Driving Europe Crazy
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? Is it useful to bring or rent a GPS?
Read the latest car rental advice from Rick.
- Please don't post questions here. Use our Travelers Helpline.
Amalfi Coast w/Raffaele Monetti
One of the highlights of our trip to Italy was our day along the Amalfi with driver Raffaele Monetti (who was recommended by Rick Steves). We had a thoroughly enjoyable day and found Raffaele to be a delightful guide. He not only spoke excellent English, he was very knowledgeable about the area - and entertaining as well. Once we arrived in Ravello we found he had made us reservations at da Salvatore, an amazing restaurant that we hear will be in Rick Steves' next book. When we take our next trip to southern Italy we will make it a point to book with Raffaele again; He was prompt, friendly, accommodating to our ever changing schedule, and provided great information as to where to eat during our stay in the area - the restaurants he recommended we among the best we visited in Italy. On a side note his father, Carmine, was our driver to the train station in Naples. Carmine was a pure delight and had plethora of knowledge about Sorrento and Naples that he shared with us to help pass the time. He made sure to park the car and help us find our train platform, show us around the station, and make sure we had a table in the café for our 45 minute wait. If you are headed to the Sorrento area I highly recommend that you hire Raffaele and Carmine as your drivers/guides - they are the best!
Dee & Chris
Des Moines, Iowa USA 11/02/2013
There's a very nice car rental service on cars-scanner.com. You can compare prices of car rental companies and select the best convenient option. We have used it several times for our trips to Europe and got satisfied.
Private tour From Sorrento to Amalfi Coast anche transfer with stop in Pompeii
My wife and I used Rosato Private Tour for 2 days during our stay in Italy. It was the highlight of our trip. First was for a tour of the Amalfi Coast. He picked us up at our hotel in a new Mercedes van; comfortable, air conditioned and plenty of room. He took us through Sorrento, Amalfi, Positano and Ravello. He has a great personalty and is very knowledgeable about the area, he has lived in Sorrento his whole life. He even made 2 extra stops at the end of the day taking us to a Limoncello factory and olive oil factory.
The second day we booked him for a transfer from our hotel in Sorrento to Naples. With a planned 2 hour stop along the way at the ruins of Pompeii. He then took us to the famous Da Michele in Naples to get a pizza to go.
By no fault of Vittorio's, we almost missed our train and would have if he hadn't come in the terminal with us and helped us purchase our tickets and find our train. Even though our time was done, he offered to go above and beyond to help us.
Thank You Vittorio!
Massapequa Park, NY USA 10/07/2013
Great, comprehensive, excellent info on car rental and driving in Europe
We are renting cars during an upcoming trip to Europe. I have read the info on Rick Steves which is great, but still had other assorted questions e.g., what types of cars fall into the different size categories when renting in Europe? Considering narrow roads and parking spaces in many parts of Europe, would a smaller car be better? How helpful is GPS?
Just today I came across an article that was by far the best I had seen - great, clear, discussion with details and tips on car rentals, also good info on what you need to know when driving in Europe. It has an index at the start of the article, and a little summary at the end. I thought it was well done and thought others might find it a helpful resource. Here is the link:
Spokane, WA USA 08/09/2013
Italy Rental - Latest Intel
I just did a lot of research on renting a car in Italy (Mercedes, 1 week). Here's a summary of what I learned.
1. CDW and Theft is required by law and automatically added to the rental agreement. So using your credit card for CDW is not an option - don't pay twice. Also, I understand some credit cards specifically exclude Italy from coverage anyway.
2. Check deductibles, which can be frighteningly high - 2,200 Euros at Avis unless you pay $175 more for zero deductible. I got a much better deal at Auto Europe and like the peace of mind.
3. International Driver's License is required in Italy. I know lots of people post that they've never been asked for it, even when stopped by police. But for $20, why risk the off-chance you will be refused a rental or receive a hefty fine by that one Italian official who follows the rules?
4. Even all-inclusive fees don't include the 3.4 Euro/day road tax. An extra driver is around 10 Euros/day. Be prepared for tolls by purchasing a card or making sure you have cash available.
5. GPS seems to range from $10 (Avis) to 20 Euros (Hertz) a day. I'm checking into using my phone for GPS. Per Verizon, turn-by-turn GPS uses about 5MG of data an hour and their int'l package includes 250mb for $50. I will use maps for the basics and GPS only when needed, so this should be plenty.
Hope this is helpful
Boston, MA USA 07/29/2013
Citroen Euro Pass - Europe By Car - Caution on Pick up and Drop off hours
We booked our car via Europe By Car for a trip through France - they hooked us up with a Citroen Euro Pass.
Great car and smooth trip until the car return - the representative from Europe By Car says you can return the car anytime (you just need to arrange it). The representative in France that we contacted for the return - says you can only return from 6 am to 8 pm.
