Driving Europe Crazy: 2008
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.
Driving in Croatia
Six of us spent 18 days in Croatia. All of the trip was wonderful, except our expereience with the policia. When driving,observe all traffic regulations and watch for the policia. They are everywhere watching for minor infractions. Of the 6 of us, 3 of us received tickets- and none of us had ever received one in the US! One was for driving over a solid white line. The policia in Croatia are not nice! They threatened us with going to jail if we didn't pay a huge fine. At the end, they lowered it to $100 for each of us. Not a pleasant experience for any of us. So beware! I think Croatia makes its money from tourists in cars.
Port Townsend, WA USA Thu 12/11/2008
Dr Jennifer please elaborate on that "mass confusion of tranportation".
Jacksonville, FL USA Tue 12/02/2008
transportation in Italy
Visiting the Amalfi Coast involves a mass confusion of transportation - and you are literally at risk of getting separated from your bags!
My entire visit to the Amalfi area of Italy was made easy and beautiful by using Amalfi Transfer, a driving service. Anthony Buonocore - the driver and owner - transported us from Naples to Amalfi, and all points in between for less than the cost of renting a car on our own. Moreover, his English was great, the car was very clean and pretty, and he was able to point out hidden treasures of the area that I never would have noticed if he hadn't been there to guide me. Thank heavens we used this service also because we never could have maneuvered around the hairpin twists and turns of the Amalfi coastal area ourselves (which the experienced Italian drivers take at break-neck speed). I heartily recommend him to any travelers to the area and would not consider my next trip possible without him. I believe that his website is www.amalfitransfer.com
Dr. Jennifer Bugg
Denver, CO USA Mon 12/01/2008
Rental Cars and Maps
My boyfriend, a friend our ours, and I rented a car for 2 1/2 to do a western European road trip. We started in Frankfrut, Germany and went through Metz, Reims, Paris and Lille in France, then Brussels and Amsterdam, and back to Oberhausen, Berlin and back to Frankfurt in Germany.
As soon as you get your rental car make sure you buy maps for where you are going! We had printed some maps with directions off google maps or mapquest or some website like that and there were errors in the directions, probably because of the different format of some of the European addresses than American ones. Buy some road maps as soon as you can. We had to buy a road map for Germany and France outside Frankfurt when we got lost on the freeways, and then get a map of Belgium and the Netherlands outside Amsterdam because the weren't sold at the first store we went to in Germany. Our lives went a lot smoother after we got the maps!
Also, make sure you check out your rental car thoroughly before you drive off the lot! We had a little Fiat Punto that was in great shape, but the front power windows didn't roll down! At the toll booths we had to open the driver side door or have our friend in the back hand over the money to the attendant. That was a real pain.
Seattle, WA USA Wed 11/26/2008
Amalfi Private Driver/Naples/Sorrento
We used a private driver to take us from Naples airport to Amalfi. Anthony was prompt, less expensive and very charming. He also took us to a very small town for a lovely mountain view dinner on the coast. amalfitransfer.com
Issaquah, wa USA Tue 11/18/2008
Sicily Private Driver
We used Driver in Sicily when our ship docked in the port for Taormina. The owner, Alessandro Caravello arrived early with a clean, well-maintained van. He drove carefully on the winding road to Mt. Etna. He is from Palermo, so seems to be available anywhere in Sicily. I highly recommend him.
Marblehead, MA USA Mon 10/27/2008
i've rented from autoeurope 2 times for italy and once for greece. never a problem.
but...... check the rates on autoeurope.ca (canada). even if you're not canadian they'll still process you. the best part is the 100% no deductible insurance that's been included in all the cars. okay, exerior rear view mirrors are not included...
petersburg, alaska USA Tue 10/21/2008
Driving Tips for Rome
The best driving tip for Rome that I can think of is to "Not do it". Take the train instead.
USA Thu 10/16/2008
I will be renting a car in Rome. I've heard driving there is more aggressive than here in the states. I'm looking for driving tips and guidelines for my trip. Thanks.
MT USA Wed 10/15/2008
We rented a car in Spain and got the optional GPS. It is well worth the extra cash, would never go without it again. I wish I would have had one in Ireland last year.
