and drop off are not difficult to find if you can see the signs you must follow. ---- In Paris, the consolidators have places all over but if you are picking up or dropping off on a week-end, and almost certainly on Sunday, you may have to use CDG. Your rental company certainly can tell you where its offices are and their business hours. My sense is to drop off at CDG if one is flying out, or in Paris if visiting the city. ~~~~~~~~~~ As to insurance, take that provided by you credit card, but completely understand its limits and deductible before you wholly rely on it. Rick Steves recommends Travel Gard, (Rick's books sometimes say Guard), which is on the net. CDW coverage provided by the rental company is without exception over-priced because it is a profit item for the rental company.
USA Tue 06/21/2005
Great car rental company near London, England
We just got back from a trip to the UK with our four kids (6-12 yrs). We rented a Previa van through Affordablerentals.co.uk and they were outstanding to work with. The cost was ~700 US dollars, incl. tax, plus unlimited mileage. Our VISA card had car rental insurance for Europe so we didn't have to use theirs. They picked us up at Heathrow and dropped us back for the return flight at no additional charge. They have 2 offices - one near Gatwick and one just 15 min from Heathrow. I would recommend them to anyone looking to rent a car. If you do decide to drive- have a GOOD map. Signs are horrible- no North/South/East/West markings- just town names- so you need to know where you are relative to everything else.
PA USA Tue 06/21/2005
CDW in France
I am planning on renting a car in Rouen, France, and return it in Paris. I was told to avoid CDG airport as a place to return the car. Another person suggested just driving into Paris to drop off the car. This would be in mid-August. Does anyone have a suggestion concerning dropping off a car in Paris? Also, what rental company do you recommend? And finally, do most of you use the CDW offered by your VISA card? It seems I read that someone recommended getting CDW through the rental agency rather than using the insurance issued by the credit card company. Thanks!
Santa Cruz, CA USA Tue 06/21/2005
Renting to drive into the old Eastern Block Countries
When I rented a car in Frankfurt to drive into Poland, Czech Rep, Hungary and Slovakia, I had to take the car the agency would permit me to drive. Only a few of the models most companies rent are allowed into E Europe. Some models are stolen more than others so they limit the ones we can drive. I rented from Sixt, a Germany agency, and was very pleased with the Opel they gave me. It had only 60 km on the odometer. Automatic and all the power equipment.
TULSA USA Tue 06/21/2005
Renting to drive into the old Eastern Block Countries
I had difficulty finding a rental company to allow for driving through Slovenia on our way from Venice to Salzburg. Alamo and others, only allow for driving in the western European countries. I was able to get a rental through Auto Europe and have "drive through Slovenia" written on my reservation. Auto Europe also had the cheapest rate and according to my email correspondence, they did not charge me a premium for this Slovenia option. This may depend, however, on the type of car you rent and the countries where you are driving.
Belmont, CA USA Sun 06/19/2005
S.T. If your contract is in another language, insist on one in English. And be sure to read it carefully. That?s how I found out I couldn?t drive into E Europe when that was my destination.They can really stick you with hidden charges if you don?t understand your contract!
ALBANY, USA Mon 06/13/2005
GAS PRICE IN SCANDINAVIA
Joonsuk; Dallas Morning News reports unleaded gasoline prices as of May 26 to be as follows: Denmark, $5.84, Finland $5.77, Norway, $6.33, Sweden, $5.67. I compute the gallon average to be: $5.90.
DALLAS, USA Sun 06/12/2005
Gas prices in Scandinavia
For gas prices in Europe go to Google and type: "petrol prices in Europe" and you'll see that the most expensive is Norway at around Euro 1.32 per litre or about US$6.00 per galon. The cheapest is Finland with diesel prices being less expensive by 20% in Finland and 10% in other Scandinavian countries.
Sydney, NSW Australia Sun 06/12/2005
GAS PRICE FOR SCANDINAVIA
Joonsuk; when I drove through all four countries in Sept, 2000 I paid $3 a gallon for diesel. It would be difficult for fuel to increase as much as you indicate. I have always rented a diesel auto because I get better mileage on the car and the fuel is always cheaper.
TX USA Sat 06/11/2005
Gas price in Scandinavia?
After finishing France area, I'll head to Scandinavia via a car. I've heard their gas price is about $9/gallon. Is it really true? I really want to go to Scandinavia, but $9/gallon for 20 days will probably kill my budget. Any information about driving in Scandinavia would be very appreciated!
KS USA Sat 06/11/2005
taking rental cars to Prague etc.
Teresa: We rented a car in Germany and drove it to both Prague and Budapest. It may be that you're taking a high end car that is the favorite of local theives. We had to downgrade our model when we told Hertz where we were going and had no problems thereafter.
San Diego, CA USA Fri 06/10/2005
Driving in Scotland and Ireland
I just got back from Ireland, Scotland, and London. We drove for four days in Ireland and 3 in Scottland (no need for a car in London).
What a difference the 2 countries make. Ireland (especially the West coast) is quite windy and narrow wherever you drive. Scotland had roads very similar to what we have in America - they have a shoulder and the road is wider.
The 1st place we drove was from the Shannon airport to the Cliffs of Moher. Quite an experience getting used to the car and getting acclimated to driving on the left.
I took the advice someone else had about using the rac webpage to get directions, and mapped out my entire trip. Quickly, we found out this isn't the most helpful thing to do and that reading a map is an essential skill. The 1st town we came to, Ennis had road construction all the way through the town.. My wife began to learn to read the map and we only had 1 bad turn from there to the Cliffs of which we recovered shortly after. My nerves were a little frantic, but once I went for a hike at the cliffs, I was calm.
From then on, I had no problems. Couple words of advice:
*Know where the left side of your car is! You WILL get close to shoulders and shrubs.
Jeff from Wisconsin
Verona, WI USA Fri 06/10/2005
I use www.viamichelin.com for driving directions/maps. Its always a good idea to print out each route between destinations before leaving on a trip to use & email the information to yourself for future use. The directions include travel time, distance, toll costs, petrol costs, & scheduled road work.