Our flight is 6:30 the next day - so we have to rent another hotel (we have paid for a vacation rental for the week) and go to the airport a day early. Ouch :-)
For convenience - I'd recommend AutoEurope instead - they contract with the rental car companies at the airport (so they are able to pick up and return off at any time) - AutoEurope has been cheaper in the 4 times I have used them also.
I did like that Europ By Car had zero deductable insurance and GPS - but the extra $300 (family of four and cabs to and from airport) for hotel and missing a day of vacation (and hassle with the representatives) means I'll not use Europe By Car again.
If your schedule matches theirs then you'd probably be ok.
Austin, TX USA 07/25/2013
Green handle does not equal diesel
Someone posted this last July, but this cannot be stressed enough: Green handles in America are for diesel pumps. Green handles in Europe are something else. If you have a diesel rental in Europe, don't grab the green handle!! Read before you pump!
Texas USA 07/17/2013
Parking outside of Florence
We just returned from a trip to Tuscany where we rented a car for 8 days and drove quite a bit. One tip on driving to Florence is to park your car outside the city (actually all of the hilltop cities/towns) and take the tram to Florence where you disembark at the train station which is about a ½ mile walk to the Duomo.
Park in the COOP market parking lot in Scandicci and directly across the street at the Nenni Torregalli tram stop you can take the tram for 1.2 Euro.
Pacific Grove, CA USA 07/15/2013
$700 to return car rental 1 day early
Rick's advice re car rental in Europe was invaluable. We drove in Spain for a month-in the city centres it was nerve wracking at times but we were prepared for that. Spanish drivers were courteous, although fast. We had to back out of automated toll booths a couple of times and the drivers behind never honked or gestured rudely. The biggest frustration was returning the car to Hertz in Barcelona where we were charged a whopping $700 extra for bringing the car back 1 day early. We had been assured it would not be a problem. The lesson learned is that ANY changes to your car rental agreement that aren't in writing will likely not be financially in your favour. We continue to pursue this from home but it is tough to fight a huge company. If you decide to change your rental agreement, be prepared to incur hefty extra charges. Hope this helps you avoid those.
Toronto, Canada 07/05/2013
Rental car or not, think about it
Before you decide to rent a car in area where you want to see areas or towns surrounding the one you are staying in, look to see if there are personal tours available. We recently had an experience in Colmar where our rental car caught on fire after we had it for 2 hours. After that experience, we did not want another car. We wanted a car to tour the wine route. We found a personal driver who took us around for 8 hours and we saw everything along the route we wanted to see, The bonus was that it was much cheaper than a rental car, and the driver knew where to go, where to park, and could give some history and color.
Atlanta, Ga USA 06/24/2013
Be aware if you drive to Amsterdam and leave your car in one of the six Park/Ride garages. You will need a 'chip' card to be able to exit. These card readers will not accept 'American' credit, debit, or bank card.
San Francisco, USA 06/15/2013
Car rental tips
We just got back from a trip to Ireland in May of 2013 & rented a car from Hertz (booked thru our travel agent here in the US). 1st of all, because of the NARROW roads, especially on the west coast, we would suggest NOT getting a mid-sized car, as we did. An economy car would be MUCH easier to handle on the narrow roads.
2nd, we were run off the road & punctured the sidewall of the tire, only to find there was NO spare tire & we had to have Hertz roadside call for someone to come out, take our tire & wheel off & to another town to mount, then put it back on our car. 190 euros later ($205) & nearly 2 hours wasted time, we were back on the road. No one stopped to help, not even the police, so it was a good thing we had gotten a cell phone the night before or we'd probably STILL be sitting alongside the road! :(
And 3rd, make sure you find out what type of fuel your car takes. No one at the desk said anything, but I finally noticed a little sticker on the key fob that said Diesel. Also, the diesel pumps have a different color than in the US, so make SURE you are using the right kind of fuel before you ruin the engine & have to pay for a replacement!
Beaverton, Oregon USA 06/11/2013
rental car problem
I followed RickSteves' suggestions to handle a car rental through rentalcars.com and Europcar-Alamo recently in Paris. Two weeks after my trip I received additional charges without basis or explanation. I am disputing them. This was the only blemish on a two week France-Germany-Austria trip using your Travel Planning tips.
nokomis, fl USA 06/08/2013
Just returned from a week of driving ourselves around Sicily. We've driven a lot in France, Belgium, Netherlands, northern Italy, navigating with maps only. Do not attempt this in Sicily. GPS must be the only way to go, unfortunately we didn't have this and had read nothing in our guidebooks that clearly recommended it. Even with a fluent Italian speaker, directions were often not useful, or initiated disagreements between the people we asked! Because of navigation challenges, allow extra time between destinations - if you arrive early, that's a gift of time you can use to your advantage. Top sights: Villa Romana del Casale (so many beautiful mosaics they even let you walk around on some of them); Segesta and San Vito Lo Capo in northwest; city of Noto in center; Monreale cathedral near Palermo; Cefalu.