Bettendorf, IA USA Thu 10/09/2008
Driving in France
We just returned from France. We rented a car in Nice and drove to Arles, Avignon, Carcassonne, Beynac and returned the car near Amboise. We didn't have any trouble except I wanted to share a few things. The car was diesel and the gas pumps for diesel are marked gazole. Also, the pumps would not accept our Mastercard or Visa so we had to always choose a pump that was a non-credit card pump. Oddly, our cards were accepted by the attendant but not by the pump itself. We took many tollroads and here is how they work. When entering a tollroad you arrive at the gates and simply take a ticket from the machine. Be sure to save the ticket. Later when you come to a peage booth you will have to pay. The lanes on the left are marked for credit cards and once again, they would not accept our Mastercard or Visa. So, what we had to do was to always go into the right lanes where there would either be an attendant or the booth would accept cash. The attendants would accept our credit cards. We still don't know why our Mastercard and Visa would not work in the toll booths but they worked everywhere else such as restaurants and hotels. Oh, by the way, the cards did not work for the Nice bus system either.
Portland, OR USA Sun 09/28/2008
Pluses of renting an auto
I just want to add to the car rental pluses. For the first time, we rented a car this past April after spending three days in Munich.
We roughly drove the Romantic Road, stopping in Noerdlingen, Dinkelsbuehl, and Rothenburg. We then meandered over to Nuremburg, stayed three nights, and then drove to Wuerzburg before returning the car at Frankfurt airport and flying home.
Having an auto was SO nice - you can travel and stop at your liesure if you spot something that looks interesting. With the help of a GPS, we went straight to some interesting spots that would have been more difficult using public transportation.
Also, the kind of trip we took would have been difficult to impossible by train, and schlepping luggage on and off trains and finding hotels would not have been fun.
Now, we avoided driving in cities as much as possible, with the exception of Nuremburg, which was a challange in itself. Parking is scarse and expensive.
For cost: we rented a Fiat Bravo diesel, manual transmission. It cost us $250.00 for 6 days. We only put fuel in it once, right outside Frankfurt, and it cost about $85.00. If you consider buying point-to-point rail tickets, taxis, and public transportation, I don't see that renting a car is necessarily an extravagance.
Richmond, VA USA Tue 09/09/2008
KUDOS FOR ENTERPRISE RENTALS AND DIESELS
Just a note to applaud Enterprise Rentals in the UK. Truly a great pick up/delivery door to door. Swansea folks terrific as well as final destination Portsmouth. Be sure to get a diesel. The price is only 4 pence more, but the mileage is superb. We got 48/49 MPG all around Wales and on to Southern England. As I had a confirmed automatic Ford Focus or Vauxhal, they charged me the same rate for the upgraded Mercedes crossover, as they did not have any other automatics. And no problem with check in for scrapes, etc., so common with American drivers in the UK.
Ellen from Seattle
Seattle, WA USA Tue 09/09/2008
Traffic Violations in Piza
Not sure if anyone has posted info about this or not, but I just want to warn people when they driving in Piza. I just received a fine in the mail(In the USA)for going down a street that I wasn't suppose to(A year ago). From what I found on the internet I wasn't the only one. Checkout this link. http://www.blogfromitaly.com/speeding-fines-in-italy/#comments
Cary, NC USA Mon 09/08/2008
Car rental pluses
Yes, gas is $8-$9 a gallon in Europe. But it is still worth renting a car when you are visiting villages and countrysides of France and Germany. Just back drove 2000 miles in 3 weeks and it only cost us $221 per week, 2 sharing excluding Frances toll costs.
USA Fri 08/22/2008
Hi all! Just a warning. While in the UK this time (I go yearly) I rented a car from National in Glasgow. After a two and a half hour wait, I was given a different vehicle. When I got home, I was charged for the second vehicle. After four international phone calls, they refunded the money (they would not respond to ANY emails), but now the person who really had that car got a ticket, and again, National will not respond.
Knoxville, TN USA Fri 08/08/2008
National Warning, part two
PS to the warning below. This is the second time I have had trouble with the Glasgow airport branch. Last time, they tried to force me to upgrade because they didn't have the car I'd reserved (and they were going to make me pay the difference!) I refused and got the upgrade anyway. Customer service is nonexistant!
Knoxville, TN USA Fri 08/08/2008
Car rental experience in France
We just returned from 3 weeks in France. We rented from Hertz through Costco.com and got a very reasonable rate. The car was as advertised (an Opel Meriva), just about the perfect size for 4 people. We picked it up in Marseille, drove 1900 km through the South of France and turned the car in at the Gare de Lyon train station in Paris, saving a return train trip into downtown Paris from one of the airports. For $19.95 we purchased $100,000 in coverage, and other coverages plus LDW, extended personal effects coverage, personal injury through our American Express and waived the CDW. The Hertz counter individuals were very pleasant and helpful. Would definitely rent from Hertz in the future
Palatine, IL USA Fri 08/08/2008
Great Rental Company
Me and my wife drove around Tucany in July. We rented from Kemwel here online. Great Price, 25.99 a day US. We picked up car at EuropeCar. Smooth transaction and easy drop-off at airport.
