Driving Europe Crazy: 2007
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.
- Please don't post questions here. Use our Travelers Helpline.
With or without a car, it is a good idea to have a cell phone. It is very helpful when we cannot locate a hotel, lost with directions to a place, or have an appt. and we are running late. ex- We had to return our leased car and we almost ran out of gas. the company told us to return the car with an empty tank. We got lost with the directions given by the car leasing company to the Barajas Madrid Airport to either take the A9 or A9B exit. They told us to take A9, also the sign indicated that there was gas available, but it was "closed." We had to call the car leasing company for help and the cell phone came in handy.
san francisco, ca USA Sun 12/23/2007
Driving in southwest Ireland
My fiancé & I drove extensively through Counties Kerry & Cork last spring and had no problems. Even so, I will throw my two cents out there.
We rented through the Budget office in Killarney, and the salesman was very friendly. When we arrived, he wasn't there, but after we called a number, he quickly showed up when he learned we were waiting. When our rental time was up, we drove back to his office and took the option to drop off the car at Cork airport (we wanted to see Mizen Head along the way). He asked us how it was and we told him how much we enjoyed driving. He then had a horrified look on his face when he realized I had driven the car, and apparently my fiancé was the only one who was supposed to drive. He told us if we got in an accident while I was driving, our insurance would not cover it and we would have to pay for damages ourselves. Thankfully, nothing happened but we will consider that in the future.
Driving on the left is not as daunting as it seems. I recommend starting out in a secluded, flat area to familiarize yourself with driving UK/Ireland style. I first took the wheel in on a drizzly mountain road and it was scary at first, but you quickly acclimate once you realize you're not going to drive off a cliff. Drive with confidence. The biggest challenge was making turns onto another street--to remember turning into the left lane. After a couple times turning onto the wrong side, we always muttered "left left left left" whenever we turned, and that helped immensely. The one thing I never got used to was looking over my left shoulder when changing lanes or going backwards, but it was never a problem.
Beware of the unimproved roads in the countryside…it rains a lot in Ireland and we saw a lot of hidden mudholes that could have put us in a bad situation. On Valentia Island, we tried to go down a dirt and gravel road, but the further we went, the worse off it looked, so we turned around before we got stuck. For the most part the tourist roads were easily navigable, but parts of the mountain roads are falling apart and a lot of the backwoods roads are one gravel lane. Go very slow around the corners; there are a lot of big tour busses and trucks that would easily flatten you. That brings me to another point, two lane roads are rare in the rural areas, and you will be stuck behind Sunday drivers often. The roads aren't very passer-friendly, so you will need to be patient and wait for a long stretch of flat road. Or you can always pull off for a minute—chances are there is a great view. The Dingle peninsula is absolutely breathtaking.
Upon returning the car to Cork airport, they took the car, no questions asked, no car check at all. In hindsight, that was not a smart idea, but we never got a mystery charge for damage or fuel consumption. After reading all these horror stories, perhaps we were fortunate, but everyone we dealt with in Ireland was very friendly and seemed innocent. When we filled up at a gas station in southern Kerry, I handed my credit card to the clerk and he gave me a blank stare. At first I thought he didn't accept credit cards, but then he asked me in a thick Irish accent "well how much was it?" He was so trusting that he was asking me how much I owed him! I had to run back outside and check the pump to pay him. Overall, we highly recommend driving in Ireland and we have great memories of touring the country at our own pace. We even framed the travel map with our routes in bold, and put Kerry & Cork decals on our own cars.
The Commonwealth, VA USA Wed 12/19/2007
Driving in France
This October, we rented a car and drove over 1200 km (800mi) in France.
Here are some tips we learned 1) we rented a car to be picked up in Versailles. That avoided driving within Paris. It was easy to get out of and back into Versailles.
2) The French drive almost like we do in the US. But do look out for cars coming from the right, they usually have right of way.
3) Except on freeways, forget about direction signs with the highway number. Instead find the next town on your map and look for a direction sign. Oh, and make sure that you look closely at the name on the sign. We were headed for Arles late in the evening. We didn't discover that we had misread the signs until we got to Ales, 40 km in the wrong direction.
4) French drivers are surprisingly non-aggressive for the most part.
5) "parking libre" doesn't mean "free parking" it means "self parking"
6) parking meters will sell you a 24 hour ticket. Look for the "resident" choice on the screen. Ask someone if you aren't sure.
6) In many towns the streets are very narrow so its better to pack along the boulevard and walk the streets. I dinged the rental car in Arles' narrow streets.
7) Look into cars parked on the street to see what locals leave visible. The leave nothing but trash! Hide everything in the trunk. Buy a "pacsafe" to to lock your bags in.
Placerville, CA USA Wed 12/19/2007
Driving in Europe
We spent three weeks driving 1700 miles in Europe (Sweden, Germany, France, Belgium and Holland) in September, and had no problems-other than getting lost alot! Next time, we will take a portable GPS. Driving is a great way to get around in Europe, particularly the out-of-way places. Some general observations: Road manners-Europeans are not as agressive as US drivers-however, stay out of the left lane unless you are keeping up with traffic! France-the Autoroute is a toll road-45 Euros from Burgundy to Paris. Autoroutes are free and excellent in Germany, Belgium, and Holland. Expect to drive faster than in the US, 60-90 miles per hour. In Germany, we averaged about 90, ocassionally hitting 110. Gas-close to the equivalent of $8 per gallon, slightly lower in Germany and France. Read the pump labels carefully-the diesel pumps look nearly identical to the gas pumps. Amsterdam-metered street parking is 36 Euros per day, and the meters will not take anything but coins or Dutch credit cards. You'll need lots of 2 Euro coins! Paris-don't park on the street unless you are driving a beater. You won't see many nice cars parked on the street in Paris-they are all in the underground garages, which are generally both safe and well lit. Cost is 28 Euros per 24 hours. Burgundy-we absolutely loved Burgundy. Few tourists, and we were there right during harvest. We stayed at wonderful places in Burgundy, never more than 90 Euros per night. Some of the smaller wine growers have a few bottles out on the street-you take a bottle and put the money in a box. Paris-wonderful city, but be on the lookout for beggars, some very aggressive. A common scam: beggar walks in front of you, and pretends to "find" a gold ring on the ground(it's actually a brass plumbing bit, I now have one) and then immediately puts it in your hands as "a gift for you". Now they want 10 Euros for the "gift", and won't take no for an answer. We saw this one dozens of times. Another one: "excuse me, do you speak English?" You'll soon find that they have a child in the hospital, etc. Parisians are used to avioding them, so should you. Amsterdam-we rented a houseboat on the Amstel for five nights-the same one featured on Samantha Brown's show. It was over 100 feet long, and there was just the two of us. We could have easily had 6-8 people. Highly recommended! This was our first time in Amsterdam, and it's now our favorite city in Europe. Biggest surprise: travelling in Europe was not nearly as expensive as we had thouht it would be. We usually paid between 60 and 80 Euros per night, including breakfast. Restaurants are no higher than in the US, even with the weak dollar. Savings tip-we bought an inexpensive cooler at the beginning of the trip, and shopped at supermarkets for snacks, bottled water, picnic items, etc. Prices are similar to US. Fast food joints are expensive and full of tourists. For the same money, you can eat a great meal in an outdoor cafe. Another surprise-sitting in a square in Paris, and spotting all the people with Steve's book!
Portland, OR USA Fri 12/14/2007
Driving into Florence
Reaching your hotel by car in Florence is very difficult if not impossible. Our GPS didn't help and we finally parked the car and took a cab. At breakfast we found out others had the same problem. One American couple simply stopped the car, hailed a cab and followed the cab to the hotel. This would of saved us a lot of time and stress if we had thought of it.
Norman, OK USA Sun 12/09/2007
navigating in Italy by car
After five days in Rome, we rented a car and drove to Salerno,Abruzzi, Ancona,Venice, Tuscany and back to Rome. We did not have a gps device until Tuscany. That is an absolute necessity. We love tomtom
payson , az USA Fri 11/16/2007
Roundabouts in general
Yes,the Hemel Magic roundabout is still in business. As a professional driver in that area from before it was installed, I can only say that it was a vast improvement on what went before. To re-iterate what has gone before, use indicators as much as possible - everyone else will work around you. However,in France, although things are changing, there are still many, many roundabouts where traffic on the roundabout HAS to give way to anyone entering!! These roundabouts are distinguished by the lack of a 'Cedez le passage' sign on the approach to it.
Willcox, AZ USA Wed 11/07/2007
Can't find a link now, but I think most studies indicate that roundabouts are safer than lights and that the accidents that occur in the former tend to be less serious than those at light controlled junctions.
Another thing in favor of roundabouts is that they tend to distribute traffic more evenly than lights, which often end up "bunching" traffic moving in particular directions.
San Francisco, CA USA Thu 10/25/2007
Re: Roundabouts - don't glue to the left lane
I found that most of the things Chris Jones had to say about roundabout travel to be correct. The use of your signals is VERY important. Not only in roundabouts but EVERYWHERE at all times (the "friendly" use of your horn and headlights on one lane country roads is helpful as well). In some of the bigger intersections/cities (Galway, Cork, etc.) we found there ARE arrows on the road indicating that you need to stay in the lane you're in. And for goodness sake, do not stop in the roundabout. They are a pretty efficient traffic control device until this happens. As far as for staying in the left lane goes however, we took our cues from the locals and how they approached navigating the roundabouts. We followed plenty of locals, in big cities and small, that hugged the left lane till they exited at the 2nd and even 3rd outlet. We didn't observe any, um; "hand gestures" or any of the like from folks waiting to enter the roundabout so we figured this is ok to do. Perhaps we got it all wrong. Perhaps the etiquette or even laws in other parts of Ireland or other countries is different. I certainly didn't mean to put anybody in danger. I'm just passing on my own observations/experiences in regards to driving in Ireland. Cheers!
Morro Bay, CA USA Fri 10/19/2007
Driving in Spain
Roundabouts drove me nuts! They're everywhere! I cannot see how anyone believes they are safer, and they are adding them here now! As for Insurance, I contracted with my American Express Card - at $24.95 per auto rental - for a pretty good policy covering theft ($100,000), Liability (1,000,000) and other coverages. There are some countries it doesn't cover: Italy (no surprise there) Ireland, (surprise there) and a few others.
St. Paul, MN USA Fri 10/19/2007
My final word on Roundabouts - honest
Sorry for the huge post earlier - got carried away. Roundabouts are very efficient at keeping traffic moving, and probably no more dangerous than traffic lights (which people are rather prone to jump now in the UK, if there is no "red-light camera" to catch them). But there ARE frequets bumps at them, caused by (1) Running into the driver in front when she starts to move off then changes her mind (2) Pulling out too optimistically, and misjudging the speed of the oncoming driver (3) Moving into the left lane too early, so that the bloke entering ahead of you thinks you are turning off and pulls out in front of you (4) Leaving the roundabout from the inside lane assuming that the bloke on your left (in the outside lane) is leaving too, when actually he is carrying on round.
Try to use the correct lane (ie don't circle the outside lane making everyone else avoid you) if you can. But if you look around you, and use your indicators, you'll be OK even if you do get a bit confused !
Sheffield, Yorks UK Fri 10/19/2007
Roundabouts - don't glue to the left lane
Other posts suggest "keep to the left until your navigator tells you to turn off".
This is not good advice except on mini-roundabouts where there is only one lane.