Mission Viejo, CA USA 06/07/2013
Finding gasoline on a Sunday in France
My husband and I ran out of gas while touring Languedoc on a Sunday, and guess what? Our American credit cards/debit cards did NOT work at the gas station because they do not contain a chip as do European cards. There are no attendants at the stations on Sundays, so you cannot pay cash. Our French is horrible but I managed to persuade a nice couple who pulled up to gas up to pay for our gas with their credit card and pay them cash, plus some, in return. This was not a fun way to spend two hours. :(
Lafayette, Colora USA 06/06/2013
iPhone for GPS
I was doubtful that my husband's devotion to his iPhone would pay off, but it did. He brought it along, following Rick Steve's guidelines about buying an international data plan first, and then we used it for a GPS--it saved us on foot and in the car! Hurrah for iPhone and for managing your data plan carefully with your provider before leaving USA.
Lafayette, CO USA 06/06/2013
Enterprise in England, Wales and Ireland
The experience we had with Enterprise car rental in the UK and Ireland was incredibly positive. We dropped off and picked up a total of 6 times, the first time in Oxford, England, the second in Gaerwen, Wales, and the last time in Dublin, Ireland (We visted all 3 locations twice, if that makes sense...). We visited the location in Gaerwen twice, as we dropped off our first car to take the ferry to Ireland and then again on our way back from Ireland. Both times, this tiny (and I mean tiny) Enterprise location in pretty much the middle of nowhere was so incredibly accommodating. We had to find a way to Holyhead to get on the ferry and the friendly men at that location drove us all the way to the Holyhead Port. When we arrived back at the Holyhead Port a week later, the same man (I wish I could remember his name) picked us up with a smile and a joke (I had exchanged male travel partners in Ireland). I know Enterprise promises "to pick you up", but I felt this was going above and beyond. Gaerwen and Holyhead are not right around the corner from each other. The only slightly negative experience was when we dropped our car off in Dublin before heading back to Holyhead, we were charged for a hubcap that had fallen off when we went over a bump on the motorway. We had noticed that many cars had hubcaps reinforced with zip ties! Apparently hubcaps have a way of popping off over there?! We felt it was not really our fault, but it worked out to be only $20 and they drove us into the heart of Dublin to sightsee since we did not need to be on the ferry for hours, then we rode a cab back to the Enterprise office and they drove us AGAIN to the ferry port. We quickly forgave them for charging us. I cannot say enough about Enterprise over in England, Wales and Ireland! Amazing company and friendly people!
Nevada USA 05/22/2013
Sorrento and Amalfi Coast Experience
I went on this day tour in March. Although it cost a tiny bit more than some of the other private companies, I had been advised by a friend who had previously used the service that the tailoring of the tour to your personal wishes was worth it. I was not disappointed. My tour was a full day and consisted of going from Sorrento along the Amalfi Coast and back, stopping for an amazing local fish lunch and then back, just at the right time, to see the sunset along the Amalfi coast. Vittorio (the guide) was amazing at picking the exact right spots to stop and guessing when I needed a drink, toilet or food break. His English was perfect and he was very friendly and fun to spend the day with, especially as I was travelling alone (however my friend went in a group and she said he was just as good). Even on the way back, he went over the hours we agreed and took me to the best little traditional Italian restaurant I have ever been too (and it was very cheap). All the food was of the best quality and the restaurant even made its own wine.
I would highly recommend this tour company if going to Sorrento and wanting a private tour. I have heard some terrible stories about the other private tour companies there e.g. being late, hardly speaking English and not stopping when you need a rest this is definitely not the case with Rosato First Class Service. I have already booked another tour for Pompeii and Vesuvius for when I go back in June.
This is your website:
Long island, NY USA 04/17/2013
Best Car rental for Austria, Switzerland, Germany
I just finished booking our 33 day car rental for our trip to Austria this Fall. I went with Bob Bestor , www.gemut.com. This is a family run business, and they really answer all of your questions, and provide individual and personal service. I love their website, it is FULL of information that will help you as you are planning your trip. I recommend them highly!
O'Fallon, MO USA 03/08/2013
I contacted the automobile associations of France, Belgium, and the Netherlands in pursuit of this question, with the following results: The Belgian response was "Knowing that the logo signaling an handicaped person is exactly the same as in Europe, you only need to highlight it under your windshield to fully enjoy the avantages and places marked out for handicaped persons." The Dutch response told me how to apply for a placard recognized by all EU countries. I sent (by regular air mail) a copy of the drivers license, the passport photo page, and a photocopy of the placard my state issued to: CBR Divisie Rijgeschiktheid To mr. C. Susana P.O. Box 3012 2280 GA Rijswijk ZH The Netherlands About a month later I received a placard! The cover letter and a brochure was all in Dutch, so I did some Google translating to learn that the different countries do have slightly different regulations about whether this placard entitles us to ignore parking time limits, but that's OK, we'll just try to read the signs and plan to obey them. No response from the French
Boulder, CO USA 03/04/2013
More on Rental Companies
I wrote a detailed account of our misadventures with Hertz in Italy, shortly after we returned (see below). That was before I had examined the final bill. There was even more bad behavior! They charged us for insurance I had declined, and they charged us in USD rather than euros. In tiny print on the receipt it says I agreed to this, but I wasn't actually asked. If you don't know why this is bad, you can read about it elsewhere on this site. Several people have complained that Avis in the US can't deal with problems with Avis in Europe; well, the same is true for Hertz. To top off their bad service, the e-mail address provided for customer feedback doesn't work.