San Francisco, CA USA Tue 08/05/2008
Transport & Tours in the Veneto
My wife and I travel frequently to Italy. A few years ago we tried Treviso Car Service for a day tour in the Venice Region. Our driver, Andrea Loseto, was raised in Treviso, knew the ins and outs of the region, and spoke great English. Now we use his services whenever we travel to the North. His wife is from Sorrento and can arrange great tours there as well. www.trevisocarservice.com
Los Angeles, CA USA Wed 07/30/2008
To & From the Airport in Rome
I met a young man who worked at a hotel I stayed in who speaks many languages well including English, Pietro, will drive you to the airport for 50 euro (yes it is expensive but worth every cent as he is a great conversationalist and trustworthy and you are in a mercedes) - firstname.lastname@example.org contact: cell - 011.39.328.823.9317
San Rafael, CA USA Tue 07/22/2008
car rental and trains
we drove in france and ireland on our trip these last 2 weeks, renting our car through avis. we were happy with the sub-compact we got in ireland for a great price ($25/day). our complaint with avis here is that the main headquarters assured me that they would provide p/u & drop-off service to/from their remote airport locations and didn't deliver, which cost us a many hours and euros in buses and cabs.
in france, avis was conveniently located at the train station. however, instead of giving us the subcompact we reserved, the gave us "the next size up," which looked fine enough in the picture they pointed to and turned out to be more like a minivan that guzzled diesel at .10 more/liter than gasoline. for 90 euro per day, i expect to get what i reserved, especially since we passed unused subcompacts of theirs in the avis section of the parking garage when we went to get the car.
not for nothing, but why isn't their a thread for the rail system??? that was the WORST of all the planes, trains and automobiles we used to get around europe. i have multiple charges to dispute on my credit card because of the rail system.
oakdale, ny USA Thu 07/10/2008
Regarding Mr. Lakey's post of June 22.
Mr. Lakey, was indeed promised, but did not receive, a GPS with his rental car in Germany last May. Our company, Gemut.com, booked him with Europcar but its agent erred in attempting to charge him for something he had been promised free. Unfortunately, Mr. Lakey did not avail himself of the 24/7 toll-free-from-Europe help line provided by our partner, Auto Europe. Had he done so, a Europcar supervisor at the Frankfurt Airport would have been immediately contacted and the GPS provided without charge. Though after the fact, it was impossible to make Mr. Lakey whole for the inconvenience of not having a GPS, he was refunded an amount equal to the cost of one day of his rental. He was also refunded for a small overcharge based on our U.S. dollar rate guarantee.
As to the upgrade to an SUV from an intermediate sedan, that is a risk renters take with rental car companies. Virtually all rental car bookings specify "xyz vehicle or similar;" the guarantee is by category, not by specific make or model. In this case, Europcar fulfilled its part of the bargain by upgrading Mr. Lakey to a car in a higher category. He does not mention the mileage achieved by the Dodge Nitro he drove, but manufacturer Daimler-Chrysler claims a highway mileage at 30.1 mpg. Typical highway mileage for intermediate category sedans in European rental fleets is from 33 to 38 mpg.
Ashland, OR USA Tue 07/08/2008
SIXT rental in Rome
Warning regarding SIXT car rental (Rome Colliseum). We had MANY problems with the SIXT car rental agency near the Colliseum. There was no car available when we went to pick it up and it took 3.5 hours before we could get one. The whole time the agent kept telling us it would be just "5 minutes", "15 minutes", "10 minutes", etc. until 3.5 hours had passed. There is no place to sit in the office and our group of six had to sit on the stairs while we waited. The agency was in absolute chaos--disorganized, tense, and unapologetic. Avoid it all costs!
Normal, IL USA Sun 07/06/2008
problem with Europe By Car
Europe by Car--We recently rented a car through Europe by Car for our trip to Italy. One of the more important aspects of our rental was that four people be allowed to drive because I was unable to drive much due to a knee problem and we didn't want to one person to have to do all the driving. We were reassured by the agent at Europe By Car that we could have up to four drivers. Unfortunately, when we went to pick up our car in Rome we were told that only 2 people could drive and I had to be one of them since my name was on the reservation. (Although GPS was also on the reservation but we didn't get that.)