It is potentially dangerous on large roundabouts - and VERY dangerous where the exit roads have more than one lane.
The left-hand (outside) lane of a roundabout is for traffic leaving at the next exit. If you stay in this lane when you are not leaving, you are blocking traffic trying to move across to leave. Worse, by being in that lane you are signalling to other drivers that you are turning off - when you don't, you will be catching them by surprise and could cause an accident - particularly when drivers waiting to enter the roundabout ahead of you assume that you are leaving and pull out in front of you.
It's worse on "dual carriageways", where the exit roads have two lanes. Some drivers in the lane to your RIGHT will be turning off, so if you continue around the roundabout, you will cut across them, and could well be T-boned.
There is help ! Most large roundabouts now have arrows to show where you can go from the lane you are in. You MUST obey these arrows or (only if you are sure it is safe) change lanes positively and correctly.
If at any time you find you are in the wrong lane, USE YOUR INDICATORS, and look around very carefully before changing lanes. Do not just STOP: drivers on roundabouts have to look right and left and over their shoulders: when they turn their head back to the front they will be extremely startled to find a stationary car there !
If you are not sure what to do, follow the car in front of you, even if that means leaving the roundabout where you did not intend to; or going round again (changing lanes as appropriate)!
Be careful when entering a roundabout - pause until you KNOW it is safe, then move positively forwards. If you start to accelerate out but then change your mind, you will almost certainly be hit from behind, because once the driver behind sees you move off, they will forget about you. They wil turn their attention to the right to look for their own chance to enter the roundabout, and will still be looking right when they move off and hit your stationary rear bumper...
In nearly all these cases (except when you ignore road markings) you would have a case for arguing that it was the other driver's fault for running into you. But do you want to have an accident and play the blame game - or just get on with your holiday safely?
If, for instance, there are three entrance lanes and no road arrows (or lanes marked on the signpost) use L for first exit, Middle for straight on, R for last exit.
Stay in the correct lane as you join the roundabout - move with the circle, otherwise you will cut across other drivers entering the roundabout to the left or right.
Gradually move to the left as you get further and further around the roundabout - only enter the left lane when past last set of the cars waiting to join the roundabout (ie from the road before your exit).
Key tip: Always use your indicators to signal your intentions. RGHT = carrying on round. LEFT = turning off.
When you have mastered this - go to Hemel Hemsptead and try their version of the magic roundabout (Swindon's pales in comparison). In effect it is a mini circular dual carriagway with little roundabouts where the approach roads join it ! The best part of it is that cars go BOTH ways round the central bit.
I knew it years ago - and it seemed like a death trap (worked well until ONE driver from out of town hit it). Perhaps they have removed it ... ?
Sheffield, Yorks USA Wed 10/17/2007
Definition of CDW
I think there may be some confusion over terms here. I may be being pedantic, but it's imporant to know what you are paying for...
At least in the UK, CDW is usually included in the rate you are quoted. I have just been comparing rates on UK web sites and I haven't found one that doesn't.
Great - so no charge if my car is damaged, then ? "Collision Damage Waiver" sounds like they are waiving all damage costs if you have an accident, doesn't it ?
Well, NO. CDW is just the name for an insurance policy. And like most insurance policies, it comes with an Excess (the amount you pay if you have to claim on it).
A CDW excess can be as much as £600 on a non-premium car. So if the car comes back with £3000 damage, the CDW pays for everything EXCEPT £500. That comes out of the credit card you presented to the hire company.
The insurance they try to sell you at the desk, therefore, may NOT be CDW. You may be already paying for that in the quoted rate.
This "extra" insurance in often called "Damage Excess Waiver" (I think one company calls it "Supercover"). This insurance is to insure your excess. So in the case above, the CDW covers £2500 and the DEW covers the final £500. Thankfully, there is no excess on the DEW, so you don't have to take out another policy to cover that.....
It's this top-up insurance that is so expensive. I went to hire a care last Christmas at a specially cheap rate of £15 per day "all inclusive", and found that the DEW wasn't included and would cost me another £12 per day !.
I now have my own DEW insurance (about £40 per year), so from now on the "All Inclusive" price will cover everytign I need....
...."Oh, hang on a minute sir, you also need to pay an Airport Charge and a one-way hire charge. What? Yes, I know you put "Airport" and "Home" in the origin and destination boxes on the web form before the website quoted you the Fully-Inclusive Price. It's just that our in-house meaning for Fully-Inclusive is slightly difeerent from most people's."
Key point - just because you have CDW doesn't mean that a scratched windsceen won't cost you a packet !
Sheffield, Yorks England Wed 10/17/2007
Renting and Driving in Barcelona
By the way, if you are returning a rental car in Barcelona there is a gas station right at the airport!
OTOH we found driving near Barcelona, even getting in and out of the airport, to be a huge hassle, because the freeways are confusing and poorly signed. You would actually have to be out of your mind to drive in the city itself.
If you are going to the Costa Brava or Girona, seriously consider taking transit and renting the car there.
San Francisco Bay Area, CA USA Thu 10/11/2007
Ha! That's a good one. I suppose next will be brake insurance, wiper insurance, and steering wheel insurance!
Richmond, VA USA Tue 10/09/2007
I don't usually name names, but this one is important: I was in Malaga, Spain last week and had rented a car from Advantage Rent a Car. I was never informed by them, however, that there was no Advantage Rent a Car in Malaga, and that they contract with another company in Spain, AURIGA CROWN CAR HIRE, so I had no idea who to go to for my car. It took an hour and a half and one very helpful Avis agent who didn't care that I was not his customer – he helped anyway. Here's the kicker: When I got to Auriga, they informed me that I was REQUIRED to prepay 50 Euro for gas, pick up full drop off empty. I have rented cars all over the world and while this service is available at most as an option, I have never had one REQUIRE this. Just as a note: after I had driven the car to near empty, I put in 15 Euro of fuel and it took the tank to well over half. That requires a fuel prepayment of more than double the fuel capacity of the vehicle. In addition I was told I could purchase an optional insurance policy for 20 Euro for "clutch insurance". If the clutch went out while I had it, I would be responsible for repairing the vehicle. Next time, it's Avis...
St. Paul, MN USA Mon 10/08/2007
Driving in Italy (notably Sicily)
We just returned from three terrific weeks in Italy. We did most of our travel within the country via train, but rented cars on a few occasions for side trips. A few things we found out:
* Some cities don't allow non-residents to drive in certain parts of the city. This is true in Siena, where police supposedly keep a photographic record of incoming traffic. Fortunately, if you're staying in a hotel or B&B in Siena, your host can contact the police and let them know, so that you don't get a ticket if happened to get lost and wind up somewhere you shouldn't be.
* If you're driving a rental car to the Palermo airport, the nearest gas stations are a 20+ minute round trip from the rental office building. They're certainly not visible from the airport, and it's not easy to find stations on some of the highways in the area either. If you drive into the rental return area with only a quarter tank of gas and limited time before you you have to check in for your flight, be prepared to be charged a lot of money!
* I got into a situation in Agrigento that my husband dubbed "combat driving", and it really wasn't as bad as we thought it would be. People will cut you off and poke their cars into any available paved area to be the first ones in line to the next light. However, it doesn't appear to be done in anger; local drivers seem more matter-of-fact than deliberately aggressive when they pull off these expert cut-off maneuvers. (If you've ever driven in Boston, you're at least halfway there.)
Rochester, NY USA Thu 10/04/2007
Practical driving tips for Ireland
In the last year, my wife and I have vacationed in Ireland twice and have spent a total of 5 weeks driving all over the North, West, and South of Ireland. From Co. Donegal, to Co. Mayo, Galway, Kerry, Killarney, Wexford, etc. Boy, do I have some tips for you.
When you pick up your car from the Airport, BEFORE YOU EVER LEAVE THE PARKING SPACE OR EVEN START THE CAR, familiarize yourself with where the headlights are as well as the wipers (you'll need them and you don't want to try to find them when your picking your way down a narrow country road). "Go through the gears" a number of times to get used to shifting with your left hand.
Out of Shannon you'll get your first opportunity to experience a roundabout. If you yield for oncoming traffic, keep in the left lane, and have your navigator tell you which outlet to take, you'll have very little problem. Once you're on the road, you'll get used to going in a straight line pretty quick. The roads leading away from Shannon are alot like here in the States. Dual Carriageways they call them. Nice. If you're going north you'll be happy to know that, as of May '07, the detour around Ennis is complete. If your going South through Limerick, you better take your sense of humor, cause the pedestrians will be moving faster than you. This might be something to keep in mind if you're departing from the Shannon Airport when your Holiday is over.
Something I did that helped me figure out the "outer dimensions" of my vehicle was, with no other traffic around, run over the bumps on either side of the road.
Oddly, one of the most confusing things to me was, trying to remember which side of the road to be on when pulling out of a parking lot or driveway. The best advice I got regarding this came from a local in Ardara, Co. Donegal. "Make long rights and short lefts". After that, I was a lot better.
When you get down to day to day driving, they do it a little different there. In town it's a cooperative type of affair. There'll be times when parked cars have choked the lane down to just a single lane. We believe the etiquette to be: If you get there first, you have the right away and so does everybody behind you. If you get there at the same time as the oncoming traffic, whoever's lane is the least obstructed has the right away. If you get to the bottleneck after traffic is on the way through, stop short enough to give them the room they'll need to get by.
In towns and cities, the street signs are often on the sides of buildings about 15 to 20 feet up.
In the country, don't feel obliged to go the speed limit. We heard from plenty of locals that felt most of the limits were too high. Go as fast as you feel safe and pull over often. Most of the time you'll get a friendly wave from the person you let by. The most frightening thing you'll probably encounter is a lorry (semi truck) coming the opposite way on a narrow road. Just tap the brakes, slow down a bit, and stay in your lane. Generally they stay in theirs.
I loved my, "The Complete Road Atlas of Ireland" by Ordnance Survey Ireland. It's just like a Thomas Guide and shows, I swear, even the smallest country roads.
Finally, get used to the idea that you WILL get lost, you WILL miss the turn, and you'll probably have to ask a local for direction to your B&B. But all this is taking place in Ireland. Relax. When you get to where you're going head on down to the pub and have a pint of stout. Slainte!
Morro Bay, CA USA Wed 10/03/2007
Chris in Vancouver is right . . .
I've driven many thousands of KM in Europe over the past eight years, and in my experience "Chris in Vancouver" is clearly right (and a few others who object may be blinded by an increasingly scary version of American patriotism):
(1) In terms of freeway driving, Europeans are far superior to Americans. Driving in Europe (especially France) is generally a pleasure (and the roads are better as well). By comparison, when driving between the Bay Area and Tahoe, we see a much higher percentage of (a) reckless bozos (usually in huge SUVs) and (b) other totally oblivious folks polking along in the "fast" lane with scores of others lined up behind.
(2) And Chris is right about another thing, too: Don't start out speaking English -- that's just rude. Show some respect by at least starting with a phrase from the local language -- it's not difficult.
San Anselmo, CA USA Sun 09/30/2007
Driving in Europe
After several wonderful driving trips in Europe I have two suggestions: 1. Invest in a portable GPS with European maps. 2. Pay the additional rental fees for the second driver. With two drivers no one has to drive tired and everyone gets to enjoy the scenery.