Berkeley, CA USA 03/01/2013
Used Euro Roadtrip Car
Anyone interested in traveling through Europe this spring by car?
We are two Americans in the middle of a 3 month trip across Europe from east to west. In Transylvania, Romania we found an amazing deal on a car and after doing the math, realized that we could buy this car for 1,000 Euro instead of spending an approximated 1800 Euro combined on train tickets. Even with the cost of fuel we are spending less to travel, and also have complete freedom to go when and where we like. This car would also be an affordable alternative to long-term rental.
I know this not the place to post ads but I want to possibly help someone who is looking to drive. Think of this as community outreach rather than a car sales pitch!
We have so far driven from Transylvania to Innsbruck, Austria, crossing the Carapathian mountains, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Bavaria and part of Austria. The car is running great and we are happy with our decision. We are ending our trip in Spain at the end of March and want to pass on our luck to other travelers.
Please email me if your interested in details.
Madrid, USA 02/23/2013
Spain/3 weeks/Hertz rental
Spent the last three weeks in Spain (Andalucia & Madrid) in Hertz rental. Started in a B series Mercedes - had a flat - was given a full sized Volvo. The new Mercedes had no spare so the rental companies tow your car in and give you another car. We upgraded as must drive an automatic - bad left knee. Both cars were diesel - Spain is virtually 100% diesel. Driving was easy and great with several IMPORTANT EXCEPTIONS. Do NOT attempt to drive in the ancient parts of any cities in Spain. Those streets are for horses and pedistrians. If you must drive into a city center take care. In Madrid we turned our car in after a few surburban excursions and used their excellent toursist transit pass for bus, metro, and light rail. FYI SP highways are average to pooly marked; city streets are poorly to horribly marked. French roads and streets are wonderful. Spain NOT so much. We even ran into disagreements and errors between different map makers for city streets. Would I do it again - YES. For inner cities be young or take taxies. Taxi service was super in every city!
San Antonio, TX USA 01/27/2013
Car rental in Noto, Sicily
Can't say much about our recent car rental experience in Noto, Sicily from Hertz. The person at the licensee location spoke almost no English; they didn't answer their phone; they initally told us, when they did answer, that there was no car available even though we had prepaid through Hertz. When we did show up, they had a beater of a car 85K on the odometer, badly banged up (missing the radio antenna) and a headlight not working. They expected us to take it to a shop to get it fixed or drive it to Siracusa to exchange it for a different one. To make matters worse, they charged our credit card for the extra insurance we purchased on-site after telling us it would be charged by the agency we turned the car into at the Palermo airport. So, guess what? We got charged twice. Hertz only seems to send a packaged email response when you contact them. Very disappointed on this one.
Whately, MA USA 11/20/2012
Driving in Seville,Spain
Under no circumstance should you drive a car into old town Seville. E spent 1 .5 hours trying to find our hotel. Streets are not marked. A taxi driver we asked for help in the process told us it was mucho complicado. After another 1/2 hour, seeing even pedestrians lost, we gave up and parked in a public parking lots and had a cab drive us to the hotel. Fantastic place called Casas de la Juderia by the way. During the cab ride we realized why we couldn't do it ourselves. Do not attempt unless you love being frustrated or want to divorce.
C and R Wickham
Roanoke, Va USA 11/11/2012
Car rental in France
We recently used AutoEurope (Avis) for two weeks in France. Picked up at CDG and returned to Orly. Happy to report not a single problem. The rate and car were as promised. The Avis clerk at CDG tried her best to sell us more insurance but once she saw that I was unmoved, she completed the deal. The only hitch whatsoever was finding the car rental return at Orly. What a mess! Construction all over the place, and signs in French. Otherwise, a very positive experience.
Albuquerque, NM USA 10/31/2012
Driving Europe Crazy
ALWAYS have the most detailed paper map you can find to accompany the GPS. Had new "The Alps" map from Garmin. While GPS uses street names and route numbers, Europe signs generally give names of nearby towns, sometimes without any route numbers or street names. Took two days to become accustomed to how it all worked, even with fairly detailed paper maps. Print out all booking info to help with finding B&Bs, small hotels.
Weston, MA USA 10/23/2012
Ireland driving GPS
watch out for GPS; directions based on shortest distance; follow Rick's directions or spend and hour in a sheep pasture by blindly following GPS' baaaa, baaaaa.