We tried calling Europe by Car but the office was closed (presumably due to the time difference between Rome and NYC). When we finally got someone at Europe by Car the next day they said the rental agency "must have changed their policy". However, the rental agency had told us they have never allowed more than 2 people to drive.
This mistake by Europe By Car made our travel through Italy very difficult on my husband who had to almost all of the driving by himself. When I talked to a manager at Europe By Car he was very defensive and irritated by my complaint--he never apologized for the mistake, instead blaming it on SIXT (the agency where we got the car).
Normal, IL USA Sun 07/06/2008
Driving In Italian Cities
My wife and I just returned from a great time in Italy. In Tuscany we rented a car and got on very well. The only thing I would mention by way of caution is that the city driving directions in Rick's book may not be all you need. For example, he gives directions to get to the Piazza Michealangelo in Florence. Getting to the place was our most interesting travel "adventure." Even the men at local gas stations were pretty much at a loss to help us. All I am saying is that Italian signage will barely help you, and the info in the books is rather general.
Calgary, Albert Canada Fri 06/27/2008
Forget rental -drive your own car in Europe
Car rental is so overrated! How about driving your OWN car in Europe?! We just returned from Europe after picking up our new Volvo from the Factory in Gothenburg, Sweden. The car was purchased through our local volvo dealer using their European Delivery program. We got a substantial discount on the purchase price of the car, two free tickets to Europe, a one night stay at the Radison in Gothenburg including a terrific breakfast and lunch, a volvo factory tour and...a full tank of gas and free use of our own car to drive anywhere in Europe for up to six weeks! Volvo picked up the vehicle insurance and at the end of the trip we just dropped off the car at one of many shipping points stateside to our local dealer (shipping also included in the deal). We saved the price of a rental, got a good discount on a new car and had a fun trip. Highly recommend it!
Fort Worth, TX USA Thu 06/26/2008
Europecar and gemut.com
Gemut and Europecar I reserved a mid size car for two weeks in Europe. I specified a GPS. On arrival in Frankfurt (after a 10 hr flight from Seattle), I was given a very large SUV that really ate up the $9/gal diesel. I was not given a GPS. I was overcharged. After complaining to gemut.com, I was told that I would be getting approximately $65 refund because no GPS was provided! Sixty five dollars equates to about 7 gallons of gas. This was the worst car rental experience I have ever had.
Kennewick, WA USA Sun 06/22/2008
Countryside travel info
We just returned from a 3 week driving trip through Central / Eastern Europe using Rick's guides and were very happy with all the eatery suggestions and lodging suggestions in the cities we visited... however, We did find that there was VERY little info on the countrysides, smaller villages, etc. in Rick's guides. Because we enjoy the variety, big city and 4* hotels to sobes in the Croatian Countryside, Cathedrals and Castles to Lipizzaner Stud farm in Slovenia, 'ferry cruise' of Dalmatia and 4 days of rest on Hvar in the small fishing village of Jelsa, Croatia. We found the guidebooks great for the cities but would have liked more on the smaller villages and driving the countryside. It seems they are written for train travel, not so much for car travel. We ALSO found it difficult when the suggested lodging was on a walking street!
Also, I'd really like to see the maps have walking street in a different color or pattern so we know not to look for a way to drive there! More than once we were trying to drive to an address that could only be walked to!!
Irvine, CA USA Sat 06/21/2008
Finding your way in Europe
During our 3 weeks driving in Eastern Europe, Budapest to Krakow, to Prague to Vienna, to Bled Slovenia, and all over Croatia, that our large Michelin map book was pretty good for getting from one city to another, baring an occasional road construction detour, but when we arrived in the cities, the city maps were just not detailed enought to help us find hotel in certain locations. I would like to see a map book of DETAILED city maps, the kind you get in the tourist information centers, if you can find them, and if they are open! MOST cities had pretty good ones, but you had to get into the city to find them. We would just stop at a 'nice' hotel if we couldn't find a TI, becuase they were more apt to have the maps.... But if anyone knows of a good CITY map book for all of Europe, I'd love to know about it.
Irvine, CA USA Sat 06/21/2008
European Car Rental
Just returned from two weeks in France. We rented from Andrew Bestor via GEMUT - it was the best rental experience we have ever had. $720.00 for two weeks, unlimited mileage - thanks Andrew. As a side note, buy all the RJR stock you can get - the French show no sign of giving up the nasty habit of smoking.