San Diego, CA USA Wed 09/26/2007
Car Rentals in France
My wife and I just returned from a two week trip to France during which we rented a car in Paris and drove our way down to Nice. We had pre-arranged the car rental back in the states through AAA and got a pretty good deal on a Hertz car rental. A couple of facts are worth mentioning for anyone comtemplating a car rental in France.
In hindsight, I would have taken the GPS option when renting our car. We had elected not to get the GPS option since it was more expensive (approx $200 extra) because the smaller Hertz vehicles did not offer this option. If you don't get the GPS, then you definitiely need the Michelin maps.
We initially used a AAA map which was pretty useless when trying to decipher how to get through the various towns and villages throughout France. Once we purchased the Michelin maps, it became much easier to navigate through towns.
The other important fact we learned was to focus on the names of major towns and villages along the route you're travelling instead of trying to find the highway numbers. The highways in some instances have multiple numbers and are difficult to follow.
Outside of that, driving in France was fairly easy and the countryside from the Loire Valley through Dordogne Valley to Provence is incredibly beautiful!
Also, if you're not in a hurry, I recommend staying off the autoroutes and on the small highways. You will see more of the countryside and avoid paying the numerous expensive tolls along the autoroutes.
Finally, be aware that all car rentals in France have license plates that end in the number "60". As a result, potential thieves readily know which cars belong to tourists.
San Diego, CA USA Tue 09/25/2007
Rental cars and GPS
GPS advice in Europe - before you leave the rental car agency make sure the GPS is set to English and that you know how to use it. The agency will be happy to show you. We didn't, couldn't figure how to turn off the sound and had to listen to this woman shout at us in German all over Germany. Fortunately this particular GPS was for Germany only (make sure it's good in all the countries you are traveling) and literally shut down as soon as we crossed the border into Austria. Also, you may enter Florence but the GPS only recognizes Firenze (Italian). Know which language the GPS prefers and learn destination names in that language. Otherwise you may end up in Monaco when you wanted to go to Munich. We always got our GPS gratis with Alamo/National in Germany but if you are traveling a lot in Europe you might be better off to invest in a handheld model and a European memory card. I also understand you can buy maps for your PC/cell phone too for around $100. A GPS is invaluable in Europe.
Waikoloa, Hawaii USA Tue 09/25/2007
Driving through France, Spain & Portugal
We just returned from a seven week trip to France, Spain and Portugal. We used a lease purchase back car from Renault. This was much cheaper than using a regular rental car. It was a Clio 4 cylinder turbo diesel and got better than 50mpg. At roughly $8.00/gal. for diesel, it really helped. We drove just under 5000 miles on the trip. One thing that really helped was using our GPS unit. It saved an unbelievable amount of time and stress and made driving in the big cities a pleasure. We have a Garmin GPS and I purchased the Ver. 9 chip for Europe. We found it to be very accurate even in the little narrow roads in small out of the way villages. With the GPS, you don't even need to find the street signs -just follow the verbal instructions. I do recommend using a good road map in conjunction with the GPS. We used the Michelin maps for each country we visited.
Vancouver, WA USA Sat 09/22/2007
Even knowing the signs are on the buildings, we had a very taxing time driving into any city in Spain. The highways are fabulous, but the cities made me cry. And I wasn't even driving! I had directions, but they were of no use. "Take the second exit, drive through two roundabouts, then take the first exit" would have worked much better than "turn right on Avenue whatever" which is what the ViaMichelin directions told us. Perhaps it is for those who are more adventurous than I!
Stoughton , WI USA Thu 09/20/2007
Driving in France - civilized, but expensive
Just got back from a trip to Aude and Tarn. French drivers are nice and laid back - no tailgaters, blind passers, or crazy speeders - the gendarmerie has a bunch of new radar guns, and they love to use them - you will be ticketed for going only 2 or 3 km over the limit. This makes driving in France a civilized, but expensive, experience compared to anywhere else in the world. On the autoroutes, gasoline (petrol) is over $8/gal, in addition to the expensive tolls. Try to get a diesel (gazoil) car if you can, diesel is much less expensive and you'll get better mileage.
San Francisco, CA USA Thu 09/20/2007
Driving in the UK
I have driven in the UK during all our trips. I think its fun and have had no problems. I love the roundabouts. The A roads are great, a lot of the B roads are narrow but I just slow down and enjoy it.
Ohio USA Tue 09/18/2007
Exercise Caution on Narrow Country UK Roads
We have driven in the UK many, many times. However, in July while driving on a tiny, twisty, narrow one-track road in the country a local guy crashed into us. He was going very fast and totalled our rental car, not to mention the adjacent stone wall! Thankfully we were going slow. Anyway, we were fine - it was just the vehicles that were not.
Thankfully we had the car replaced and were on our way the next day.
Canada Tue 09/18/2007
Driving in Europe
We are currently in Europe loving every minute of it.....well almost every minute. Some of the big city driving can be taxing on your psyche. Navigating around Brussels and Amsterdam can be a little daunting unless you relax and enjoy the experience.
I would definately rent a car next time with GPS as the maps and road signs don't always mean the same thing.
I would also recommend a little road sign studying before driving in Europe. They use more pictures than text as we are accustomed to in the US.
I love the freedom of driving though.
Newberg, Oregon USA Mon 09/17/2007
Driving in the UK
I just spent ten days driving around Britain, touring from Edinburgh to Oxford. (Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, Cotswolds, etc.) I was amazed how narrow the roads are. They are very difficult to drive, especially since the Brits drive on the left, and drive fast, too. I would advise American drivers to expect some difficult situations. An earlier writer mentioned finding the same in his trip to Scotland. Even if one doesn't usually take the CDW, it might make sense in the UK. I may add that I have driven many thousands of miles in France, Germany, etc., so I am not a novice.
USA Fri 09/14/2007
Portugal and Spain driving
This may sound silly to frequent travelers but on my trip last week to Spain and Portugal it took us 2 days to figure out the street names are on the buildings, there are no street signs! We also found some tolls with little explanation, but you have to just put in your credit card, wasn't sure what we were charged but it ended up being around $5-9 each time. We got lost in Seville and decided just to park in a lot and take a cab to the hotel, saved us another 2 hours of driving in circles. Rick's advice to follow city names versus road names was also right on!
Arlington, VA USA Mon 09/10/2007
Worst rental car: EuropCar
PLEASE Read carefully about Terrible story with EuropCar. We picked up car in London, paid 95GBP, drove to mainland Europe. Remote key controller failed in Italy. No toll-free phone to call, but to call London rental agent after paying lots of long distant calls. Eventually lost one day of vacation time in Italy waiting in the hotel for the towing company. Please never rent car from EuropCar again, especially through AutoEurope.Com in US. I have two more terrible incidents from this Company to share with the readers.
Phoenix, AZ USA Fri 09/07/2007
Another terrible experience with EuropCar
We picked up car in London, paying 95 GBP, and drove to Italy and then Vienna. We got a flat tire in the city. The kids were in the car until 3:00am, waiting for the towing company to come, after I spent lots of time making phone calls to Lodon office and was redirected to Paris office. We ended up taking taxi back to hotel and next day took another taxi to car dealer to pick up the car. Of course, the flat tire was not covered by the renal agreement. The EuropCar refused to reimbursement for the taxi, or long distant fee. Please NEVER rent the car from EuropCar again!
Phoenix, AZ USA Fri 09/07/2007
Never rent a car with EuropCar
We picked up first car in London, drove to 8 countries in Mainlain Europe and then returned in London. We picked up second car for the trip starting in UK and CDW thinking that VISA will cover it. The car got a scratch 3 days before returning to London. 2 days later we stopped by car dealer to udnerstand the scratch. The advice from dealer was to fix it within an hour. We called Europcar 24 hour emergency service to get their permission to fix the scratch. When we returned to US asking EuropCar to provide written proof about the permission. EuropCar refused to do so beecause their agent was not supposed to give the permissoin. I ended up with losing $400 because my VISA credit card refued to pay the claim.
Phoenix, AZ USA Fri 09/07/2007
Driving and Car Rental in Ireland
We recently took a trip to Ireland and N. Ireland, and we drove all over both countries. We made a car rental reservation in the US with an Irish rental car company, Atlas, which is affiliated with Thrifty/Dollar. Theirs was the best quote on line, but when we arrived at the rental desk in Dublin airport, lo and behold, the car we had reserved was "not available", so we got roped into renting a BMW for about three times as much. I would not rent from Atlas/Thrifty/Dollar again in Ireland because of the bait and switch experience. We did opt for the maximum insurance (including CDW), and were glad we did once we got on the road. Country roads are narrow, with rock walls on each side and no shoulders. Town roads are also narrow with cars parked on either side leaving about 1.5 lanes for two vehicles. Often this resulted in us stopping until the oncoming traffic had cleared so we didn't risk bumping mirrors, or worse, with parked cars or oncoming vehicles. Speeds in the coutryside are fast, roads are curvy, and the whole experience was quite an adventure (i.e. stressful and yet thrilling). Our mantra became "Keep to the left" when entering and exiting parking lots, and "Move over" when oncoming traffic was in sight. Encountering a big tour bus on a skinny country road was a character-building experience.
Kathy and Blaine
Bellevue, WA USA Fri 09/07/2007
Another Sixt car rental problem.
My wife preceeded me on a trip to Rome. the Sixt car rental car she was given did not even make it out of the airport. They neglected to add water to the radiator and it overheated. The 2nd car refused to start back up after a horrific day of getting lost in Rome trying to find our B&B. Sixt car rental system is poorly linked up with other Sixt agents in Rome. After the 2nd car was towed by their people fron the breakdown location, we were refused a replacement vehicle until the car was found. We wasted precious time dealing with their poor management. Initially we were promised a replacement car but they later renigged. We wound up paying a taxi driver 90 Euro to take us back to our hotel of which Sixt could not garantee us reinbursement. Eventually a 3rd car happened, however, we later learned another Sixt location was very close to our hotel. Unfortunately the location we were dealing with refused to accomodate us with that location. Please, don't deal with this company!!!
West Chicago, IL USA Sun 09/02/2007
Re: Italian Driving Mopeds
I have thirty years experience driving motorcycles in the USA. I have rented a bike in northern Italy and it was fun. We were going to rent motorcycles in Rome and Sorrento during our recent visit. After a few days of observation, we nixed that idea. Italians in Rome and in areas south of Rome, drive like they are mentally unstable. You may also note that the insurance coverage will have a fire damage exclusion. This is because there is some sort of sub-cultural group in Rome that sets parked motorcycles and scooters on fire at night. Even the locals don't know precisely why this is happening.
Springfield, OR USA Sat 09/01/2007
Sixt Car Rental Problems
Rented from Sixt at Fiumicino/Rome Airport for 3 days with a drop-off at Civitavecchia to catch a cruise. Upon arrival, we discovered that the rental station was closed (and apparently had been all day because of a festival)and no facility for a drop-off.Had to return to Fiumicino and requested either to be driven back to Civitavecchia or for them to authorize taxi fare. Neither was approved, but rep.said to submit the taxi fare for "possible" reimbursement. Later, our credit card was billed for an extra day's rental. Upon questioning, Sixt dropped the extra day but would not reimburse the taxi fare. Also, an additional 150 Euros charge appears on the credit billing with no explanation or itemization (still nothing after 4 months and 6 communications). Currently disputing with Sixt and the credit card company Re the charges. I know anyone can have a bad day but this is not what I would expect from a good company. Double check your monthly statements.