Rehoboth Beach, DE USA 10/18/2012
AutoEurope Car Rental
Booked a car from AutoEurope for ten days of travel in Provence from Avignon to Nice. Great car with GPS. Rates lower than many competitors and no hidden fees. Very satisfied. Will use them again.
Portland, OR USA 10/03/2012
Driver posts in Amalfi
In making my plans to hire a driver in Italy I kept seeing the name of Anthony Buonocore of Amalfi Transfer. It strikes me as funny that so many people used the exact same phrasing in their posts. Perhaps not so authentic.
Chicago, IL USA 09/26/2012
IDPs and bad advice
There is a lot of terrible advice circulating about IDPs, including Rick's chatty little lines in Driving Europe Crazy. In countries like Spain, Italy, Austria and many former eastern block nations, when it says IDPs are required, that means you MUST HAVE ONE, IT IS THE LAW. Understand a few things about the car rental process:
1) the car rental desk is not the law.
2) the rental desk is there to make money by renting you a car, not to tell you that you cannot legally drive a car without an IDP in a country that requires one.
3) His management will get PO'd if he tells you you can't legally drive the car, that's not how they make money.
4) Nobody will ask to see your IDP unless you get caught at a roving check point, get stopped for a traffic violation or worst of all have an accident.
5) In Spain and Italy the fine is 250 Euros on the spot. Then they decide whether or not to IMPOUND your car because you can't legally drive it.
5) In Austria where fines are regional and proportional to your income the upper limit is 10,000 Euros according to the Austrian National Tourist Office and much higher if you have an accident.
6) If you have an accident, if is very likely likely that the insurance company will negate your insurance and you will be on the hook for the whole mess. But whoever heard of an insurance company using the fine print to avoid paying of????
In conclusion, in countries where an IDP is not required, it is a major convenience if you ever need to explain your drivers license in a language you don't speak fluently. In countries where it is required there will be hell to pay if you ever need it and don't have it.
I have always traveled with an IDP and the first time I was asked for an IDP was when I switched from renting to leasing. When picking up our Renault lease car at the Milan airport, the guy made it really clear: No IDP, no lease car but there will be a 750 Euro late cancellation fee on the lease.
Beverly Hills, MI USA 09/10/2012
Poor Experience w/Thrifty and Travelocity for car rental in Frankfurt Germany
Based on my recent vacation experience in July 2012, I would recommend caution when booking your reservation via Travelocity for Thrifty car rental in Europe. Unbeknownst to me, they outsourced my reservation to a partner, Terstappen. If you have a problem with the reservation and you have no way to contact the parent companies real-time, you will have to accept what they give you. The rental agreement said I could drive the luxury car in all the European Union countries, but according to their counter agent in the Frankfurt Germany airport terminal, not the Czech Republic I beg to differ. They offered to downgrade my luxury rental (presumably for the same costs) so that I could drive into the Czech Republic. Although they accept Gold/Platinum Master Card CDL/LDW coverage for card holders from the US and Canada, they would only accept Gold/Platinum VISA coverage from Canada and not the US so expect to be required to pay the "optional" CDL/LDW coverage fee. And even if I had the right credit card, they wanted a letter guaranteeing the coverage that would have been nice to know before I left for the trip. The American customer immediately before me in line had the same exact problem, and he too had to suck it up and take what they gave him accepting the terms and additional fees. Admittedly, I did not fully comprehend the rental policies when I booked it, but had I, I would have rented elsewhere as there are plenty of other car rental companies that do accept the VISA coverage or include the fees in their online estimates. I felt that these policies are a form of bait and switch, so renter beware. Afterwards I contacted both Travelocity and Thrifty to request a refund of the CDL/LDW fee. Travelocity said they would look into it and respond within 48 hours but I never heard back. Thrifty did research the transaction and confirmed their policy and the fact that I agreed to it by signing the rental agreement, so no refund there either. While writing this comment, I found the link below describes the very problem I faced with them declining to accept the coverage offered by my US issued VISA card. http://www.gemut.com/car-rentals/rental-car-tips-and-advice/3991-insurance-issues-with-thriftydollar.html
Houston, TX USA 08/29/2012
Great deals on European Car Rentals
I highly recommend Bob Bestor at Gemut.com! He always gets me the best deals on car rentals in Europe. I have used him several times and he is extremely helpful and flexible - especially when the details of my trip changed. Not only does he find me the best deals, but he is quick to respond and stands behind the rentals should anything happen when picking up or returning the car. And you can sign up for his free emails loaded with great European travel tips. Great rates, great service!