CA USA Fri 06/10/2005
Forget about renting a car. We hired a driver through Renato Cuomo and it was fantastic. Fortunately, we had the same driver, Angelo, for each of our jaunts: Rome to Sorrento, Touring Pompeii/Vesuvius/Herculeano, Sorrento to Amalfi with a stop at a real mozzarella cheese factory, then a final trip from Amalfi to Rome with a stop in Ceserta. Angelo was so very personable, an excellent driver, and so totally reliable. Give firstname.lastname@example.org a try.
Trinity, FL USA Tue 06/07/2005
car rental in amboise
In amboise rent a car from Garage Jourdain which is a mile out of town on the road to tours. You can easily walk to it. They were half the price of Avis and had great cars. Rent a clio, fun car and cheap on gas.
Chicago, IL USA Tue 06/07/2005
RENTAL CARS COUNTRY TO COUNTRY
Teresa; there is a way. When I faced that question when I wanted to drive into E. Europe, I started calling agencies until I found one which would rent a car to me. I found several and had a choice. Do a google.com search for ?auto rental agencies Europe.? Use the toll free phone numbers.
TULSA, USA Tue 06/07/2005
rental cars country to country
We were just told we can't take our Mercedes rental from Germany to Italy or Prague. Do you know a way around it? We want to see lots and not worry about the car.
Canyon Lake, CA USA Mon 06/06/2005
I found that argusrentals.com had the best rates and more extras for the $$$$$.
USA Mon 06/06/2005
Auto europe gave the best rates and good small cars in France. You have to reserve ahead from North America
Vancouver, BC Can Mon 06/06/2005
Driving and the Loire and the Tour de France
Thanks to all who posted advice about cars vs. trains for my Loire trip. I think we are going to go for the car in the end. We've been addding up cost of train tix to all the places we are trying to go times two and comparing it to costs associated with renting a car, and car rental is coming out ahead. Thanks again!
oakland, ca USA Wed 06/01/2005
Driving tips for the UK
WOW, 10 days of driving in England on the wrong side of the road, on the wrong side of the car, roundabouts, narrow roads and terrible signage you'd think I wouldn't do it again. Wrong, I'd do it in a minute. My wife and I rented a car from Enterprise at Gatwick. They wanted to upgrade me to a bigger car- I said No, how about downgrading me to a smaller car. For the first two days I was very tense- and I'm an expereinced driver (30 years). We found ourselves on narrow B roads- one-lane with hedges on both sides. But we made it through. Here are my recomendations- get an automatic- you have enough things to worry about without having to shift. Stick with a small car- the B roads are NARROW. Take a pocket compass- roads are not marked North, South etc. (roads are not marked very well at all). Make sure you have a very good road atlas- you'll need it. It also helps to have a good copilot (my wife was mine) she watched for road signs and helped with those crazy roundabouts. We were only bonked at several times. Also, those signs with the cameras on them are NOT good places to take pictures as my wife thought. They are speed cameras-and they are everywhere. If you do go, rent a car- it gives you flexability, takes you of the beaten path and gives you something to talk about when you get home. Just use common sense and do some research.
Toronto, OH USA Mon 05/30/2005
Driving in Ireland
There is a lot of road construction going on all around Ireland; part of their booming economy. Particularly on the mountain roads. You will see road signs saying "major road work" but it is nothing like road projects in the states. Still, it will slow down your drive times. I was there in May so there was very little tourist activity.I suspect the slow down will be more pronounced in the high season. Also, a tip to help with driving on the left. Take a index card and write on it in big block letters: "DRIVE LEFT" and below that, "LOOK RIGHT" Put it where you can quickly glance down at it from time to time. After awhile, you probably won't need it anymore. When parking your car, turn the card over so you won't be identified as an easy target. And do not rent big cars. The Ford Fiesta 5 door is a nimble, fairly comfortable car. All you really need over there. Check out Europcar online. Don't accept the Nissan Micro. It is a terrible car.
Chicago, Il USA Tue 05/24/2005
RENTAL CAR AT DUBLIN AIRPORT
Rental car at Dublin AirportWayne... thanks for the reminder. I have found it a big advantage to ask where to return my car at the time I take it. Usually they post large signs at the entrance to the airport, but I found Shannon and Dublin different. I don?t remember seeing any signs. Caution to renters to be sure to ask where and how to return rental cars. As in this case, it can save you valuable time and anxiety.
R Z CHAT
NY CITY, USA Thu 05/19/2005
Rental car at Dublin Airport
I recently returned from a trip to Ireland and rented a car thru Enterprise Rent a Car. I picked it up at the Dublin airport and when it came to drop the car off upon departure, spent 30 minutes trying to find the proper place to return the vehicle. Be aware, they don't have a return counter or lot to return your car to! It seems their return procedure is to have you park the car in short term parking, write the location of the car down and give it to the counter staff along with your keys. Knowing this would have saved me a lot of time and headache upon departure.
San Diego, CA USA Thu 05/19/2005
credit card CDW coverage in Ireland
I researched this a couple of years ago, and at the time the best one I was able to find that covered CDW in Ireland was the MasterCard NEA (National Education Association) card.
USA Fri 05/13/2005
We are using Argus Car Rentals in both England and France. argusrentals.comMany extras included, CDW, etc. I called my VISA company and checked on the insurance and was told that VISA would also cover the car because the CDW was included in the price, they e-mailed verification of this to me.For rentals over 2 days, no one way drop off charges. Guaranteed lowest price. Worth checking out. They are a rental broker, good feedbacks.
WA USA Wed 05/11/2005
Travel Guard CDW
Just an FYI - the Travel Guard CDW policy that Rick describes is not available to Washington State residents according to the agent I spoke to over the phone.