Orlando, FL USA Sun 08/26/2007
Single track roads in Scotland
While driving in Scotland this June, I found driving on the left to be only mildly challenging, the most difficult thing one ordinarily encounters being roundabouts on multi-lane roads (which require you to be in the correct lane depending upon which exit to the roundabout you are taking).
However, single track roads that one finds in more remote areas of Scotland are not for the faint of heart, and not something you should attempt without reading about the rules and customs. When you look at a map of the Highlands, you see these roads and think, well, it may be single track, but that means traffic will be light. Well, light traffic or not, the problem is that, on most of these roads, you can't see ahead for any great distance--it's blind summitt, followed by blind curve, followed by blind summitt. It ends up being one continuous game of chicken.
I highly suggest that you read the section at Undiscovered Scotland, http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/usfeatures/singletrack/index.html , and other web sites which cover this topic if you plan to drive in the Highlands.
Wichita Falls, Texas USA Wed 08/15/2007
Europe by Car
Our family took a 3 week trip to France. We rented a Ford Mondeo through Europe by Car. The staff at Europ by car was patient in asking my many questions. Their price was about $300 lower than what the rental companies were quoting.
We picked up our car at National. They had upgraded us to a Citroen station wagon. It had only 14 km on the dial and had a GPS unit built in. (The back end had a retractable cover to pull over the bags.) My younger daughter quickly named the English accented voice "Sharon."
Sharon was a trip saver. She patiently corrected our turning errors by taking us back and around to try again when we missed the freeway leaving Paris. I was impressed that she knew all the tiny streets of each village we entered. Occasionally she would tell us "If possible, do U-turn." She saved us many anxious moments and took us everywhere we asked. She was worth the entire cost of the rental!
Also, despite what Europe by Car claimed, National let us add a second driver for just 2 euros per day.
And so far we have not seen any additional charges. I highly recommend Europe by car and cannot say enough about the wonders of "Sharon".
Bellevue, WA USA Mon 08/13/2007
Car Rental in Ireland
Drove from Dublin to Doolin to Dingle and back. Originally planned to use the CDW insurance with visa card, but didn't work (check closely!). We paid for full insurance, and were so glad we did. Driving on other side of the road than US wasn't a problem, but small roads are. Take the plunge and get full insurance..you'll be glad you did. We were careful, but still had scratches on the side of car when we had to pull close to the side to let another car (or cow!) pass.
Brussels, Belgium Sun 08/12/2007
German Car Rental
Just wanted to let all know that I hd a marvelous experience with Hertz in Frankfurt. I cashed in my Amex points and reserved thru their Redemption Center. We got 3 vouchers for $300 USD each to present in Frankfurt and a free upgrade with a Navigation system. Hertz cashed the vouchers at a decent rate so the car was basically free (Amex included the CDW)
It was painless, there were unlimited miles/KM and it was a Deisel so the fuel costs were .85 euro/liter vs. 1.15 euro per liter. Four adults put 1500 KM on it going from Frankfurt, up the Rhine to the Nahe Valley, back to Wurzburg, down the Romantic Road, Fuessen, Berchtesgaden, Salzburg, Innsbruck and Munich where we dropped it off at Zentrum.
We all voted on the Navigation (GPS) and said it was absolutely indispensible since we didnt get lost even on the back roads from Rosenheim to Munich.
Whippany, NJ USA Sun 08/12/2007
Car Rental in Spain
Kudos to Hertz in Spain and the USA and to MasterCard. I scratched the side of my Hertz rental in a very small garage in Granada. I made a claim on MasterCard. Hertz was helpful in getting the info I needed and I was promptly paid by MC.
Littleton, CO USA Fri 08/10/2007
The CDW we purchased from Alamo in Switzerland cost us $100. We rented a small station wagon since we had 4 adults traveling together and we rented the car for 16 days.
Sunnyvale, CA USA Fri 08/03/2007
The CDW we purchased from Alamo in Switzerland cost us $100. We rented a small station wagon since we had 4 adults traveling together and we rented the car for 16 days.
Sunnyvale, CA USA Fri 08/03/2007
Europcar In France
Just a warning to others renting a car in France - Last year we had a wonderful 3 week trip to Europe; the only down side was renting a car in LeHavre, France through Europecar (through Auto Europe) and returning it in Rennes. To make a year-long story short, we paid for the rental in full before we left home using a credit card company that included rental car insurance.
We ended up being charged again for the rental (the company did reverse the second charge). In LeHavre we were forced to sign for a deposit against damage (up to $400.00). Low and behold when we arrived home this was the amount charged to our credit card for "damage" to the car. We requested that our credit card company not pay the charge, but was told that as policy our credit card company always pays auto rental company charges without question. I have contacted Auto Europe numerous times and they have in turn been in contact with Europcar. What it boils down to is that the charges still stand (and part of the charges are called "part of the rental cost." The same charges a third time.
Before you rent a car in Europe, make sure you check with your credit card company about their policy for paying disputed rental car charges; when you return the car ask for a company employee to drive the car to another parking space and sign a paper saying the car is in working order.
Another caution - be sure to ask if the car has a diesel or gasoline engine. A friend had to replace a whole engine in a rental car because he put gasoline in a diesel engine.
If possible, take the train!
San Francisco, CA USA Thu 08/02/2007
Car Rentals in Switzerland
We rented a car in Switzerland for a couple of weeks and had a great experience. First, we booked through Novacar.com. They absolutely found the cheapest rate and were easy to deal with. The actual rental company ended up being National/Alamo. Secondly, we have never purchased insurance on a car before, but for some reason my husband decided at the counter we needed the insurance. I was grumbling about the extra expense, but it turned out to be a wise purchase. Just after we arrived in Interlaken the skies opened up and it rained like crazy. Then the hail started -- golf ball sized hail. The car's finish was ruined and there were huge dents all over the roof, hood and doors. Fortunately the windows weren't broken, but the car parked next to us wasn't so lucky. When we returned the car in Basel there was no problem. The whole thing was covered. The owner of our hotel told us that cars insured in Switzerland are always insured for hail damage, so it's something to consider. In checking with our policy when we got home, we wouldn't have been so fortunate if we had relied on our local coverage.
Sunnyvale, CA USA Wed 08/01/2007
The problem with CDW
The problem with getting CDW with your European rental car is that is costs more than the car rental itself - we got quotes from AutoEurope and Hertz for a 2 1/2 week rental out of Barcelona. The base rental was about $300 but CDW was nearly $400.
I have a gold mastercard that's supposed to cover CDW in Europe. What with all the horror stories of phony ripoff damage claims, I'd be interested if anyone has used their credit card insurance.
San Francisco, CA USA Wed 08/01/2007
we just returned from two weeks in austria and budapest. we rented through carrentals.com and were very satisfied. $390 american for the two weeks. it afforded us the opportunity to get away from the cities into the lovely towns and villages.
North Providence, RI USA Wed 08/01/2007
Thrifty at CDG in Paris
Just a quick warning to those who rent a car through Thrifty here in the States. Thrifty (at least in Paris) has been taken over by ADA.
The information we received from reserving the car online through Thrifty indicated we would pick up the car at CDG airport where we were flying into. Simple enough, only there is no Thrifty (or ADA) at CDG airport proper. What we eventually figured out (thanks to a very friendly person at the Hertz counter) that we had to take a Hotel shuttle to the Holiday Inn and pick up our car there. Not a big problem, and the renting and driving of the car itself went fine, but a little confusing if you do not know what to do.
Baltimore, MD USA Mon 07/16/2007
Be aware that Europcar in the UK is now asking renters to provide a thumb print when they rent a vehicle, apparently to combat vehicle theft. I declined to provide one on the grounds that my reservation made no indication that this was a condition of renting, and that it was an abuse of my civil rights. Interestingly, they didn't refuse to rent me a vehicle but asked me to fill in my name and reasons for declining on a sheet. Judging from this list, many renters had previously done the exact same thing.
San Francisco, CA USA Thu 07/12/2007
US v European Drivers
Driving in Italy last month once again reminded me of why I prefer to drive in Europe. Yes, Italian drivers are super-aggressive, but they are also very consistent in their (aggressive) driving. I much prefer this to the haphazard driving I see in the US - particularly on freeways, where you almost inevitably see people weaving between lanes and/or chugging along in the left lane oblivious to what is behind them.
San Francisco, CA USA Thu 07/12/2007
Oh BEGGG to differ! American drivers are in no way comparable to European (autobahn) drivers. Yes, the left lane is for faster moving vehicles...not just an extra lane for grampa to use if he feels like it. Even in the USA there are signs for slower traffic to "Keep Right". Although these signs are frequently ignored.
I have learned a lot by driving in Europe. I think we could ALL learn a lot about EVERYTHING from Europeans...especially driving.
USA Wed 07/11/2007
To Chris in Vancouver Canada
" The average American is not trained like the Europeans are. Please stay in the slow lane for the sake of all of us. "
I respectfully disagree. In my opinion Chris, the "average American" is just as good of a driver as any European driver.
As far as "staying in the slow lane for the sake of all" goes, it should be up to the driver to decide.
USA Tue 07/10/2007
Allround Auto in Munich- NOOOOO !!
Just got back from Munich and Salzburg. We rented a van from Allround Rentals in Munich. We found the recommendation in the Germany Austria 2007 guidebook, but it is NOT online. STAY AWAY !! Our Fiat Ducato van had 104,000km, broked back door lock, broken side sliding door, broken side lock, a/c fan did not work except on high, came with 3/4 tank of fuel (they said it was full at that level?) and was FILTHY. We have rented a lot of cars (and have renetd in Europe previously) and have never seen anything like this. Even out B/B hosts in Germany were amazed that we had been rented a vehicle in such poor condition. (Unfortunately I had no other choices at this point and it was this or nothing) An effort to get any type of reduction in price or compensation for the fuel was completely rebuffed, even though they did finally concur with my assessment of the vehicles condition. (although never the reduced fuel amount). My advice, STAY AWAY !! Get a real company or take the train. But do not go near Allround Auto.
Ocala, FL USA Mon 07/09/2007
To chris in Vancouver. Read the latest expedia poll on "the world worst tourists" (gogle that phrase) before you go critizing Americans tourists.
I don't think you are a Canadian - the Canadians I have met are all much more polite than you.
seattle, wa USA Mon 07/09/2007
Big Rental Car Companies
The Best Company to rent a car in Europe would be SIXT because it is very cheap and if you are a Lufthansa Frequent Flier they give you great benefits.
Lawrence, KS USA Tue 07/03/2007
Alamo National Car Rental in Germany
Beware of Alamo National Car Rental in Germany. If you think that you are in good hands with these guys, think again. Don't let that false sense of security fool you that you are dealing with a reliable, reputable American car rental company overseas. I rented a car from National at a major airport in Germany. I returned the car at the same location 3 weeks later without a scratch. Then about a year later, I received a call from a collection agency demanding money for minor scratches and paint damages that I caused to the vehicle I rented from National. I disputed National's damage claim and tried to contact Alamo National in Germany but they never provided me with any proof of the damage, never gave me their telephone number or their address to resolve the dispute. Through my own investigation into this matter I found out that Alamo National specifically target renters who decline their Collision Damage Waiver coverage and use their credit card company's CDW coverage instead. The collection agency working on behalf of Alamo National in Germany placed a collection account on my credit report. After almost a year and a half, the matter remains unresolved and I am still in the process of getting the collection account removed from my credit history which is not easy and very time consuming. I'd almost say it is better to buy Alamo National Car Rental's Collision Damage Waiver coverage and pay these crooks inflated rates for their CDW, if you MUST rent from Alamo National because there is no other alternative, than put yourselves at risk and having to deal with minor damage claims and collection agencies in the future. Personally, I would NEVER recommend Alamo National car rental in Germany to anybody and I'll never do business with Alamo National after what they've done to me. My advice to any American tourist thinking about renting a car from Alamo National in Germany is to stay away, or I should say steer away from these bunch of crooks as far as you can!