Brea, ca USA Sun 06/15/2008
vehicle rental in europe
While planning our driving trip from the Netherlands into France I was not encouraged by the car rental stories on this site and others. I noticed a reference to a camper van rental business near Amsterdam, www.campanje.nl. I contacted Gerard and started a very excellent experience that added tremendously to our trip enjoyment. Gerard picked us up at the train stationin Utrecht, checked us out in the van and sent us on our way. Insurance was included and no charge for a second driver. Even though we only had 11 days and had to pay the 15 day minimum rate I am sure that we spent less and had a better experience than renting a car and staying in motels. If my next trip includes driving and starts anywhere near Gerard's business I will definitely enjoy his great service again.
bastrop, texas USA Mon 06/09/2008
AVIS in Germany
I have to say my experience with Avis in Germany (Munich) was flawless. When I reviewed the contract (in English)I was looking for the place to decline CDW insurance and didn't see it anywhere. When I asked the clerk, she said I didn't need insurance since I paid with American Express.
When I returned the car at the Frankfurt airport, it was a quick and easy process. A clerk came to the car, looked it over, keyed something into a portable computing device and it printed out a receipt for me to sign. That was it.
Richmond, VA USA Fri 06/06/2008
BEWARE OF AVIS IN EUROPE
I recently rented a car in Germany. I had pre-paid for the rental before the trip but when I got to the counter, the agent pulled a number of fast ones including trying to foist a lower grade car (w/o guaranteed GPS) on us AND insurance. I waived the insurance because I'm covered by Visa. The agent said she printed out a new form and I signed it -- when I got home received a bill for $700 for insurance! BEWARE OF AVIS IN EUROPE!
Fighting the Big Guns
Los Angeles, CA USA Thu 06/05/2008
Avis in France
Just returned from France which included renting a car in Dijon from Avis with a return in Avignon. It was the only agency open on Sunday and I'm glad we arrived early from Paris, because we were second in line which had grown to almost 20 renters. Vehicle was as ordered and the cost was exactly as indicated when I made the reservation.
Green Valley, AZ USA Thu 06/05/2008
Driving in France
My wife and I just returned from an amazing 4500km - 23 day tour of France following Rick's route in France 2008. We used the Michelin France road atlas and it was very very useful and more fun than GPS.
Picked up a diesel Fiat Bravo from Europcar at CDG and had no problems driving on the peripherique to avoid Paris. The car was great and quite fuel efficent. Note that diesel is called Gazole in France.
We decided to drive mostly on non-express route roads to avoid paying tolls and to experience more of the countryside and small towns but I would recommend the express toll roads if you want to get somewhere in a hurry. They are fast, safe and rarely crowded but watch out for cars passing you and pulling back in front of you with less than a car length to spare. This can be a bit unerving at first when traveling at 130km/h.
When not driving on the express routes you have to watch out for "priorite a droite" which means that traffic approaching from the right has right of way even if you are traveling on the main road. Look for a triangle sign with a red rim and a black X in the middle and BEWARE! We found "priorite a droite" to be most common in the south of France and never had a problem with it. Just keep your eyes open for the sign and take care.
When entering towns and looking for your hotel, look for the grey signs at waist level posted at major intersections that list the major hotels (and some not so major ones) in the town and give there direction. These are very useful and can prevent hours of frustrating searching the narrow poorly maked streets of most French towns.
Have fun and be safe!
Nanaimo, BC Canada Wed 06/04/2008
Excessive Cab Fares in Istanbul
Wow; I've taken several cab rides in Istanbul and found that about 80% of the cabbies post a higher fare than what is supposed to be paid. Make sure you are not charged the 30% to 40% premium night time cab fare unless you are riding late at night or in the very early morning (11P to 5A) timeframe.
Also, it helps to know a simple phrase -
Daha yavash lutfen (Please drive more slowly!) The cabbies drive fast here!!
Pacific Grove, CA USA Fri 05/30/2008
You don't have to have www.gemut.com to rent from www.autoeurope.com AutoEurope is quite reputable by itself.
USA Sun 05/18/2008
Don't Get Lost in Venice
It is very easy to get lost in the narrow, twisting streets of Venice. All the streets begin to look the same. I found a way to solve this problem. As you are walking around Vencie, if you take pictures of the street signs using a digital camera, then when you want to return to the place you started at, all you have to do is scan through the pictures of the street signs to help you find your way. It is like a digital trail of bread crumbs.