Lynnwood, WA USA Wed 05/11/2005
Sara and driving the Loire
Sara, My apologies. I'm waxing nostalgic about the lovely Pays de Loire and the Pays du Chateaux and all the other Pays de whatever and I ignored the logistic you will likely face: crowds filling the restaurants and hotels and roadsides. As it happens, Tours is something of a rail hub for the area and the July 5 leg is from Tours to Blois, which happens to be the heart of the chateaux country. July 6 goes to Chamborg and then I think the boys and their bikes go to the Savoie. The French Tourist organization says after Versailles and Fountainbleu, Chinon, near Tours, and Chenonceau, about 7 miles from Amboise, are the most popular of the royal residences. Rideau and Chamborg are also very worthwhile. Do you need a car? There is train service to Chenonceau chateau and Chenonceaux (the town) both from Amboise. Amboise has a chateau of its own, the de Vinci home, and a lot of other tourist attractions. Amboise probably is astride the Tour de France route, but I have not seen a detailed map of the route. As to bus service in the little towns you better check an updated Steves "France" book. I don't remember any bus service, Service may appear for the Tour, and it may not. Perhaps, the French tourist site can help. It is called franceguide. Put in the www. and add the dot com. I'd do it here that way, but this site seems to delete such entries. Whatever, it will be crowded and difficult or impossible to drive. If you are going to follow the Tour, you need a car and a lot of patience. If you are just catching the race as it passes by, a car is a great convenience, but not a necessity. Maybe the answer is to drive to a town and take a rental bike to your viewing point, if you can find either. Bike racks are availble as an option for rental cars. Maybe I'll see you on t.v.
USA Mon 05/09/2005
Driving in the Loire country
Sara, Have you considered the question this way: why not have a car? It is easy driving and the country side is beautiful with many small towns, but the kind that don't slow you down unless you want to wander a bit: and, you will hear some of the most beautiful French spoken anywhere in the country The national and departmental roads are direct (relatively) and when we last were there in October were not crowded at all. We drove from the Channel coast (no autoroute)to Fountainbleu via St. Lo and Amboise and the surrounding chateaux country. It's lovely except for Tours. There is a bypass, but I missed it and we suffered.
USA Mon 05/09/2005
LOIRE WITHOUT A CAR
Sara~~~You will find trains and busses from every town in the Loire valley. You can get by without a car, but you may have to spend more time on trains and busses than you prefer. Once you get into a town, go to the RR station and ask. Some towns have a Travel Information Office often located in the RR station.
TULSA, USA Fri 05/06/2005
ITALIAN TRAIN TICKETS ON LINE
BW ....when you buy from a website, you can count on a service charge even if it is a RR system. My experience is that it is always cheaper to buy at the RR station. I met a couple who live in Switzerland who told me that they have compared the cost of RR fares bought in the US with those bought at Swiss stations and always found buying at the station cheaper because of the service charge. If you want the convenience of having your tickets in hand before you go, you must pay for it. Why don?t you research the cost when you get there and find out if it is true.
AUSTIN, TX USA Fri 05/06/2005
Loire withOUT a car???
My fiance and I are headed to the Loire Valley to catch some of the Tour de France action. We are wondering what it is like to travel in that area without a car. I know this is the message board about driving in Europe, but have any of you gone through that region of France without renting a car? Is it still possible to get to the chateaux without one? Are there local busses from the centre-villes or train stations? I am having trouble finding info, and am hoping you savvy travellers can help us out. THANKS!!
bay area, CA USA Thu 05/05/2005
Kemwel & AutoEurope
I have rented cars many times through Kemwel, which is a consolidator like AutoEurope. In fact AutoEurope now owns Kemwel, but it is worthwhile to compare prices with both. On 3 occasions there has been cause to dispute extra charges, made after the car was returned, and Kemwel successfully did so. Their website is: www.kemwel.com, and their # is 1-800-678-0678.
USA Thu 04/28/2005
parking in florence
in addition to the other suggestions for parking in florence, try parking at the porta romana gate. it is southwest of the city near the medici palace. go through the gate and immediately turn left to the parking entrance(it looks like a toll booth gate with a ticket that you take.) we parked there twice in march and had no problems. do not go into the porta romana area any further than the parking entrance as florence has big fines for entering restricted driving areas.
USA Sun 04/24/2005
Sixt rental car
We used Sixt in Germany in 2001 without any problems. They were very professional and did not overcharge for anything. However, I think individual offices vary depending upon what country they are located.
Austin, TX USA Sat 04/23/2005
Parking in Florence
For parking in Florence, Parcheggio Parterre is very convenient and cheap. It's an underground garage on the northeast side of town near Porta San Gallo/Piazza della Liberta. It's 15 Euro a day. There's a cab stand at the exit. Don't let the cabbies rip you off. Some take circuitous routes and push a button to cause the meter to jump about 2-4 Euro. A cab from the parking garage to the Duomo should cost about 6 Euro.
Austin, TX USA Sat 04/23/2005
AutoEurope Beats any Competitor's Price
AutoEurope will meet and/or beat any competitor's price. Since I trust AutoEurope more than any other car rental agency I do the comparison game with them.
First I got a quote from AE, then found the same car type significantly cheaper at Sixt. I reserved the car with Sixt, printed out the rental info and faxed it to AE so they could "Beat" the price. They did beat the price, I paid AE and then cancelled Sixt. It works.
USA Fri 04/22/2005
Too young to rent a car?
It is true that most of the big name rental agencies in Europe will not rent a car to you as you are under 25. It is also true that it is not impossible to wash up in any European city with a clean driving licence and a valid credit card and find a small company who will rent you a well serviced compact car and not give a hoot about how old you are so long as you are over that country's legal age to drive. Local hotels are always a good source of reliable, local rental outlets. Wait until you over here and get local advice from your hotel reception desk. Have a great honeymoon.
Nottingham, UK Thu 04/21/2005
Check on leasing a car. If you need it for more than 17 days it will be easier on your budget. We've had great luck with Europe by Car. Good luck, move to the right hand lane and have a great time.
Kealakekua, Hi USA Wed 04/20/2005
Hydrofoil Palermo to Naples
HYDROFOIL PALERMO TO NAPLESCecile~~~ Go to: www.viamare.com/SNAV-index.html.~~~ You should find the info you need for the ferry from Palermo to Naples.
Adam M. W.
DALLAS, TX USA Wed 04/20/2005
Best Paris Car Pickup Location
We always train in to Paris from the airport and then train back out to pick up our car when we're ready to travel the countryside. It doesn't take all that long, the airport is run like a clock and you're outside the city even if you have to circle around halfway to point yourself in the right direction.