USA Mon 07/02/2007
Just based on personal experiences with Hertz both in Europe and in the USA, they are at the BOTTOM of my list of rental facilities. Yes, I know they are one of the big dealers, but I've always had bad experiences with them. Rude behavior, slow slow slow, exhorbitant charges for a scratch. Hertz has taught me well as to what a rental car company should NOT be!
Hertz - ughhhh
Knoxville, USA Sun 07/01/2007
A little more on finding and buying fuel when you rent a car in Europe. My experiences were in France and Italy a month ago.
1. Reserve a diesel car. Diesel is noticeably cheaper than gas and the cars can be more fuel efficient. Just confirm your car is diesel when you pick it up (look inside the gas tank panel). Diesel is "gazoil" in some countries and there may be different grades.
2. Try to fuel up at the "big-box" stores on the outskirts of town (Carrefour, Intermarche, etc.; you'll see the signs). The prices are much cheaper than buying at roadside stations or at freeway rest stops. I paid E1.04 per liter for diesel last month compared to E1.18 on the Autoroute. When you're buying 50 liters, it adds up!
3. As a tradeoff, carry cash for fuel While the Autoroute stations accept American credit cards, many of the shopping center stations can't.
4. Top off during working hours when you can. Off-hours (including Sundays, Monday mornings and midday) the cheaper shopping center stations may not be open.
5. Check that your rental's tank is full when you pick it up. I left Paris having inspected everything in and around the car except the fuel gauge. 15 minutes later I realized the tank was only 3/4 full.
Portland, OR USA Fri 06/29/2007
If # 1 is this bad?? What about the rest?
The suggestion is arrange for transportation in the USA. Hertz USA told me they didn't have a location in Orvieto, italy - They do! The confirmation said you will have a Never Lost navigation unit. They didn't have one. There is no way to complain to Hertz USA as management hides from consumers. But I loved Italy!
Mesa, AZ USA Fri 06/29/2007
Bad Experience with Thrifty in Dublin
On Sunday, May 20, 2007 my wife and I picked up our rental car, a 2005 Hyundai Accent, in Dublin Ireland. On May 23, 2007 we were traveling through Killarney National Park when we parked the rental car and walked to see the Torc Waterfall. Upon returning to the rental car I tried to start the car and noticed the key would not turn in the ignition. I pulled out the key and noticed it was broke. The other half was in my pocket, where the keys were stored during our walk.
I immediately phoned Thrifty in Dublin to explain the situation. After several phones calls to Thrifty Dublin, Thrifty Cork and Thrifty's Administrative Offices in Ireland we were told that a new rental car would have ti be towed to us as they could not get us a replacement key. After a six hour wait a new rental car did arrive and they towed our original rental car to Cork.
When returning the vehicle on Saturday June 2, 2007 in Dublin. The agent informed me that my file was flagged and Thrifty Ireland would be charging me 400-euro ($538.22) to replace the broken key. I told the agent that the charge was inappropriate and explained what had happened. After much deliberation back and forth the agent said that I could wait 1 1/2 hours until a manager came in, but as I had a flight to catch I could not wait. I then requested that he not process the charge until I could speak with a manager via telephone, but he said he had to charge it, and perhaps the manager would reverse the charge after speaking to me.
I did nothing out of the ordinary; the keys were stored safely in my pocket where I have stored my personal keys for 20+ years.
As of this date Thrifty will not even meet us half-way and we are disputing the charge with citibank. It is very difficult to swallow a $538.22 charge for a replacement key when the key was simply in my pocket.
Lockport, NY USA Fri 06/22/2007
Driving in Austria
We just returned a couple of weeks ago from a trip through Germany, Austria, and Italy. We flew into Frankfurt and rented a car through National. They were aware of our travel itinerary. All went well until we drove from Garmish, Germany, to Innsbruck, Austria. As we exited the autobahn, we were pulled over and informed that we did not have a sticker permit on our windshield, and the fine, payable on the spot, was 120 euros. Fortunately we had the cash to pay the fine, but if we had not we were told that everything in our car would be confiscated. In addition, we had to drive to the nearest service station and purchase a temporary sticker for between nine and ten euros, which was good for ten days. We will take responsibility for this oversight, because we went back and reread our AAA booklet and this was mentioned in there, but we didn't really pay attention to that fact when we first read through the book. I do feel that the car rental agency should have been more proactive in pointing this out to us so we would have been prepared. If for some reason we had not purchased the permit, the next fine would have increased more than double, and so on. We were told that this fine was in lieu of tolls on the autobahn, but on our way to Italy we did have a toll of eight euros! In spite of this, we enjoyed our trip through Austria, but it would have been much more fun if we'd had that money to do something enjoyable!
Warner Robins, GA USA Fri 06/22/2007
Car vs. Train
I would definitely suggest a car rental vs. train unless you are VERY good with planning every train ticket far in advance. Our 7 hour train trip from Naples to Venice had no AC and no other plan...we fried for 7 hours in the sun. If you're debating, pick the car.
Augusta, GA USA Wed 06/20/2007
Sixt Car Rental
For cheap and reliable car rentals in Europe, my husband and I always use Sixt. We have rented from Sixt several times over the past five years and have never been disappointed. We have never had any problems with the company or the cars. We just returned from a three week stay on the continent. We used the Sixt Holdiay Car program (price includes all mileage and insurance). As usual, we were very satisfied with the company and car!
San Antonio, Texas USA Sat 06/09/2007
Watch your speed in France!
Beware that France has stepped up enforcement of speed limits. Radar detectors are set up on Autoroutes and national highways.
Compared to what I remember from four years ago, this enforcement has reduced excess speeding considerably.
Unfortunately, I found out how aggresively the Gendarmerie enforces the speed limits personally. Merrily on my way south to Beziers, I was flagged down by a man stepping out from the roadside greenery.
It was a friendly Gendarme, who looked like Tim Conway, and with more English than I had French, explained that I had been clocked going 114 kph where the speed limit is 90. He fined me E45 on the spot and wrote me an elaborate ticket and receipt for my cash payment.
I thought speeding in Italy was also reduced from what I remember in the past but did not chance my own test of that country's enforcement.
Watch your speed...
Portland, OR USA Sat 06/09/2007
I've driven in Europe and the Caribbean a lot with rental cars, and while they're not always the cheapest, I now always go with Hertz if I can.
I've had too many problems with other rental companies (wrong cars, tiny engines with no acceleration, bait-and-switch). Be especially aware of "no-name" companies. Also, many no-name companies don't have a return lot at your departure airport, which adds to your stress, etc. In all fairness, some of those are excellent and give you a lift back to the airport.
If you go on-line before your trip and check Hertz, sometimes (not always) you can find incredible deals on pre-paid vouchers. One time the Hertz lady in London didn't believe the price on the voucher, it was so low.
When renting any car be sure to give it a thorough "walk-around" check before you drive off the lot or garage. I've had bad tires, scrapes, etc. Once, due to a bad tire, I got a wonderful free upgrade from Hertz.
I've found that in Europe Hertz often has specials when you arrive to pick up your car. They're optional, but often make sense. They want to get a car from one place to another, and if you're going their you can get some fabulous deals. I saved over 300 Euros off the reservation price on my last trip PLUS got an upgrade to a nicer car because I was going from Prague to Zurich.
For a European car company, Sixt is pretty good too. But I prefer Hertz. The extra price (usually) is worth it for the peace of mind.
The "vignettes" (highway tax stickers) are NOT included in rental prices, so be sure to give your itinerary to the rental agent so they can advise you based on your car. I had to buy a vignette for Austria on my last trip for about 25 euros (I forget the exact price). It's good for a month, so sometimes you win (from the previous driver) and sometimes you lose.
One of the absolutely BEST things about having a rental car is getting lost. I know this sounds crazy, but we've had some of our best experiences and most memorable moments getting totally lost and finding unexpected and delightful places.
Forget having a rental car in most large cities. Best to either drop it off, or stick it in a garage, depending on how the price works out for you (weekly rentals sometimes mean garaging the car makes sense). Some hotels have arrangements with garages and that can translate to very cheap prices/convenience.
The Hertz "Neverlost" system is great; I got one on a free upgrade once and was converted. Navigation requires a navigator, and can be quite stressful at times, and we all want to have fun.
North Miami, Florid USA Thu 06/07/2007
Cars, roads, and Trains in Italy
We went to Italy and we decided that if it is paved or even just looked like a road, Italians drove on it. They were even driving along the Appain Way. We took a long walk along it and it was nice the first few miles, but then as the walk-way between the road and the walls of ruins, we had to walk in single file line as cars zoomed by. It was a very bad experiance. Also walking in Italy is very effeciant becasue thats what many people do and you almost always are crossing the street in groups. When someone yells "Car" you can just saunter along. But if someone yells "MoPed" you had better get going because they will not stop, as cars usually do. We did get International drivers licsenses but we never used them. To get around, trains were very effeciant and fast. Some were cheaper than others, but they were very comfortable. I reccomend getting a train that is a strait shot to whereever you go, instead of getting of at one station to get on another train. This is too much of a hassle. Trains are also VERY scenic, so you can see all of Italy you arent visiting
Rapid City, SD USA Thu 06/07/2007
SO I do agree on Rick's car and Drive Deals and my top 3 companies would DER, Avis , and maybe Budget.
Lawrence, KS USA Wed 06/06/2007
Train Travel in the UK
This has more to do with train travel- but I'm working on my July trip to the UK, and I am moving between cities via the train system. I tried booking online, but the website www.nationalrail.co.uk which is recommended in the R.S. guide, requires a post code and of course they don't recognize U.S. post codes! I then booked over the phone and just got my $160 phone bill yesterday. If deciding to call, check your international service before you call!
Rockford, MI USA Tue 06/05/2007
Europe By Car rental in Paris
Rick's car rental advice suggests Europe By Car as a reputable company and perhaps they almost always are. However, last June I arrived at the Gare de Lyon EBC office to pick up the rental car I'd reserved and paid for months in advance. They were unimpressed with my prepaid voucher and evidently their reservation computers contained not a scrap of evidence I'd reserved a car. Because I had clearly already paid and could be justified in assuming some type of vehicle should be offered, after much keyboard clicking I was given a "take it or leave it" deal on a smaller car. So I took it, but was not too happy because I had specifically intended to get a bigger car than in previous years. No discount due to the smaller car was offered either. So my advice to others is even though you have a prepaid voucher, it's not a bad idea to check with the rental car company office where you will be picking up your car a day or two before to confirm your car will be ready.
Lake Forest Park, WA USA Mon 06/04/2007
GPS in car rental - YES!
We traveled by car with friends for 2 weeks through small towns and the countryside of Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. Our friends rented the car and got a GPS system, which at the time seemed like an unnecessary option.
It was the BEST decision! There's enough stress driving in an entirely new environment and it eliminated the stress in getting lost.