La Mesa, CA USA 08/17/2012
Could not find car rental return near Florence airport
We rented a car from Avis before we left home for our trip to Italy. We picked it up at the Avis office near the train station in Florence, but we knew we would have to return the car at the airport because we were returning it on a Sunday, and the office near the train station closes at 1 pm on Sundays. When we rented the car, we were given an aerial photo of the airport facility, with a line drawn in to show how to get to there. This should have been a warning sign. We got hopelessly lost trying to find the car rental return location. There were no street names posted, and only one sign pointed to the rental car return. It directed us into a busy intersection, with no other signs to follow, so we had to guess which way to turn in the intersection. The address for the rental office had no number, just a street name, so even having a GPS didn't help. We used the GPS to find an Avis office, but it took us to the actual airport probably where the office used to be. Plus the GPS was telling us to turn on this street or that, but with no street names posted, we couldn't actually tell if we were going the right way (and usually ended up hearing, "Recalculating").
We drove for over an hour around and around the airport, on and off the autostrada, through neighborhoods and busy intersections, until finally we saw a parking lot under a highway overpass with a Hertz sign. It looked very sketchy and there were no other signs leading there, but we took a chance and went in a forbidden entrance to a nearby parking lot. Still no signs that this was a rental car return lot, but we drove around and found a van with a tent beside it that said "Avis." Literally no other sign indicated that this is where we should be. There were two sullen agents who acted as if we were bothering them by returning the car. All that was awful enough, but then we had to wait for a tiny shuttle bus to take us to the airport. The bus could fit about 20 people and there were probably 50 in line. Never rent from Avis in Florence!
Clemson, SC USA 07/26/2012
A GPS is not essential. What did we before GPS??
Good maps and planning.
I have driven thousands of miles in Europe without a GPS.
I use one now for the 'last mile' and I agree it helps then but I have no need for the GPS for the majority of the trip.
Driving in Provence
A GPS is an absolute necessity when driving in Europe. We brought our portable one and got a map online to use when driving in Provence.
Atlanta, GA USA 07/06/2012
Just came back from France and want to warn Americans that rent a car in France, most are diesel and although our diesel pumps in America are green handles, they are not green in France, diesel is called gazoil and the pump is usually (although not always) yellow.
Fountain Valley, CA USA 07/05/2012
Pompeii and amalfi coast tour
We booked a private tour through SorrentoSilverStar for Pompeii and the Amalfi coast. Our guide Catello was fantastic and couldn't have done any more for us. Pompeii was quite fascinating but after a while one old building looks like the next and we were anxious to continue our tour along the famed Amalfi Coast. The drive was a spectacular as we had imagined with every turn producing an unbelievable view. We visited Sorrento and Positano before returning to Naples ........well worth the trip.
Salina, Kansas USA 06/28/2012
We had used Avis three times previously and have learned alot. If you are doing "open jaw", leave at least an hour to find a gas station and the Avis spot. You may need to go to several gas stations (and there are many fewer) to find one that takes credit cards (as opposed to chip cards). Also, figuring out where to return the car and park it is NOT obvious, and asking at the rental site has not proven helpful. Unfortunately, in June, Avis charged us on taking the car and on returning the car, and so far, with 5 hours of time on the phone, with Avis, Avis France and Amex- no help- very, very frustrating. Next time, with whomever I rent, I will ask- are you charging my cc now, or when I return?
Boise, ID USA 06/27/2012
I was apprehensive about renting from Avis based on so many negative comments that I read on this site. We had already purchased a voucher for the car so we were 'stuck' with Avis. I'm glad to say that we had zero problems with Avis and found everyone we spoke with to be extremely helpful.
We picked up and returned the car in Paris. We initially were going to navigate the old fashioned way and use maps only. However, the agent talked us into a GPS. It was the best $11/day we could've spent. Actually, it wound up being free as the cigarette lighter adapter was missing and we had to plug the USB into our laptop to keep the GPS powered up and to charge at night in hotels. It was more of an inconvenience than anything and when I told the agent when we returned the car, he profusely apologized and immediately took the charge off. I'd definitely rent from Avis again.
Ft. Myers, FL USA 06/25/2012
Rental Car Tip
One thing to think about if you're renting a car in a large European city...ie. Paris...pick up and drop off near the beltway around the city so you don't have to drive through the heart of the city. Unless of course you're familiar with the city and can handle the stress of crazy drivers and traffic jams.
Ft. Myers, FL USA 06/25/2012
We have been traveling to Europe for almost 20 years now and have driven in most countries. Every time we have rented a car from Hertz while still in the USA. Every time we have been very happy with Hertz. No hassles, no surprises, no tricks. Great cars and great service.
Tucson, Az USA 06/16/2012
Driving and Parking
We rented a car from AutoEurope in Berlin, after hearing about a discount from a fellow traveler while there. When we went to get the car, we decided it was too large; and it was replaced with a smaller one, but at the same price!! OK. The only other problem occurred when we had to add oil, which cost 23 euros for a liter. Amazing! But that was reimbursed when we turned the car in. We took our GPS unit along; and we found it very helpful, aside from a few glitches. Also had paper maps for backup. Parking is always a problem since stickers are often required. When we were in Vienna and Cologne we used Park and Ride locations for about 3 euros a day and used the public transportation to get around. It's important to be able to adjust to the greater speeds allowed on some roadways and get out of the way!! I like the way roundabouts work, and the fact that they take up so much less land than our access lanes.