San Diego, CA USA Tue 04/19/2005
Driving & Parking in Florence
We stayed in Tuscany for several weeks with a car. Picked up and dropped off in Florence but that's the only time I'd take a car there (and I have nerves of steel). Drive your car to the nearest rail station, park (leaving nothing in the car and the glove compartment open). Avoid rush hour like the plague.
San Diego, CA USA Tue 04/19/2005
construction on A4 and Amsterdam
Just returned from Europe on Monday 4/11 and wanted to give everybody a heads up on A4 between Luxembourg and Brussels. There are several construction projects going on. They added several hours to our drive. Also, follow Rick's advice and do not try to drive in downtown Amsterdam. I was a professional bus and truck driver for several years, and I will NEVER do that again. It scared the bejezus out of me. Some traffic lights are only good for half of an intersection, peds cross whenever they feel like it, and as far as I can tell bikes do not have to obey any of the traffic rules.
Locust Grove, GA USA Tue 04/12/2005
AMSTERDAM AUTO RENTAL
Schipol airport is 10K south west of Amsterdam on the A4 main road system. There is a regular and very low cost rail connection from the airport to Amsterdam Centraal Station. It is very easy to get on the move and head off to where you want to go from the airport. It is not so easy from Amsterdam Centrum so in that respect it is worth paying the surcharge for an airport pick-up. If you want to save the surcharge and still have easy access to the main road system do what I do and catch the 236 bus to Haarlem and collect your car at one of the rental offices there.
Nottingham, UK Mon 04/11/2005
AMSTERDAM AUTO RENTAL
ANDREW; Do a search for Schiphol Airport on google.com. There should be a map on the page so you can find out where it is located. When you reserve your car call the agency and ask for a pickup location closest to the airport. You can also ask about train service. Unless you get an answer on this page, your best source of information is the auto rental agency.
ST LOUIS, USA Sun 04/10/2005
Amsterdam auto rental
In making a reservation for a rental car for our trip to Europe this summer, I am given several options of where to pick up and drop off the car. There is an additional charge of $80 to rent from an airport location. Several other Amsterdam locations are listed as alternatives, but I have no way of knowing how close they are to Schiphol airport. Does anyone know where the airport is situated with regard to downtown and whether there is good train service to the airport should we decide to save the $80 and rent from a downtown location? There are three locations listed on Overtoom, which seems to be centrally located in the city. I just don't know how long it takes to travel to that location from the airport - and whether it makes sense to do that or not. Any advice is appreciated. Thanks in advance.
Okemos, MI USA Sat 04/09/2005
I have used autoeurope in the past and am currently booked for 2 rentals for this summer. We needed an automatic and were given a new MB in Paris. When we returned it in Paris (a nightmare) it was no longer new but had been our homebase for a fabulous drive tour for two weeks. Honfleur, Mont St. Michel, Chenonceaux, Sarlat, Carcassone, Bourgoin Jallieux, Beaune. Used nearly all Rick's recommendations and they were usually superlative, only sometimes acceptable.
The car rental wasn't much more difficult than here in US. We found the road system in France to be nearly perfect. The toll roads are incredible, the other highways very good and the sleepy village roads wonderful. Everything was so clean! Why can't we pick up after ourselves here? The only real problem we encountered was the highway system from Beaune to Paris. We got lost and spend most of the afternoon driving in nondescript countryside on mostly empty highways. To return the car to Autoeurope at the Gare du Nord, find the street that deadends into the front of the Gare. On the right is a "driveway" down with tiny signs for various car rental companies - this is the spot. We drove down and down underground, it felt like at least 5 floors down under the Paris street, never found an official or a parking place. At the bottom the parking was filling up by blocking in rental cars by parking in the aisle! As we had sensible emptied our car at the hotel first - IMPORTANT - we just joined the line up of cars and locked the keys inside. It seemed incredibly insane to do this to us but we had no problems with autoeurope over it. The car was wonderful - duh! a new Mercedes! We returned it with the floormats full of baguette crumbs from eating wonderful local cheeses as we drove.
I am renting from Amsterdam to Paris and from Oxford to Glasgow this June/July. But this time with a manual so I'll probably not get a new car! Anyone have input on driving in Ireland? I am thinking of a couple of day long bus tours from Dublin instead.
San Jose, CA USA Thu 04/07/2005
I spent quite a bit of time researching car rates and found that Auto Europe will meet or beat any other rate you find. And, if your plans change, as ours did, they will refund your money with no problem. We used them and received a car through Avis. The only thing we were surprised by at the end were some road taxes when we dropped the car in Venice.
USA Sun 04/03/2005
Driving in London
For those thinking of driving in London, the city's mayor has announced an increase in the congestion charge from five pounds to eight (about 15 dollars) daily, as of July. That's for anyone driving a vehicle in London's downtown core...covering just about every sight tourists come to see.
Ottawa, Canada Sun 04/03/2005
Driving in UK
All petrol stations open on Sundays. From London Heathrow take the M40 to Oxford and lunch at the Bird and Baby ( The sign says Eagle and Child ) at St. Giles in Oxford. This is the local pub of such great writers as JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. An excellent pub with good food to suit all pockets. Then either head for the Cotswalds or proceed further north. If going to the Cotswalds book a night at a B&B in one of the villages. If going north take the M40 until it joins the M42 at Birmingham then head north until you join the M1. Do not try to drive all the way to York but break your journey for the night in Nottinghamshire ( dull ) or the Yorkshire Dales ( quaint ) there are plenty of B&Bs along the way. Hit York the following day ( just follow the motorway signs ). Proceed north on the A1 and into Edinburgh. A good road atlas costs between GBP15.00 - GBP20.00 and can be bought at any petrol station or motorway service area. Leave yourself plenty of time to take in the scenery and enjoy. Return via the Lake District on the North West of England and allow yourself at least one full day for this. Take the M6 south to Birmingham and rejoin the M40 when you get to Oxford either head back to Heathrow or divert to the Cotswalds. Enjoy.
Nottingham, UK Fri 04/01/2005
After reading about all of the fuel charges, next time I will do the video inspection while I am topping off the tank before I return the car - getting a picture of how much I pumped in, the receipt, mileage, and the fuel gauge.