"Olga" as we named our speaking GPS guide, took us literally door to door in the most obscure places, towns and villages. When we decided to play "happy wanderer", she would re-calculate the route in mid-road. It ran off of CDs for different parts of Europe. Make sure you get the English version and perhaps the instructions in English. We didn't have the instructions, but it was easy enough to figure out.
Another note: when we drove through Austria, just to get to Italy from Germany, we had to buy a road sticker for 30 Euro which was permanently placed on the windshield. Pretty expensive toll. If you are renting a car, you might want to ask if the sticker is included.
West Bend, WI USA Sat 06/02/2007
Navigating in Europe
If your rental car company offers rental of a GPS, it is worth every penny to do so, especially if you have never driven where you are going. It was a God-send when we drove through Italy for the first time and had to find our way to our hotel in the dark! Budget offers these, and they are fantastic.
Williamstown, MA USA Mon 05/07/2007
Bike Riding in Oslo
Want to ride a bike around Oslo. I hear they have bikes for people to use for free, but don't know if that is true. Maybe I'll have to rent one.
Maine, USA Tue 05/01/2007
Driving in the Dolomites
Will be driving from Innsbruck to Bolzano through Brenner Pass on June 3. How's the driving ? How's the weather ? Any snow at that time of year ?
Woodstock, NY USA Fri 04/27/2007
Car rental in Germany
Perhaps Fussen wasn't listed because it's actually spelled Fuessen. I definitely know that you can rent cars in Fuessen on sites such as AutoEurope or Kemwell. We traveling through Switzerland by train and then picking up a rental car just across the German border in Lindau.
USA Thu 04/26/2007
rental to Hungary
If you do take a rental car from Spain to Hungary without getting permission in the rental agreement you face one major problem. If at any time when you are outside of an agreed rental country the car should be damaged, break down, involved in an accident where the police are called, stolen, vandalised or even subject to a speeding ticket, your rental agreement will be null and void. You will not be covered by any insurance and it is highly likely you will find yourself with major legal problems. The chances of driving through France, Italy, Austria and into Hungary and back without getting your documents checked at least once are quite slim. It is illegal to drive without valid insurance.
Nottingham, UK Mon 04/16/2007
Driving the Autobahn
For tips on driving Germany's Autobahn go to http://www.gemut.com/content/view/75/302/
San Francisco, CA USA Mon 04/16/2007
Advice to Americans driving in Europe
When driving on European freeways, especially German autobahns, please stay in the slow lane. Do not drive in the fast lane unless you are going faster than the cars in the right lane.
No passing in the right lane.
Driving fast is much more than pressing the pedal to the metal. The average American is not trained like the Europeans are. Please stay in the slow lane for the sake of all of us.
Also, don't blabber in English to locals without first asking in the local language if they speak English. This happened to me three times in two days in Paris. No wonder the French are annoyed. All other tourists attempt to speak French, except for Americans.
Vancouver, BC Canada Sat 04/14/2007
Slow Roman Moped Sightseeing
I don't think it's possible to rent a Moped, drive slowly while sightseeing, and not have some driver run you off the road. This sounds like a recipe for disaster and maybe even death!!!
USA Fri 04/13/2007
Moped plan caution
Good luck with that Moped plan. In addition to the wild drivers, you will have to contend with theft of your rental moped. I suggest the Roman subway system instead.
Gettysburg, PA USA Mon 04/09/2007
I want to rent a moped in Rome to sight see. I hope there are places for mopeds/slower vehicles to drive out of the rush traffic. I don't want to worry about getting run off the road while I drive by a sight.
New Mexico, USA Thu 04/05/2007
How to not get run off the road.
We spent the summer of '05 road tripping it through Italy, Austria, Switzerland, and France. Our rental car did not go very fast - and as Americans we weren't used to the EU highway speed limits, which were much higher than home in places. We learned that unlike here, where the faster driver is the one who has to pass the slower car, in Italy (and other places, but less so), slow drivers are expected to make way for the speed demons. If you're driving and see someone accelerating fast behind you - as if to run you down - and flashing their brights, it means "move over!" I never found out what happens if you don't comply.
Maine USA Wed 04/04/2007
I am looking into renting a car in Spain and am considering renting from Pepecar.com. I believe it's a local rental agency. Their prices seem to be much lower than autoeurope.com and europcar.com (which other posters have strongly warned against).
Portland, OR USA Tue 04/03/2007
SPREADING NEWSPAPERS IN CAR
I say spreading newspapers around the inside of your rental car is good advice.
The poster below who says locals dont spread newspapers around their cars has not traveled in Italy and Spain where you see lots of messy cars.
I have used that method many times and feel it helps.
MARY ANN W.
NYC, USA Sat 03/31/2007
Worry about luggage theft
Hi Jared - I think there's a misunderstanding of language on this issue. Hatchbacks DO have a secure coverd space for luggage. I've travelled all over Europe in hatchbacks, particularly Spain and Portugal and had no problem whatsoever. One of the major advantages a hatchback has is it's size. If you're unfamiliar with the local roads it is one of my tried and tested mantras *Small cars get you out of big problems*. I'd make a fair guess that there are more hatchbacks on the road than any other type of car. Just put everything into the tailgate compartment, before you park up and you should have no problem.
Nottingham, UK Fri 03/30/2007
Worry about luggage theft
A hatchback has no trunk. They are on the roads in Europe. We are renting one in 3 weeks. No idea on where to hide luggage though.
WA USA Thu 03/29/2007
Worry about luggage theft
Sometimes it's hard to know where to start. Many European cars are hatchbacks, where the luggage compartment is not totally separate from the rest of the body. However, there is usually a cover over the luggage compartment, so you cannot see if there is anything in it. It is therefore just as secure as a trunk, or boot as it is called in UK English. The rear hatch of a hatchback has a lock just the same as the lid of a boot.
A thief cannot tell if there is anything in the boot, so does not try to break it open just in case. Although many hire cars have some sort of identification on them, car thieves in most parts of Europe do not target cars because they think they are being used by American tourists. American tourists are a minority among tourists.
Europeans do not routinely spread local newspapers around the interiors of their cars.
I would advise anyone, tourist or not, to avoid leaving coats or bags in a car where they can be easily seen from outside. Also, do not place luggage in the boot of the car and then walk away from it. Drive your car to another location and then park it without opening the boot. That way, a potential thief will not break into your car because he cannot know that it contains something of value.
Bristol, UK Thu 03/29/2007
worry about luggage theft
I think I have a working knowledge of just about every car on the road in Europe. What kind of a car has no trunk? Even a Smart or the smallest FIAT has some luggage space. Whatever you are renting must be utterly minute and totally unsuited for a journey taking in three countries. Do NOT rent that car !
Nottingham, UK Wed 03/28/2007
worry about luggage theft
We are renting a car this summer, in France, a bit of Italy, and Switz. It will not have a trunk, as most rental cars we've seen online. What do you suggest we do to "hide" our luggage?
editors note: all questions must be posted to Traveler's Helpline
VACAVILLE, CA USA Tue 03/27/2007
AVOIDING CAR THEFT
I have rented cars all over the world and never had a problem with theft. My rules are: I never leave anything in the car on seats or floor. Luggage always in the trunk or out of sight.
I read a suggestion many years ago to buy a local newspaper and spread it around the interior to make it look like a native's car.
Don't leave road maps on the dash. Never make it look like a tourist car. I have also spread empty soda cans or coffee cups around.
Remove anything you can from the car which will identify it as a rental car.
DETROIT, USA Mon 03/26/2007
Car Theft: How to Avoid
A 2007 guidebook on Spain notes that when driving south into Andalusia and the Costa del Sol, and especially in Seville, Cordoba and Granada, that it's not unusual for a car to be broken into while tourists are enjoying lunch in a restaurant.
We will take all the regular precautions, i.e. no valuables in the car, our packs out of site in the trunk.
But how else can we minimize the hassle factor of someone breaking into our trunk and taking our back pack of cloths?
What have others renting a car done? What has been your experience with this in June - July?
I certainly do not want to be having to watch the car every time we stop in a small town to walk around, eat, etc.
New England, USA Tue 03/20/2007
Buying a motorcycle in Italy
If you buy a motorcycle you have to register yourself as the owner, this requires that you have a permanent address in Italy. Without a permanent address ( a hotel is not usually accepted ) it is also difficult to get insurance. Most dealers can show you a way around this but you will find that you can only sell the bike back to them and there is a huge gap between the buying and selling price. It may be worthwhile investigating a long rental it will certainly cost less on insurance as most policies are for one year and you won't be eligible for any 'no-claims' discount. Your international drivers licence is valid for a rental or purchase in Italy.
Nottingham, UK Tue 03/20/2007
Re: Austrian border crossing
Ashley, it is just for highway driving, but this includes pretty much the entire stretch of the main highway from Feldkirch to Innsbruck and beyond. The roads around Reutte don't require it. There is a convenience store just across the border into Austria in case you want to buy it. And a full-fledged gas station/store/restaurnt a little beyond that. BTW, is I remember correctly, gas is slightly cheaper in Austria than it is in Germany, so fill up your tank there.
WI USA Sun 03/18/2007
BUYING A MOTORCYCLE IN ITALY
Amy: Be sure you check with the country you buy the bike in because there may be restrictions in what you can do with it when you leave.
When I bought a car and planned to ship it from London, I learned that England had a restriction that when you acquire a car you could not sell it, but had to ship it out.
USA Sat 03/17/2007
Buying a motorcycle in Italy
My boyfriend and I will be travelling in Europe for two months and we are thinking of purchasing a motorcycle for the duration and selling it when we leave. We are having trouble understanding what we will need to do this, like an international license or insurance or dealerships where we can buy one, etc. Has anyone ever done this or have any suggestions?
seattle, WA USA Sat 03/17/2007
Austrian Border Crossing
My mom and sister and I are planning on renting a car for our time in Germany this summer. I have read that a window decal is needed for driving in Austria. Would we need to buy one for just crossing the border to go to Ruette- or is the decal just for highway driving?
Johnston City, IL USA Fri 03/16/2007
Driving in Southern Italy
Hi Diane - yes it can seem really crazy, but the Italians know what they are doing. Just drive at a speed that you find normal and the Italian drivers will go past you at their own pace. Strange as it may seem, it works.
Nottingham, UK Mon 03/12/2007
driving in Southern Italy
We are planning a two week vacation in Southern Italy in September. Is the driving really crazy leaving Rome and going toward the Amalfi Coast? We are also heading toward the Puglia region. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Yorba Linda, Ca USA Sun 03/11/2007
My Road Trip List
Bring up-to-date maps, camping equipemnt, extra warm coats and blankets if traveling to the Alps, first aid kit, water proof bags for storage and a way to store your food from the bears. They love tourist food! Happy motoring!
Rhode Island, USA Thu 03/08/2007
I have first cousins in Belgium. They plan to furnish us with a camping van to use for continental travel. Any advice?
editor's note; ALL questions must be posted to Traveler's Helpline
Pahoa, Hawaii USA Thu 03/08/2007
Driving in Galicia, Spain
In late February I drove from Porto, Portugal to Santiago de Compostela, via Barcelos (planned) and Vigo (unplanned). I had a Citroen C3 (VW Golf sized) with 1.1 liter engine which I rented from Hertz. It also had a digital speedometer and digital fuel gauge (eight bars to indicate fuel level). It even had a multifunction display which was controlled by pressing a button, on the windshield wiper lever, to the right of the steering wheel. Good thing on the left side of the steering wheel was the fog light controls for both front and rear lights.