Mountain View, CA USA 06/05/2012
driving in Italy
We've just returned from 3 weeks in Italy, and I have some advice I hope will help others. Despite frustrations and crazy driving styles, having a car lets you get places you can't go otherwise. On finding your way: As some others have noted, the GPS is not a miracle machine; partly because of its own flaws and partly because of the nature of road conditions. The GPS can't deal very well with new construction or detours. If you are looking for a tiny place and are far away, the GPS may not be able to find it. In Italy, signage is quirky, at best. You may be told to turn on a certain road, but you won't see signs with names until later. At country round-abouts, the signs show town names, not highway numbers. Sometimes there are slight differences in place names, which the GPS couldn't deal with at all. E.g., We were looking for Cava d'Ispica ( name from the Michelin guide). GPS couldn't find it, even though we were very close. A few km away we saw a sign "Cava Ispica." Apparently, both variations are used but the GPS could only use the one.
We were not able to get our Garmin to give distances in km. Since the odometer and road signs use the metric system, it was less than precise, especially where there were two possible turns very close to each other. The GPS also seemed to want to route us along the straightest path, regarless of the nature of the road. Twice we found ourselves heading along what might be charitably called a paved cowpath. Another time it took us on a very hilly path full of hairpin turns. After 20 minutes, we saw a sign telling us that we were only 3 km from our starting place. On the return trip we followed the signs and saved about 15 minutes. We found the best tactic was to use a map for a long distance between two places, then switch to the GPS when we got close and needed detailed directions for getting into or out of town. I would also recommend always using an autostrade when possible, no matter what the GPS says. It's faster, has services, and you don't risk time-consuming detours for road work. Finally, the GPS makes mistakes, like saying take the 3rd exit from the round-about when you need the 2nd.
Car rentals: Both of ours, one in Tuscany and one in Sicily, were arranged through Autoeurope with Hertz. I now consider Hertz to be a bunch of crooks, and I haven't even seen the final charges on my Visa bill. They put a 200 euro charge on your bill, which they say will be removed if you return the car refueled. Since they tell you the car holds about 90 euros worth of fuel, why 200? In fact, why anything? They have your cc number. It seems to me just a way to hold 200 euros for no reason other than that they can. BTW, since the euro has dropped, I'll probably get less back than the initial charge. More money into the coffers of Hertz.
The agent at Catania airport tried to convince me that there were no service stations nearby for refueling and that I should plan to return the car as close to empty as possible. This was a flat out lie. I had the wit to check with our agriturismo host who told me of one 5 km from the airport. When we took the exit off the tangenziale, there was one even closer, 1.7 km. I certainly will never accept a rental through Hertz again, anywhere in the world!
Berkeley, CA USA 05/25/2012
GPS and Paper Maps
My husband and I just returned from a trip to Europe, and he drove in the Netherlands, Germany, and Austria. He brought his GPS device, and it was very helpful in getting us to locations. However, I strongly recommend also bringing a paper map of the country. We visited the Bavarian Alps and were trying to return to Munich. Unfortunately the road to the autobahn was closed and either we couldn't understand the signs about the closure or there weren't any signs, and the GPS device kept telling us to use the closed road. Luckily, we had a paper map of Germany and we were able to find an alternate way back to Munich.
If a rental car is used, I also recommend taking photographs of the car before returning it to the rental agency. In the past, we have had problems in which the rental agency claimed that we damaged the car. The photographs are proof of the car's condition when the car was returned.
CA USA 05/18/2012
I see a couple of negative comments about Avis. I've never used them in Europe, but instead used brokers Auto Europe and Kemwel (both now under the same ownership). The rates always seem far lower than Avis, etc., and once they confirm it, it's set (there are added fees, but those are spelled out in advance).
Portland, ME USA 05/06/2012
LTZ & LEZ in Europe
If you are looking for LTZ oraz LEZ in Europe try http://city-transport.info site. Especially http://city-transport.info/index/Florence/Limited_Traffic_Zone or http://city-transport.info/index/London/Limited_Traffic_Zone. The is a lot of maps, points etc
Warsaw, Poland 05/06/2012
Transfers to Amalfi Coast
For transfers from Naples to Amalfi Coast, we highly recommend Anthony Buonocore at www.amalfitransfer.com. He answers all emails promptly and he arrives on time. His prices are also more reasonable than any other drivers. We hired Anthony to drive us from the Naples train station to Positano and back. We also hired him for an 8-hour tour of the Amalfi Coast, which was definitely the highlight of our entire trip.