Omaha, NE USA Sun 03/27/2005
I rented a car in Romania. Upon return to a different location, the counter person looked at the paper work and took off to look at the car. She quickly went to a spot on the car where there was a scratch and said she needed $50 cash to have the scratch fixed - because here boss was going to take it from her pay check. The scratch was there when I picked up the car and I pointed it out the lot person who said not to worry about it. I tried to explain that to the rental car person - but no luck. I then told her I was not going to pay and we would let the credit card company deal with it. I then quickly took out my video camera and started filming her and the scratch at issue. She quickly said OK and went back the office and completed the transaction without the damage cost. Nothing showed up bill.Remember ? Video tape is cheap ? take a quick run around the car shooting the car and any damage that is there no matter how small? then do the same when you return the car.
Omaha, NE USA Sun 03/27/2005
It's an unfortunate fact of life that I have to hire cars at many destinations on Mainland Europe and other continents. I always use one of the big name companies. I have been a victim of so many felonius vehicle damage reports I have lost count. A quick look at the 'Tourist Scam Alert' will reveal that bad practice by car rental companies is one of the most frequently reported scams. Using car rental can often turn a pleasant vacation sour the minute you get home and your credit card bill arrives.
Nottingham, UK Thu 03/24/2005
I don't know if I'd agree that Rick is biased against car travel....he's just biased in favour of train travel. That's the niche he's picked to cater to in his books and, for the mass of his audience, it's the best way to travel. He also promotes bus lines pretty heavily, too, so it's not that he rules out road transport. For most of us, we'd like to spend our travelling time relaxing -- having fought with the drivers in several European countries, I know what it means to drive in different countries.
I think the key here is one must utilize several different sources for information that deal directly with what you want to get out of a trip. I would, for example, never plan a rail journey solely based on what I find in Rick's guidebooks, just like I don't limit myself to the sights he lists at various destinations. Information is the key to having a successful vacation, and the more information sources you tap, the better any trip will be.
Ottawa, Canada Tue 03/22/2005
hi,i think what i'm talking about here is the bias against car travel in europe. all of us do not choose to travel by train for one or more valid reasons and rick is predjudiced against that choice. i choose his guidebooks because they are good and he gives information on driving to his suggested destinations, but not the same level of quality information that he gives for train travel(we have done some train travel also).
USA Tue 03/22/2005
Speeding in Norway
I received a speeding ticket after leaving Dombas, Norway in what was a very organized speed trap with at least 5 police cars pulling over many drivers. The fine was over $300(USD)! The officer asked for payment on the spot, and requested a credit card. I gave him my American Express card which, it turned out, they weren't able to process.(I had other credit cards, but he didn't ask me for another card so I didn't offer) He then asked me for cash. I took out my coin purse which had a very limited amount of Norwegian Kroners in it and showed him all of the money in the purse.(there was more money in my money belt, but I chose not to share that information either) After telling me it wasn't enough to cover the fine, he then wrote me out a paper ticket and said "We hope you will pay it." My Norwegian relatives took that to mean that they didn't expect it to be paid. They also told me that requesting payment on the spot is reserved for foreign visitors as a way of getting reimbursed as visitors otherwise leave the country and forget about it. That is exactly what I decided to do, and so far, so good. I've not received an extra charge from the car rental people for the ticket and as it has been 6 months, I'm pretty optomistic that I won't hear from them. I was very careful in minding the ever changing speed limits for the rest of the trip and had lots of drivers annoyed at me for doing so. With the fines being so outrageous, it just wasn't worth taking the chance of getting another ticket. Be very, very mindful of the speed limits, as you never know on what road, major or minor, you might encounter the police.
Lakewood, CO USA Fri 03/18/2005
Another tip I'd like to offer. Unless you intend to lease a buy-back car I can't over-emphasize the benefits of using auto europe. I have used their service for years and always found them to be helpful, honest and polite. They act as brokers for the major auto rental companies, and the prices they offer are deeply discounted. Upgrades are almost always offered.
USA Thu 03/17/2005
I am a frequent visitor to Europe and have found driving-even when I have been by myself-to be the most satisfying way to get around. Years ago I leased a buy-back car from Renault and stayed in Europe's excellent campsites. These days I can afford tourist hotels, but I'm taking my nephew to Europe this summer...I'd like him to get a taste of the way Europeans spend their holidays. Camping seems ideal. I've also been thinking of setting out for some very remote areas of the Pyrenees and Dolomites (so beautiful!). I'm considering leasing a mini-van that will also serve as a sleeping facility in a pinch. Does anyone have any experience with some of the smaller vans? I think a *Kangoo* would be far too small, but I've also looked at the *Partner*. It might do without the rear seat. BTW, I'm not concerned that it may be cramped. Even at 48 I'm not averse to "living rough"
As an afterthought I want to mention a wonderful spot I recently came across. In June and November of last year I was on the Italian Riviera and the concierge at my hotel in San Remo recommended I visit Dolceaqua. It's about 5 km off the main coastal route between Monte Carlo and San Remo. Pretty much half-way between the two. It has turned out to be one of my favorite spots in all of Italy. Very charming. Quite beautiful. It seems to be a favorite of the older German tour bus set, but by no means over-run.
seattle, wa USA Thu 03/17/2005
SPEEDING TICKET FROM ITALY
Ellen...for what it is worth to you , I came home from Sweden after renting a car for two weeks. A week later I received a charge for $29 to my credit card for a toll booth violation in Oslo. I can remember some confusion about which toll booth to enter at one time, but I was surprised that the camera had found me in violation. Anyway they sent me a copy of the citation with photo evidence which they paid and I did not dispute it. Ask for documentation; if you don?t receive it, put the charge into dispute with your credit card bank.
CHARLOTTE, USA Tue 03/15/2005
Speeding ticket from Italy
Ellen....contact Hertz and demand details. This may already have been billed to your credit card by Hertz. Tell them you may wish to dispute the charge. Many of these tickets come via photo radar, so demand to see the original photo ticket.
Ottawa, Canada Tue 03/15/2005
Speeding ticket from Italy
Beware. Yesterday, I rec'd a ticket for speeding (no more detail than that) on the first day of a trip to Italy w/ Hertz rental last October. The 157.35-euro fine "includes expenditures for notification and procedures." Have no idea if it's actually true (we were new to driving in EU and thought we were careful), how to fight it, or even how to pay it; the form is not helpful. Added to the trouble we had getting to Lucca from Rome that day (our directions got vague around Pisa) and the amount of time and effort it took to drive and to park, I would definitely think VERY carefully about driving in Europe again.