I didn't need my international driver's permit to rent either in Portugal or Spain. Just my passport and my USA license was just fine.
The tolls in Portugal were straightforward. At the entry to the Autoestrada (controlled access tollway), or at the beginning at the toll area, drivers must take a ticket, and surrender it upon exiting the toll area. Changing from one Autoestrada to another does not require payment of a new toll until actually exiting the system altogether. Some places even accept credit cards (preferably debit cards) although cash is preferred. The toll booth operators give receipts for toll payments.
Be careful when crossing from Portugal to Spain, if you go in the direction of Santiago de Compostela. Taking the Autovia (non-toll freeway) will end up in Vigo, so you will have to drive through town until you find the Autopista (tollway). Direction signs are often confusing on the Spanish side.
From Vigo to Santiago, toll booths can occur at the most illogical places. One side of the tollway can have toll booths where the other side may not. The tolls are not disclosed in Galicia as they are in Andalucia, until the driver gets to the toll booth. At least the toll booths in Spain clearly state which credit cards can be used for payment.
Santiago is not a great place to drive. Best to find a parking lot and leave the car behind. Luckily I was able to find a garage close to the cathedral, called San Clemente near the police station. The warning signs were in Galician, similar to Portuguese, rather than the Castilian Spanish.
Getting out of Santiago was a real challenge. The way out signs on the streets were not very clear, especially to the Autopista. I had to go back the way I came. It took me some time to get to the road that went to Vigo and Tui, because the onramps are sometimes combined regardless of direction, and if you are not in the correct lane, this will take time to turn around.
In my opinion, the high point of driving in Galicia, is that gasoline costs less than in Portugal, with EUR 0.97 per liter for unleaded in Spain, as compared with EUR 1.23 per liter in Portugal. Paying by credit card without a PIN number, will require identification (passport, US driver license etc).
Because of the rain, there were overhead lighted warning signs to tell drivers to slow down. The Castillian word for rain is "Lluvia" but the Galician word is "Choiva" similar to the Portuguese "Chuva". In Galicia, they alternate between Castilian and Galician.
Overall the road quality in Portugal was observed to be slightly better than in Galicia.
Driving in Galicia was not too bad, considering the weather. I might do this again sometime during the Spring or early Autumn before the rains come in.
Frisco, TX, 75035 USA Sat 03/03/2007
ride my harley in europe
i am a harley woman and am happy to know i can travel europe on my machine. nice to know i can meet other harley people for happy travels. :) bye.
wyoming, USA Fri 03/02/2007
Traveling by motorcycle in Europe
Erik, I have toured Europe twice on motorcycle. If you are going for a short trip consider renting from the Harley Owners Group. For a longer trip you can fly your bike from Canada with motorcycle express. Check out the Horizons unlimited website. It has lots of info about international travel on motorcycle. Email me if you have specific questions.
Trinidad, Ca USA Thu 03/01/2007
Car rental Nice
I spoke to autoeurope.com today and they stated that additional insurance would cost an additional 10 Euros a day, which would include a 300 euro deductable. I had read that there was an insurance that covered even the deductable. Does anyone know if there is a super duper insurance that covers everything in car rental? The CSR at autoeurope.com was very helpful and advised that I take a camera and take pictures of the car at pick-up and drop-off. I just want to make sure that I have no surprises when I get home. I thought I had read it here but I can't find it anymore. I have never rented a car in Europe and am a little apprehensive.
La Verne, CA USA Mon 02/26/2007
Car Rental Options
I'm using Auto Europe for a 2-week rental in France. The car is booked through Europe Car. When I wanted to upgrade to an automatic transmission, the rate was a lot higher, so I checked around on the internet and found a really good rate with www.wheelsabroad.com. I called Auto Europe, which checked to see that the rate was valid, submitted it to their "beat-rate desk", and ended up matching it. I like to use Auto Europe because when I was a travel agent, I booked them all the time. They are great to deal with, offer competitive rates, and are very reliable. Plus, they offer a nice perk: free cell phone for the first week, including the activation fee. I'm getting a phone for a 3+ week trip for $22 (plus call charges, which are clearly outlined, and mailing charges.
Westbrook, ME USA Mon 02/26/2007
car rental advice
I just booked a car for Nice through AutoEurope for 1 week. They are a US based auto rental broker. I have read about them on Fodor's website. Paid with AMX (for insurance). Covered for driving in Italy also. Shop around for the best rate and check customer satisfaction on this and other travel sites.
MD USA Mon 02/26/2007
Car rental in Nice
Use any of the major car rental companies. Just remember to take out full insurance cover. That way if someone goes into your car while you are parked and drives off without leaving details - you're covered.
As for Smart cars. They are great if you're only carrying a small amount of luggage. More than 20k in total and it's going to be rather a tight fit. They have good engines. They are easy to park. They can make small gaps in traffic. The one overall fact about a Smart is that they are small. If you are tall or wide or both they can be uncomfortable on long drives.
Nottingham, UK Mon 02/26/2007
Thrifty in France
Rented a car through Thrifty at Charles De Gaulle in Paris. Great deal on a Diesel Volkswagen Golf. Drove to Waterloo and back. Cheaper then the TGV and got a chance to visit Northern France. Great deal through Thrifty. Very please with service and price.
Webster Groves, MO USA Sun 02/25/2007
Car rental in Nice
What car rental company should I use while in Nice? Has anyone driven a Smart car? Are they confortable? My boyfriend and I would like to rent one.
La Verne, CA USA Sat 02/24/2007
Car rental for Ludwig's castle
My family of 4 is planning a trip to Germany, Austria and Switzerland this June. We would like to rent a car for touring Austria(Hallstat) and the romantic road area in Germany. What is the closest rental car location to pick up or drop off a car near Neuschwanstein Castle- i.e Fussen? Any other suggestions on renting a car for this 3 to 4 day portion of our trip would be appreciated.
Boulder, CO USA Fri 02/23/2007
Regarding Dan Dooley car hire
I have rented from Dan Dooley as well. I did opt to get the Super CDW and all insurances. I did so because the Irish (God love 'em) do try whatever they can to get as much money out of you as possible and their cars are 3 years old with a ton of scratches and dings in them. I wasnt going to be responsible for anyone else's marks on the car and to list all the dings wouldve taken about 3 hours. ALWAYS, always while in Ireland get the max insurance you can. You are quite correct Visa and Mastercard do NOT cover you while in Northern Ireland and Ireland so it's best to just keep yourself covered. Im sorry you found out the hard way!
AZ USA Tue 02/20/2007
Don't become the next victim of National Alamo Car Rental's false minor damage scams
Do not rent from National Alamo Car Rental (aka Vanguard) anywhere in Europe or the US. National Alamo pull their damage scams on unsuspecting people everywhere. This is one bad company to avoid completely. If you choose to fight their fraudulent charges they'll turn you over to a collection agency! The net is full of complaints against National Alamo Car Rental. Here is how they do it:
"CDW and other questionable acts, a consulting company has been hired by Alamo to teach agreesive sales tactics When we would turn cars back for auction we would file a claim for damages for the LAST PERSON THAT RENTED THE CAR as a damage claim even when we had no proof it was them on the claim. Management forced us to make damage claims against persons in about 90% of renters that never caused any damage to a vehicle so that we would get the claim to fix the minor damage so that we could sell the car at a higher rate at auction. All points of management is aware of this practice which should be fraud on Alamo's part.
Bottom line. Just avoid Alamo and National because more than likely you are going to be stuck with a bill that will never really be resolved.
Sam - Raleigh, North Carolina U.S.A. "
You can read more about here
USA Sun 02/18/2007
MOTORCYCLE TOUR OF EUROPE
Hi Erik. In my spare time I restore old British Motorcycles ( Currently running a BSA B33 and a Royal Enfield Meteor Minor ). I would strongly argue that the very best way to see Europe is on two wheels. Either ship your Harley over or negotiate a rental in Europe, put gas in the tank, buy a map and go. Small village hostels can be great experiences. I was once in Malta riding a Norton Navigator and met an old chap who took me to his garage and proudly showed me an aging Triumph 5TA. He insisted I stay the night and I'm very glad I did - we had a wonderful, but very drunken, evening. I've had more instant hospitality from the old biker fraternity in Europe than I can ever recount here. One of the biggest advantages is that it's very cheap to take a bike onto a Mediteranian ferry so you can have access to most of the Mediteranean islands. Two wheels lets you see an awful lot of Europe that most tourists never see.
Nottingham, UK Mon 02/12/2007
MOTORCYCLE TOUR OF EUROPE
Erik: Take a look at this book in your public library.
It deals with bicycle tours, but they would be ideal for the independent motorcycler to use in planning trips in Europe.
It's "Cycle Europe... 20 Tours, 20 Countries" by Jerry Soverninsky.
TX USA Sun 02/11/2007
Anyone ever done a motorcycle tour of Europe?
Anyone here ever done a motorcycle tour of Europe (or countries therein)? I'm a Harley rider, and I'd like to drive one around over there. Any tips, gotchas, experiences along those lines?
Thanks in advance!
Portland, OR USA Sat 02/10/2007
Car rental in Italy
AutoEurope in Italy was GREAT! Pick up in Rome drop off in Milan....met the best bid price of a competitor. Friendly service and NO LINES IN ROME or MILAN.
Kennewick, WA USA Thu 02/08/2007
>We just booked airfare from mid april >to mid may roundtrip to Munich. We >were thinking Munich-Prague-Krakow->Budepest-Vienna-Bavaria- and back to >Munich for our return trip. It seems >a car rental might be >cheaper/faster/funner, than Trains. >Any advice on renting/driving in this >region.
Cheaper - if you have several people then renting a car is probably cheaper.
Faster - possibly, unless you get stuck in some of those massive traffic jams around major cities.
Funner - please let all of us know how much "fun" you had parking that car in Munich-Prague-Krakow-Budepest-Vienna-Bavaria (hahahaha). Also, gasoline is a tad bit more expensive in Europe.
For me, the train is THE way to go.
USA Wed 02/07/2007
Central Europe CAR vs. RAIL???
We just booked airfare from mid april to mid may roundtrip to Munich. We were thinking Munich-Prague-Krakow-Budepest-Vienna-Bavaria- and back to Munich for our return trip. It seems a car rental might be cheaper/faster/funner, than Trains. Any advice on renting/driving in this region. Thanks
Tacoma, WA USA Tue 02/06/2007
I am starting to prepare for a European trip for my wife and myself this coming Aug/Sept. We will be gone 7 weeks and are planning on visiting Belgium, Netherlands, France, Spain, Portugual and ????? When we travel, we find it works best for us to have a car. We've rented a car during three trips to Turkey, a trip to the UK and an earlier trip in Europe in 1998. In checking on a car rental for this trip, I have found where I can get a short term car lease that is actually better than using a rental car company. A company that I am looking at is: http://www.ideamerge.com/leasing/order2_2.html If anyone is planning to have a car longer than 17 days, this is definitely worth checking. The price includes full insurance with no deductible and you can drive to just about any country in Europe. Extra drivers are allowed with no extra charge. The company I'm thnking about using allows you to pick-up in one city and drop off in another (in France) with no extra charge. If you pick-up or drop off in any country besides France, there is an extra charge. My cost for a small diesel engine car will be just over $1700. for 44 days. My only extra cost will be fuel. This kind of lease plan is only available to citizens on non EU countries.