USA Sat 05/17/2008
Best rental outfit for Germany
Wow about Thrifty. I got burned by Auto Europa (an Italian company) a few years ago (their collision insurance excludes one car accidents so if you get a $1000 scratch, as I did, you pay for it). Now I rely on the savvy guys at www.gemut.com who saved me about $125 on a Germany rental by steering me to an office near the FRA airport to avoid the 19% airport charge. I returned the car to the airport, no charge. These guys are hooked up with the very reputable Auto Europe but it's a family deal and they know their stuff. I've been booking with them for more than 10 years.
USA Sat 05/17/2008
Avoid Thrifty Car Rental - Rip-off
Thrifty rents cars without spare tires! Arranged to pick up a car from Thrifty at Florence airport. Very slightly cheaper than some other international companies. Upon inspecting the car for damage, wanted to see the condition of the spare wheel - there was none! Nor was there a jack. I complained to the agent who said, "the car does not come with a spare tire." (I was later told that it is illegal to drive without a spare tire in Italy.) As it was just before closing time for the rental offices, and no other cars were available, we were stuck. After much looking, we were able to buy a can of pressurized tire inflator - at twice the price it would cost in the states, which we needed for protection. Besides no spare tire and no jack, the car was almost impossible to start! Many times it took 5 minutes of attempts to get the car started, even when the engine was warm. Perhaps if I screamed loud enough, and if I spoke better Italian, I could have gotten a new car the next day - but that would have meant wasting a whole day driving back to Florence. I will never rent a car from Thrifty again.
San Francisco, CA USA Sun 05/11/2008
Spanish (and other) Rental Car Reflections
We just spent a month in Ireland/UK and Spain/France amassing over 4,000 km mostly in Spain. Time, side trips with 4 people and range of destinations drove that decision. It was not cheap since we took max insurance (including Super-CDW) based on horror stories posted here, gas was $8.50 or so a gallon plus tolls in northern Spain and southern France add up quickly. (Use your credit card for speed and convenience.) We also took budget airlines (EasyJet, Clickair and Vueling) and used transit whenever possible.
- Cars & Companies – Europcar for 9 days (Peugeot 407 diesel) from Bilbao/San Sebastian to Barcelona, Costa Brava, Provence and back with a side trip to the Cardona parador; turned in at BCN. Avis (VW SUV "upgrade" diesel) from Seville to Granada train stations via Cordoba and Nerja. (Also Europcar petrol Toyota from downtown Dublin and Hertz (smaller Peugeot diesel) in Wales/Manchester.) Attitudes at each location were a little different but only Ireland had the "rent full, return empty" fuel policy that took some careful planning. The Granada Avis office was helpful in returning a forgotten item.
- Fees – Fuel cost is on top of rental fees, so are pick-up and other usage charges you don't find in the USA. To avoid airport pick-up charges, reduce overnight parking costs and fit our itinerary better where city streets were tight, we used train station or down town offices in Seville, Granada and Dublin.
- Pick-Up – Rental car offices in airports are relatively easy to find and use as you might in the US. Directions and road access are straightforward. We discovered this was not the case away from airports. We found the car counter in the Seville train station just fine but took nearly an hour to actually locate the vehicle in the surrounding parking lots. Turning in the same car at the Granada train station was another challenge since dealers distributed no map to the turn in location and there was minimal signage. Downtown Dublin is not the best place to learn to drive on the left side of the road once picking up our rental and, again, finding the office again in rush hour to return the car was not easy.
- Drivers License – We had, but were never asked for, International Drivers' Licenses. We found our driver's license a great alternative to a passport to verify identity when using a debt/credit card.
- Reverse – All our cars were manual. Like Rick says, make sure you know how your car works before trying to drive away. We couldn't find reverse in the Bilbao airport until we got some help with our Peugeot (pull up on the ring and forward). The VW was a more normal push down and pull back.
- Fuel – Credit cards are the only way to go. Watch which grade of diesel is in the pump you intend to use since some have a mixture.
- Navigation – We used Michelin maps (purchased in the US for advance planning) and I had Google map downloads for key segments of our itinerary. The downloads were not that useful. I considered GPS too late in the process but we did OK by staying mellow and circling the roundabout twice if we had doubts on which road was ours. (We learned to appreciate roundabouts in these settings at least.) The town name and route number navigation process works fine once you get the hang of it and stop looking for the street names Google provides. You also get to learn a bit more about the countryside than you might with GPS by reading the maps or asking for directions on occasion. For motorways, around Barcelona for example, look at the map with your navigator before setting out to avoid surprises once in traffic.