Elkins Park, PA USA Tue 03/15/2005
Long term car lease
If one is going to be in Europe for more than 30 days, a cheap way to travel is by car lease. My wife and I have done this for several trips now and find it less expensive than a rail pass for two.We also gain the freedom and mobility of our own car.Our first expirience of this was with a regular rental company (National) and then with a car maker. (Renault)In both cases our tours where first class. And low cost. (less than a rail pass) We only paid for the gas. And had unlimited milage. These where new cars with no milage.
Courtenay, BC CA Mon 03/14/2005
For those planning a driving excursion in Europe, there are a couple of useful sites to do at least the preliminary route mapping and planning. The Royal Automobile Club site is at http://rp.rac.co.uk/routeplanner and allows you to plot a route avoiding toll roads. The other site is Michelin, at http://www.viamichelin.com/viamichelin/gbr/tpl/hme/MaHomePage.htm It will calculate estimated fuel costs (in Euros) and tolls.
Ottawa, Canada Sun 03/13/2005
PARKING IN PISA
Lisa: I think Steve does a great job in giving travel tips. He certainly cant include everything we need to know about every town. Showing a parking lot on a map is hard to do for every town. Go to the home page for Pisa Attractions and look for a town map. As for toll booths. If you read the signs as you approach like most of us do, they should not be a challenge. I defend Steve on the way he organizes his books because he furnishes so much useful information.
RENO, USA Sat 03/12/2005
Lisa.....I'm not sure that Rick's guidebooks make any pretense at being a resource for driving in Europe. That might be better reserved for AAA and their tourist office, as well as other guidebooks devoted solely to driving vacations in Europe. What Rick does say about Pisa is that the parking lot is "just outside the town wall a block from the Tower." I would suggest that the lot would be close to the main entrance at Piazza Manin, a block away from the tower but, in any case, not far away. And I'm sure the signs mentioned will guide auto traffic to the right spot. In fact, he notes that Pisa is "by car, a headache." In any event, I would never use Rick's maps to drive any route. Good map atlases and local city maps are essential when driving anywhere new. Rick's guidebooks should be considered one resource among many available -- not as the sole guide on your trip. So seek out as many others as possible, to cover the driving aspects of your trip. As for kids activities, that would require a whole new series of guidebooks -- maybe Rick should consider that! But travelling with kids in Europe is different than taking them to Disneyworld or to Grandma's....I've found you had to do a lot of "education" in a way that interested the kids, and let's face it....a couple of hours in a museum isn't going to excite any child. But I'm pretty sure Rick's never said "leave the kids at home!"
Ottawa, Canada Thu 03/10/2005
not enough info in any of your books for driving in Europe. We are traveling with 3 kids(7,9 &13). even the tollbooths are a challenge. going to pisa and having you tell us that the best place to park is a public park outside the walls but then not showing it on your map. it is a challenge, especially with 3 kids saying the inevitable "are we there yet?" we are trying to live like locals, out of a major town/city and with kids it is less expensive to lease a car as well as easier than trains as well as necessary for things like grocery shopping. i do not agree with your thoughts to leave the kids at home so that is not an option. please think more about families, the next time you trave steve.
CO USA Thu 03/10/2005
BEST PARIS PICKUP LOCATION
Terri.....Norm is right. I picked up my car in central Paris and it took hours to get out of town. I didnt think of taking the metro to an out lying rental agency office. Call your auto rental agency on the toll free number and ask about an office in the northern part of town toward Belgium or Germany. Then ask for the nearest metro stop.
NYC, USA Tue 03/08/2005
Best Paris Pickup Location
After one disastrous occasion trying to drive out of London, I swore I would never do that again! I always check out the local transportation links, and try to find a rental office close to the end of a subway-commuter train link, and get a rental office close to there. Call the company you want to deal with, and ask...they should be able to tell you. Paris is wrapped by a couple of ring roads, the A-86 being the farthest out, altho I don't think it's finished all the way around yet. But since you'll be (probably) driving either the A1 or the A4, tell them you want a pickup somewhere close to an RER station in the north, north-east, east quadrant. Then you'll be past all the traffic and on your way! Noisy Le Grand is an eastern "suburb" of Paris that's very close to the A4 and the A3, which will take you to the A1, and on the RER line that goes to Disneyworld from the center of Paris (Line A4)....you can start with that. Check out the Paris subway/RER (commuter rail) maps at http://www.ratp.fr/ParisVisite/Eng/Pla_q/f_pla.htm to get an idea as to some station names (which are usually associated with geographical places, like towns or villages), then check mapblast or mapquest to spot some other likely areas.
Ottawa, Canada Tue 03/08/2005
Best Paris Pickup Location
Can anyone suggest the most efficient place to pick up a rental car in the Paris area as we exit our stay there? Our hotel is near the Eiffel Tower and we'll be leaving Paris on a Saturday in May and traveling towards either Belgium or Germany. I do not want to spend a lot of time getting out of Paris. Thanks.
Birmingham, al USA Tue 03/08/2005
ONE WAY FEES FLORENCE TO NICE
David ~~~call autoeurope.com at the toll free number---888 223 5555 and ask.
DALLAS, USA Mon 03/07/2005
RENT IN ITALY RETURN IN SWITZERLAND
Henry~~~~call the rental agency, using the toll free 800 number and ask the drop charge in Zurich. ~~~don?t guess.~~~~ You can then compare the cost of the train to the car. ~~~I agree with the post below that driving takes your eyes off the scenery and the train allows you to enjoy it. And the cost may not matter to you.
DALLAS, USA Mon 03/07/2005
rent in Italy, return in Swizerland
Henry....it's been my experience that crossing a national border to return a car is always more expensive. Picking up in Lugano and dropping off in Zurich will likely cost more, but less so than bringing a car from Venice. If you're taking a train to Lugano, why not look for a daylight train run through to zurich? That way, you can concentrate on the magnificent scenery, instead of the highway. There's at least one overnight train from Venice, and several daytime trains that would get you into Lugano throughout the afternoon....then onto Zurich,where you could pick up the car for day trips.