Vancouver, WA USA Tue 02/06/2007
Hidden fees and huge charges with Dan Dooley
We rented from Dan Dooley b/c it initally looked like a better deal. However, at the airport I was irritated b/c they sprung on us another insurance fee I didn't expect. Their website represented "Fully Inclusive Rates" but in person, we had to pay more or opt to take a EU1000 deductible. Since we had never had an accident, and I was feeling cheap, we opted for the higher deductible. Bad move! We scratched the car and despite getting a much lower estimate from a repair place, they charged us the whole amount (over $1200)! We even contested it with the credit card company and asked for proof that the repair cost as much as they charged, but since we signed something, Wells Fargo nor Dan Dooley didn't give an inch. Another irritating fact was DD didn't detail how much the repair was -- they just charged us essentially the US$1200. So do yourself the favor 1) expect extra fees once you're in country 2) buy the insurance (Visa Platinum rental coverage doesn't work in Ireland) so you don't get slammed for the massive bill at the end and 3) beware of this Dan Dooley tactic!
Saint Paul, MN USA Mon 02/05/2007
You can pick up an L sticker at most filling stations when you buy gas. Be aware that it's not exactly legal but it's not *that* illegal either. The only problem is that you are declaring yourself as a learner driver and as such should always have an adult passenger sat beside you who holds a full licence. If the police see you driving on your own you run the risk of being pulled over. Putting an L plate on a hire car could possibly violate your car insurance with the hire company - that is a very unlikely thing but be aware it is just possible.
Nottingham, UK Tue 01/30/2007
Where can I get an "L" sticker? Is it good for all of Europe? A great idea for tourists who aren't familiar with the way of driving there.
Arizona, USA Sun 01/28/2007
When I was driving on the left hand side of the road in Ireland, I was very slow and deliberate with my turns and other functions. I bought an "L" sticker (for Learners) for the front and back window so that local drivers might give me a break. I kept on with my very cautious driving, & did not get any hand signals or nasty looks for the entire two weeks
Hudsonville, MI USA Sat 01/27/2007
More Driving in Europe tips
Go to http://driving.drive-alive.co.uk to get information about driving in Europe. You need a vignette (sticker) to drive on the super highways in Austria and Switzerland. If you take the backroads you are OK but most people are going to need it. Big fines for not having one. You can get them at the border service stations. Look for the signs saying "Vignette". Italy and Austria require an orange vest if you are involve in a breakdown. If you rent the car in a country that doesn't have this rule you probably won't get a vest with your car (You always get the red triangle that you must put out). Buy one at the border service stations and keep it for your next trip. All of Europe will soon be requiring them. And, keep your car lights on day and night. It's a new rule in Italy, Austria and some eastern European countries. And always, always wear your seatbelts.
Waikoloa, Hawaii USA Fri 01/26/2007
Surface travel in Europe
Here is what I do when I want to rent a car in Europe. First, I never rent a car in Italy if I can avoid it. The car is too little (think sardine cans), too much (the mandatory insurance doubles the price) and they invaribly try to hook you for gas etc after you leave. Also some credit card companies insurance coverage won't cover you in Italy so check that before you go. Second, I go to AutoEurope.com and find a car that suits me and make the reservation. Then two weeks before the trip, I call around to other agencies. If I find one for less I call AutoEurope to cancel. When I tell them why they will match the price (or go lower). Third, even if I am going to Italy I fly into Germany (Munich) and rent from there. It is usually cheaper to fly to Germany than Italy, the cars are bigger (I've driven a lot in Italy and don't have a problem with a larger car)and cheaper, the drive down through the Alps is one of the most beautiful in the world. I spend the night in Garmisch which helps with the jet lag. Sure it's an extra day to and from but the drive is worth it. You may wonder why you would want to leave Bavaria and the Tirol at all. If you are flying into one country and leaving from another the drop off fee is murderous. Most all the agencies let you drop off anywhere in the country you rented the car for free. Each agency has a border office which services both countries. You drop off at these agencies and pick up in the same office. So if you are going from Frankfurt, Germany to Paris, France you can pick up in Germany and drop/pick up in Strasbourg, France for example. Then leave it in Paris for no extra charge. Next, no matter where you rent a car, check the tires. I have had three trips in Europe in the last two years where the tires literally came apart. Seems people rent cars to switch the tires. You could be stuck with the cost of new tires. We had to replace two in Italy but the Germany agency credited my bill. The second time it happened with an Italian agency who made us pay. If you get a nail, have it fixed before you return it or they will charge you an outrageous sum of money for the "damage". Driving in Europe is fun except for the big cities. I've been lucky to get cars (at no extra cost) with GPS in them. If you get one, get it switched to English before you leave and learn how to use it. It is invaluable. Get a hotel outside in a small town on the rail line into town. Not only will the hotels be cheaper, the parking free, but the joy of being able to consume all the beer you want at the Hof Brau Haus is priceless.
Waikoloa, Hi USA Thu 01/25/2007
We rented 2 cars from EuropCar last year and had no problems.
Also, you should have insisted on a receipt when you returned the car stating a full tank of gas and no damage. You should also have retained your has purchase...sorry, but that's just basic rental car knowledge.
USA Thu 01/25/2007
Really Don't Use Europcar!
We used Europcar for a one day rental in Rome. After we returned the car and returned home, we were charged $175 extra for excessive mileage and to fill the gas tank. We only drove to Hadrian's Villa/Tivoli/Catacombs, not even close to the 225 kms+ they claim we drove. We filled up with gas less than 5 minutes from the car rental office. The guy in the office said he was too busy to inspect the car and that everything would be fine. A fine lesson it was! We're trying to get our money back but it seems like a painful lesson at this point. Be aware! Make sure to photograph your odometer and gas level or insist that the attendant examine the car with you. Don't let a long day or a hungry stomach deter you from taking the time to make sure everything is really ok!
Seattle, WA USA Wed 01/24/2007
PRICELINE...NAME YOUR OWN PRICE
I have recently bid on autos in 3 cities on a 3 week trip. Before I bid on them I read the advice from other travelers listed on the web pages shown below:
www.biddingfortravel.com , www.betterbidding.com and www.betterbidding.com .
Once you read how to bid, you will know how to do it in confidence.
Before bidding I researched rental rates published on the we by major agencies.
Then I bid 50% of the average rental rate on each car and raised my bid $2 a day on the second bid and got cars for about $20 a day.
When you raise your bid do it in small increments and bid on economy cars only because most agencies have to upgrade you free because they never have enough of that size car.
USA Sun 01/21/2007
Kate-Car Rental Company
We used gemut.com for our car rental in 2004 and will use them again this year. Their rates for picking up and dropping the car in Germany are very good. I don't know how their rates would be for Italy but if you go to their website at gemut.com you can check it out. You can Call the 800 number and talk with them personally if you wish. In 2004 we were overcharged by Europcar and I called Mr. Bestor at Gemut and acting on my behalf he got the overcharge credited back to my credit card. If you have any issues with the rental company, call or e mail Gemut and they will contact the rental company and save you the hassle. Due to the volume of business they bring to the different car rental companies they have more negotiating leverage than we as individuals do. They also quote rates in US dollars.
Mansfield, GA USA Sun 01/21/2007
JoEllen: The roads around the fjords are good. Not wide or fast, but adequate.
I would not suggest a bicycle because of the inclines you will face.
Take a look at a map and determine how many miles you plan to travel. If you start in Oslo and visit the fjords and then back to Oslo I would not suggest you attempt it on a bike.
USA Sat 01/20/2007
NEVER USE EUROPCAR
what ever you do...don't use Europcar. We recently flew into Vienna and then drove all the way down to Dubrovnik. We used Europcar because it was recommneded by Rick Steves and others. We are still the midst of a dispute over a $600 damage fee assessed to us that isn't ours. We were also chared another day randomly and trying to interact with folks in Vienna is a nightmare. We will most likely end up having to pay the fee since we have been unsuccessful at this point in arguing our case. DON'T USE EUROPCAR!!!!
Seattle , WA USA Sat 01/20/2007
Would like to rent a car to drive to the fjords in Norway. Are the roads good to drive there, or is a bicycle better? Thank you!
California, USA Fri 01/19/2007
Charter A Plane For Europe
My previous post was written with a humerous slant. In Europe a chartered aircraft cannot divert from the agreed route to go sight seeing. Permission to divert in the post 9/11 world of aviation is not given lightly. You give details of your course and you stick to it, any pilot deviating to satisfy his passenger's curiosity would almost certainly have his licence suspended. As for the cost being around a couple of hundred bucks. I'm sorry, I work for an airline and I know what it costs us to charter jets to get passengers even short distances like Edinburgh to Glasgow. The cost to a private individual would be much closer to a couple of thousand bucks when all taxes and surcharges etc. have been paid, and that's on a short hop from EDI to GLA. Any further and your costs start to really hit the roof. It was a silly post and I can't believe anyone would take is seriously.
Nottingham, UK Fri 01/19/2007
Charter A Plane For Europe
Apparently he can afford it. I believe he acknowledged that it was much more expensive but if you can afford it, do it. He doesn't say that he is chartering a Leer Jet. Although he doesn't say that he's not, I would imagine that you could charter a small 172 or something for a few hundred dollars, depending on distance. You have each ridiculed someone for being able to travel and not worry about cost. The difference between a rental car and a charter flight to him may be the same as the taxi versus the bus is to you.
San Antonio, TX USA Thu 01/18/2007
Italian car rental
Can anyone recommend a good/ reliable car rental company to use in Italy? We have a large group going and will need to rent a minivan or something bigger. Thanks!
CA USA Thu 01/18/2007
CHARTER A PLANE FOR EUROPE
This seems like good sense. While you're at it, why bother to drive your hire car. There's an old reprobate living in Nottingham who will be only to happy to chauffeur you around for a mere thousand dollars a day, plus expenses. :-)
Nottingham, UK Tue 01/09/2007
CHARTER A PLANE FOR EUROPE
For those of you who don't know the difference between renting a car and chartering a plane. Think about it.
For the guy who wrote the foolishness below, there is a few hundred THOUSAND dollars difference.
RENO, USA Tue 01/02/2007
CHARTER A PLANE FOR EUROPE
If you decide to charter a plane for your trip to Europe, you will be glad a year from now. You will have forgotten the additional cost and the other negative influences on your trip.
I charter a plane, and although I estimate the cost before I go, I forget about it and enjoy the convenience. And a year later when I read my journal and relive the experience I am glad I didn't let the cost discourage me.
The last time I flew commercial, we came in over Scotland just before dawn at 30,000, and I looked down at all those little lights of the villiages and I wished we could fly lower so I could see what they were like. I wondered why I subjected myself to the monotony of viewing the world from such a high altitude.
Often flight schedules are inconvenient and not low enough to see the interesting sights. By flying on your own charter, you can tell the pilot to stop at the closest airport, where you can rent a helicopter and fly to that interesting rock formation.
Checking luggage is a real drag for me. Now I can just make a couple of trips from the plane to the rental car.
I was doubtful when I chartered my first flight, but now I go everywhere in Europe by charter. After a week of flying low over those villages, I looked back on the arial views we saw–which we would never have seen from a car or train.
Being able to say "land, I want to see this sight or eat here" is worth the inconvenience of sometime finding a place to land.
A lot will depend on your attitude. Approach it as adventure. After you achieve your goal you will be happy.
USA Mon 01/01/2007