Redmond, WA USA Fri 05/09/2008
paris CDG Europecar return
If you are retunring a Europecar rental car to Paris CDG airport, do not follow the instructions online and go to terminal 3- the return is in terminal 1! There are no signs pointing to car return unless you actually make it to terminal 1, so unless you know ahead of time, you end up just driving around the airport for a very long time. Fortunately we got lucky and the man who checked us in after we finally found the right location let us slide with the time of return, because by the time we got there we were almost an hour late, even with the 59 minute grace period, yet we had been in the airport for almost two hours.
Leonardtown, MD USA Wed 05/07/2008
How to Reverse a Rental Car in Paris?!
We picked up our rental car in central Paris for a trip to the country side (via Rick's great recommendations!). It was a Fiat, Panda (nothing we'd ever heard of). We were given the keys and sent to an underground garage about 6 blocks away. We found the cute, little car, jumped in and started the engine to leave. We rolled about 1/2 way out of the parking spot before realizing we couldn't get the car in to reverse. It was a manual shift, which is what we drive at home, which shouldn't have been a problem, but we could not get the car to back up. Other cars were starting to line up behind us because they couldn't get by to exit the garage. Four, five, six cars were waiting for us and we were really starting to sweat. We both got the idea at the same time to open our doors and stick our legs out each side, pushing the car backwards, Flinstone's style. We pushed it back in this manner then reved up to the check out booth. Dave, who was driving, pleaded with the booth attendent in English, with none of the proper, formal, French greetings we had been practicing, blurting out, "How do we back this thing up?!". I was sure we were not going to get any help with this abrupt approach, but the man calmly explained in English, "Pull up on the ring around the gear shift", miming the action. We both said "Oh",then "Merci" and embarassed, went on our way to have a wonderful visit!
Dave and Wendy
San Francisco, CA USA Sun 05/04/2008
If someone need to rent a car in Verona (Italy, I recommend "Verona Rent a Car", www.veronarentacar.com. They offer 10% discount if you mention Rick Steve's Italy guidebook.
New York, USA USA Mon 04/14/2008
First off, thanks for the advice about Gemut! Got a terrific rate. One caveat, though for all who plan to drive a car in Europe. Get the smallest thing you can cram everyone and their suitcases into. We had a Ford Mondeo station wagon and parking it was an absolute nightmare (see Most Embarassing Moments page). Parking garages are particularly tight (again, see Most Embarassing Moments). The good thing was that we were able to comfortably 4 women and 8 bags (we started out with 4 bags, but souvenirs...) and a small backpack for each. If I had it to do over, I would get something smaller and make everyone carry the extra stuff in their laps.
Taylor, TX USA Fri 03/21/2008
In Italy, Verona, I have been in February 2008. It was difficult to find a small diesel car available (VW Polo, Toyota Yaris).Finally, I have found a car rental "Verona Rent a Car", www.veronarentacar.com. They have only new small car and and a very good service.
Madrid, Espagn Espagna Sun 03/16/2008
Ireland Car Rental - Dan Dooley
We rented from Dan Dooley in September 07 and drove from DUB to the West coast and back. In the Killarney National Park we encountered a pothole that bent the Left Front wheel and required a change to the spare tire. At the rental return at the airport (DUB), we expected to pay for the wheel repair, but instead were charged an arbitrary 160 euros for a new "tyre" with no recourse but to settle the account. As posted by others, the coverage from your premium credit card (AMEX in this case) is not valid in Ireland. Dooley had the advantage, and used it. Two lessons learned .. Avoid Dooley in Ireland and include ALL insurance available in your costing of the rental in Europe.
Atlanta, GA USA Sun 03/16/2008
I have been to Europe the past 2 summer, 2006 and 2007. I searched and searched and I found a great company..Europcar. They seem to be everywhere (mostly at the airports) but great service and an abundance of cars. The one thing I would recommend is getting a diesel vehicle. If you plan to drive short or long distances this is the vehicle type of choice. Though you really need to try and book a few months in advance and specify a diesel always call every few weeks before your trip and confirm the car and you want a diesel.
Bellmawr, NJ USA Sun 03/09/2008
car rental europe
Have booked many cars in Europe in the past dozen or so years and Andy at gemut.com is a throwback to the time when you dealt with a real live person...both before and after the rental. He's on the phone a lot and so sometimes you don't get him on the first ring...but he always calls back. He usually has the lowest price, but when he doesn't he'll do what he calls a "beat rate" and go a few bucks below any competition. This is a little travel treasure.