Ottawa, Canada Mon 03/07/2005
rent in Italy, return in Swizerland
Anyone have any experience of renting a car in Venice and returning it at Zurich. Or is it better to take a train to Lugano and rent the car and return at Zurich?
pleasant hill, ca USA Sun 03/06/2005
Finding that hotel
Seriously consider (Just do it) hiring a taxi to guide you to that hotel if it's "downtown" in a large city. We wasted a ton of time and were totally stressed until we remembered Rick's advice. Nice accommodations, but doubt we would have ever found them on our own.
Talent, OR USA Fri 03/04/2005
Make sure you check "bill in pounds" for National Car Rental in the UK!
On a recent business trip, the total rental invoice was 89 pounds, however, I had neglected to check a box to bill in the local currency. As a "courtesy", they will automatically charge your credit card in your home currency (never even knew this was possible!) Problem is, that "courtesy" uses a ridiculous exchange rate - $2.52 dollars per pound (when, at the time, going rate was around $1.90). I called and complained. They apologized and were very nice, but it took them 10 weeks to finally issue me a refund for the overcharge. Other than the charging situation, the rental car was fine and I had no problems driving on the left hand side.
Asheville, NC USA Thu 03/03/2005
One Way Fees - Florence to Nice
I am planning a trip that way also. My research tells me that it is much cheaper to p/u and return a rental car within the same country even if it involves two different cities. Nice is not that far from the border of Italy. Could you do your drive and then make your way back into Italy to return the car? Maybe to Genoa? You could then train back to Nice, I think there is also a bus between Nice and Genoa. This may save you the one way fees.
Bham, Al USA Thu 03/03/2005
One Way Fees - Florence to Nice
Auto Europe's website has a page concerning one-way rentals. It says it will give you a quote before you pay....so I guess you can always cancel it, if the fee seems too high. It depends on where you drop it off. Dropping it in a big city usually will cost less, but crossing a border may increase the fee. See http://www.autoeurope.com/
Ottawa, Canada Wed 03/02/2005
One Way Fees - Florence to Nice
A friend and I will be travelling through Europe this summer. We found a great rate on a 3 day rental on AutoEurope through STA Travel. We would like to drive from Florence to Nice since it looks to be a beautiful drive, have the car in Nice and return it before we leave. The site says that the price includes all fees except any one way fees that may apply. Does anyone have an idea of what those fees may entail?
Philadelphia, PA USA Wed 03/02/2005
Rental Car Advice - Italy
Rented from them in Britain, Germany, and Canada...never any problems. They give an excellent on-line explanation of any and all additional charges. Sometimes I think it's the attitude of the local manager, rather than the company, that can cause problems. Try to avoid driving in the larger urban centers like Rome....they're crazy...and parking is tough to find. And European sub-compacts, like the Daewoo Matiz, are VERY small.....for the two of you, that shouldn't be a problem, though. And remember, most cars in Europe are standard transmission.
Ottawa, Canada Tue 03/01/2005
ITALY AND INTL DRIVERS LICENSE
Jim read this page: www.slowtrav.com/italy/driving.Sounds like you need the IDL.
NYC, USA Tue 03/01/2005
To To Rob re driving Paris to Normandy
Made almost this same trip last year, except from CDG rather than Orly. Roads around Paris are as congested and complex as around any big city, so make sure you have good maps. West of Paris you can either take the Autoroutes (with A-designations) - they're toll roads, fast (130 km/hr), much like turnpikes here - or you can go more leisurely on the "national" roads (N-roads) and see more of the country up close and personal. Depending on where you're headed, I'd allow around 4 hours by autoroute or 6 by the national roads including a stop or two. Eventually you'll end up on departmental (D-) roads which are rural and narrow. Regardless, remember that most rental cars have manual transmissions. IMHO if you're not fluent in stick shift, Paris is NOT the place to start learning. Also I posted some more general observations earlier - see "Driving ? la fran?aise" below.
King of Prussia, PA USA Thu 02/24/2005
Know before you go car rentel tips
Do not rent your car in Switzerland as you are severly restricted on where you can drive it to (not Prague etc.)Drivers over 70 may have real trouble renting a car. Ask before you go and get it in writing.Small is better - parking is tight and roads can be narrow.Roads in Europe are well posted and well maintained. Don't worry!
San Diego, CA USA Thu 02/24/2005
BEWARE RENTING FROM AVIS
I have copied this report from "Driving Europe Crazy" section of the Graffiti Wall for all those who ask questions about renting a car.~~~~ I feel it is worth applying when you reserve a car.~~~~?Beware of renting from Avis. Our nominally $119 one-day rental at the Frankfurt airport wound up costing us $327.~~~~ The rental agreement was in German, and the Avis clerks pretended not to speak English, so we didn't know their hidden charges.~~~~ Without even checking how much gas was left, they charged us $82 for not having refilled the gas tank completely.~~~~ The itemized charges did not add up to the bottom line, which was inexplicably $45 higher than the items actually added up to.~~~~ Avis was completely unresponsive to our protests. I will never rent from Avis again.....John Boykin?~~~~~I have have read similar accounts in the past two months. Auto rental is getting riskier by the day. Knowing what I know now I will request the agent write on the contract that there will be no additional charges. I remember 10 renters recently who have had to pay charges to their credit cards which the rental agency will not remove.
DALLAS, USA Mon 02/21/2005
Beware renting from Avis
Beware of renting from Avis. Our nominally $119 one-day rental at the Frankfurt airport wound up costing us $327. The rental agreement was in German, and the Avis clerks pretended not to speak English, so we didn't know their hidden charges. Without even checking how much gas was left, they charged us $82 for not having refilled the gas tank completely. The itemized charges did not add up to the bottom line, which was inexplicably $45 higher than the items actually added up to. Avis was completely unresponsive to our protests. I will never rent from Avis again.
Belmont, ca USA Sat 02/19/2005
Bath to London via the Cotswolds
Rick's advice about flying into London and immediately decompressing in Bath is such a great idea. We were zonked by 7pm that night and it would have been a waste in London. It was pretty easy to go through Heathrow and find the coach station. But on the way back, rather than taking the coach we arranged to rent a car from Budget in Bath and drop it off in London at Heathrow. Booking from the US, it only cost about $50 with unlimited mileage. And it allowed us to take a drive up to Stow and Chipping Camden and Oxford.
It was so worth it! The driving took a little getting used to (manual transmission using my right hand, and those darn roundabouts!), but the scenery was so beautiful. It was January when we were there, so there were not very many tourists. Mostly Londoners out for the weekend, or locals.
One thing to note: the suburbs of Bath are much further out than you'd expect. The car rental agencies are all out there, a few miles away from the historic center. Our gracious hosts at the Holly Villa B&B charged us 3 or 5 pounds to drive us over in the morning. Otherwise, you'll have to take a cab.
Don't miss the Cotswolds!
Los Angeles, CA USA Thu 02/17/2005
Poland to Prague
My family and I are traveling from Krakow Poland to Budapest, Vienna, and Prague & hitting a # of stops along the way. Any driving tips? Ways of avoiding the drop off fee? Thanks!
sammamish, wa USA Wed 02/16/2005
HOW BIG A CAR
Dennis...go to the Hertz or Avis webpage and you will find a page showing the number of passengers and luggage each size car will accommodate. A lot will depend on how many bags your friends take. I have found that restricting the number of bags is a MUST when you rent a car.
DETROIT, USA Wed 02/16/2005
RENTING CAR IN GERMANY
You will find Germany the cheapest country to rent cars in; I always fly into Frankfurt. You can save a lot by taking the car at an off-airport station. I too have rented from Sixt with great success and no problems.
DALLAS, USA Wed 02/16/2005
How big a car?
Four of us are renting a car a driving from London through York to Edinburgh and back in April. We think driving is a better bet than 4 rail passes. We are attending a professional meeting in London before this trek, so we are not packing as light as we might otherwise. How big a car do we need?
Rochester, MN USA Wed 02/16/2005
Paris-Orly Airport Traffic
What type of traffic should I expect between Paris Orly aiport and the Normandy coast?
USA Wed 02/16/2005
Munich the best place to rent in Europe
For the best rental rates, and a great place to start and finish your Holiday to Europe try Munich. You can be in Austria in 2 hours and Italy in 3 hours! I always use Sixt car rentals online booking. One note: There is now a 19 percent extra service charge for picking up at Airports or Train Stations, so head into town and avoid this extra cost.
Victoria, BC Can Fri 02/11/2005
I am a travel agent and musician who tours Europe a couple of times a year. When approaching a circle, where you're unsure of your exit, we always assign someone to look for the sign. If it's easy we take it, if we miss it we go around twice. It's much better than slamming on the breaks and jerking the wheel at the last minute and doeasn't cost us any time.
Austin, tx USA Tue 02/08/2005
I have recently done 6100km on the roads of Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France. Boy oh boy. The Italian roundabouts are the worst with half a million signs directing you to various hotels, motels, attractions, towns and god knows what. The easiest to drive are the roads of Switzerland with 2 or 3 signs straight to the point (the name of the city or town). And if you miss your turn there is often another roundabout a few hundred metres away.
The best value for money is leasing rather than renting a car. The French government has a fantastic program (details at: http://www.citroeneurolease.com.au) where you can lease a tax free Peugeot, Renault or Citroen for a fraction of the cost of renting. If you pick up or return the car in France there are no extra charges, elswhere it is usually $230.00 Aussie Dollars (US $173.00) each way. If you book your car early enough (before April) you will get 50% off delivery and return and an extra 7 free days. My Peugeot 206 1.4L cost me only Australian $1228.00 (US $923.00) for 34 days, all up. We had to replace the windscreen in Verona and pay from our own pocket at that time but a cheque for the equivalent arrived a month after we returned from Europe. No hassles whatsoever.
This leasing should be available all over the world but should you have any problems, I'm sure most Australian travel agents will be more than happy to assist you.
Sydney, NSW Australia Fri 01/21/2005
Driving in the Basque Region (Spain)
We had an unbelievable time trying to navigate the streets of San Sebastian and Bilbao, Spain. The Spanish street signs are barely visible and if you miss your turn, forget finding your way back. I highly recommend you get a good map of the region (and possibly a city map as well) before you even attempt it.
My other advice is not to drive into town during a rain storm and/or night. Better yet, park your car at the French border and get a cab! When we asked several locals for directions they said that they didn't know how to tell us to get there - they don't drive and they always take the regional busses. Maybe I'll try that next time.
Atlanta, GA USA Mon 01/17/2005
Don't rent from Avis in Inverness
Beware of renting from Avis at Inverness Airport in Scotland.
I rented a car from Avis and returned it before my 7AM flight by parking it in the Avis section of the car park and returning the keys to the (unmanned) Avis counter as required.
Several weeks later I was informed that upon later inspection by Avis staff, the car had a flat tyre - which Avis considers to be vehicle damage and that I was liable for the cost of replacement.
The care was undamaged when I returned it, but because Avis does not provide staff during some of the hours of airport operation, I am stuck with the cost of replacing a tyre.
London, UK Tue 01/11/2005
Cheap and easy car rental in Germany
Budget have changed their pricing in Germany a year ago. There are now only two rates available ?39 a day incl. insurance and taxes for cars up to Jetta size and ?59 a day for cars from Passat size all the way up to Phaeton or alikes. They don't guarantee the kind of car you're gonne get so for ?39 you may be lucky and get a Jetta or Golf or might end up with something like a Geo Metro. www.budget.de
Frankfurt am Main, GER Fri 01/07/2005
France- Just returned from Paris and almost 2000 km of driving in France. Remember stay to the right EXCEPT for passing. First an idea to avoid the 25 euro airport charge and Paris traffic it may be worthwhile to pick up your car at a rental location other than CDG, only problem is paying the RER / train fare to get to rental location. Second, MAPPY was an incredible source of information for maps, driving times, tolls, and a ton of other information. Third, it was quite a hassel trying to find the parking garage / office for Hertz at Gare de Lyon. Confirm with rental car company exactly where they are because for us the address and the location/ entrance to rental car garage return were 2 different streets.
San Jose, CA USA Fri 01/07/2005