Seattle , WA USA Sat 02/02/2008
Re Lynn Williams post. I agree; Andy is the "man" when it comes to European car rentals. He is a secret that I hesitate to reveal except that you've already let cat out of the bag. The guy saved me more than $100 by simply arranging for a pickup location away from the airport in Frankfurt, thus avoiding the 19% VAT. He also convinced me that a midsize car was just a big as a fullsize car, which saved me more money. Seems like he doesn't try to "up sell" customers but puts them in the least expensive car that suits their needs. VERY knowledgeable. Something you don't get with the scripted reservationists at Avis, National, Auto Europe, etc.
Kansas City, MO USA Fri 02/01/2008
I have used Renault Eurodrive many times with great results. If you need a car for more than three weeks, try Renault. The website is www.renaultusa.com and the agents in New York are first class. Renault has a large selection of cars (all brand new) from a small hatchback to a 9-passenger van. The program includes full insurance, and there are NO HIDDEN COSTS. I pick up my cars in Paris and drop at CDG, with absolutly no problems or suprises. The drop-off location is 200 meters from the RER and Hotel Ibis CDG. It's nice to get a new car with new tires and no stains, scratches, or smelly interiors, as you sometimes get with rentals. GPS, Diesel engines, infant seats, roof racks, and automatic transmissions are available. Try Renault Eurodrive, you will be pleased.
Charles A. Robinson
Lodi, CA USA Sun 01/20/2008
We rented a car for seeing Italy. It was great. We would use the car for the country side and then park the car and take a train into the major city. It worked out well. We enjoyed getting lost in Italy. There is so much to see. It is beautful.
Milwaukee, WI USA Thu 01/17/2008
Car rental - more expensive is cheaper
In Germany I recently rented a car of the sub-compact class (Opel Corsa,VW Polo) thinking I would save some money. Had I rented the next higher class (VW Golf,etc), I would have most likely received a diesel car which would have made the overall costs much cheaper due to better fuel economy and prices. According to the helpful clerk in Munich, rental car agencies rarely have diesel cars available in the smallest car classes.
Costa Mesa, CA USA Tue 01/15/2008
I have been to Europe 12 times since 1985 for leisure travel. The last 6 times, we have rented cars with Gemut.com, which I learned of through Bob Bestor's Gemutlichkeit, a travel newlsetter for Germany, Austria and and Switzerland. Each time we have gone with different couples who were sure they could beat his price with some company or another, but Gemut.com always gave us the best rate. A friend and I had an automatic transmission Opel last spring that we drove 1800 kilometers in 12 days and the price was about $400 for the rental. I have never had issues with extra charges appearing on my credit card afterwards with this company. Andy is an excellent representative from their company to work with. A tip for couples traveling together to pay for the gas....we always put 100 Euros per couple in an envelope for gas at the start of the trip for gas, tolls or that Swiss sticker you must have on the windshield to drive there. We replace as needed or divvy up the leftovers at the end of the trip.
Carrollton, TX USA Mon 01/14/2008
Driving Rhine & Romantic Road
Stay in Trier at the end of the Mosel in the Hotel Petrisberg. Some of the best hospitality in Germany. Doubles around 100 euros. Rent the car from www.gemut.com (ask for Andy)—best rates, best service—and drop it in Munich or Freiburg. The Munich-Zurich train is a beautiful 3.5 hour ride, about 10 minutes of which is in Austria. Don't add the extra counry to your pass; you can pay for the Austria part at the rail station (or on board), no more than 10 euros. If you go from Freiburg, you avoid Austria. Or, you could drop the car in Friedrichshafen on the Bodensee and take the ferry to Switzerland and then the train on to Zurich. By the way, the Romantic Road has some interesting towns along the way but the route is not very scenic.
Hayward, CA USA Fri 01/11/2008
We had a very bad experience with Europcar in Ireland. We damaged a fender and they charged us for a fender, bumper and headlamp. When I questioned charges, I was told we had no recourse. Beware!!
Orange Park, FL USA Sun 01/06/2008
Driving the Rhine & Romantic Road
I am going on the honeymoon in June and a part of it will be renting a car in I think Cologne and driving a brief part of the Rhine and seeing Burg-Eltz Castle among other things for a day. Stay the night in one of those towns. The next day will be the romantic road. Stay in one of those towns (or our car) and then drop it off in Munich the next day for a train to Switzerland.
I was wondering if there are any recommended towns we need to see and ones that would be best to sleep at.
Also, is Munich the best place to drop the car off for a train to Zurich? I know the train ride passes through Austria but I don't want to add another country to my Eurail Select pass just because we go through it briefly. So is there maybe another city in Germany to drop the car off and still catch a train to Zurich?
Chino Hills, Ca USA Thu 01/03/2008