Cheryl and Steven
WALTHAM, MA USA 05/01/2012
Avis Car Rentals, Florence, Italy
We had a wonderful two week vacation in the Florence area with the exception of the last two days. We wanted to visit a city that could not be reached by train. So, we went to the airport, rented a car, I had a GPS., and we visited the destination. All was good, except driving is scary. When we returned to Florence for our final night stay, instead of returning the car to the airport, we decided to keep it for the night, and then drive it to the airport the next morning. Huge mistake. Driving in Florence is a nightmare. 10 months later we received three tickets for violating traffic laws that we were unaware of, and the fines were 122 euros each. We also received a 30 euro parking ticket for not haveing a resident sticker on our car for one nights parking! Then we returned the car at 5;30am the next morning, and put the keys and contract in the box. We received a bill from Avis for over $300 for a rental that was booked at $100. Never received satisfaction. AE reversed the charged because Avis would never explain the charges to them. Then we received a letter from an attorney for Avis, Florence saying we were being sued for non payment in Italy, and were "blackballed" from ever visiting Italy again since we would be thrown in jail! Lesson learned. 1. Do not rent a car in Florence. 2. Do not rent a car from Avis. Big expensive lesson learned. By the way, Corporate Avis, U.S. never would get involved in solving this problem.
College Corner, Ohio USA 04/19/2012
Anthony Buonocore-transfer & excursions Amalfi- www.amalfitransfer.com, absolutely excellent service for our journey from Naples to Amalfi and back to airport. Anthony is a lovely friendly gentlemen and offered advice as well as giving us a fantastice drive. My advice: dont try anyone else, go for Anthony. I highly recommend you check out his site, email and text messages answered within minutes and we were extremely delighted and very pleased with his first class service.
Northants, UK 04/16/2012
Anthony Buonocore-transfer & excursions Amalfi- www.amalfitransfer.com, excellent reliable service for our ride from Naples to Amalfi and back to airport. We highly recommend you check out his site, our email was answered within minutes and we were very pleased with his service.
Donna & Ed
LANSDOWNE, Va USA 04/12/2012
Vittorio Rosato was the highlight of our trip to the Amalfi Coast
If you are going anywhere on the Amalfi Coast, you owe it to yourself to not risk renting a car and instead leave the driving to Vittorio Rosato. He was prompt, professional, funny, and charming (straight out of central casting for a movie) and was always willing to snap a picture or share his insights about the land he loves. When our room at Le Sirenuse was not quite ready at check-in, rather than abandoning us, he suggested a nearby area for shopping and sightseeing, then spent over 90 minutes with us without asking for additional compensation (which we provided regardless)! We enjoyed him so much on one leg of our trip that we insisted upon him personally for a second trip, and even became Facebook friends upon returning to the States. Do not hesitate to book him! This is his website www.Rosatoprivatetour.com
Austin, Tx USA 04/11/2012
We hired Amalfitransfers.com. and had Anthony Buonocore drive us up and down the coast all day. I get car sick easily and never got sick all day even on the coastal switchbacks. My husband has a prosthetic leg and Anthony helped him whenever necessary, very helpful. We had a great day listening to all his helpful information about the area.
Atlanta, GA USA 02/23/2012
AVIS Rental Car in France FIASCO
I would like to second the experience of John from Mertztown PA, below. Here is my sad story:
I went to www.avis.com and reserved a rental car for my vacation last summer in France. No where on the site nor on the reservation agreement does it say that Avis and Avis France are separate and distinct operating entities. I chose Avis strictly BECAUSE they are an American company and I wanted to deal with an American company, instead of a local French company that might have rules and customs that I didn't understand.
Avis in France provided a horrible experience they sent us to a confirmed pick-up location that had been closed for weeks, then, when we found another Avis location, they gave us a car with known problems that broke down (we were later told that the previous renter had had similar problems and the car hadn't been serviced and should never have been rented to us). Then, after much arguing in a foreign language, Avis replaced the car with a vehicle several classes smaller than what we rented. The whole rental car fiasco cost us a day and a half of our vacation.
To top if off, Avis France doesn't think they have any responsibility to abide by the reservation price that I agreed to on www.avis.com. A rental which I reserved at $301.44 US dollars, was charged to my credit card for $716.50.
www.Avis.com suddenly says they have no responsibility and cannot enforce the reservation price that I have in writing from them. Apparently, Avis US and Avis France are two separate entities, and they now act as if I am somehow supposed to have know this. However, it doesn't say such a thing on their site, nor on the reservation confirmation anywhere. When I now call Avis in the US, they agree that I deserve almost a full refund due to the myriad of problems, but they claim are totally powerless to do anything about it, even though it is them that I made the reservation through and called several times before the trip to ask questions.
What other FINE PRINT and RED TAPE clauses will they pull out when they are actually on the line for YOUR problem? I SAY STAY AWAY from this company, as they appear to be ethically corrupt.
San Diego, CA USA 02/20/2012
Amalfi Transfers and Tours
Twice while visiting southern Italy, we used the services of Vittorio Rosato at www.Rosatoprivatetour.com. Each time, Vittorio picked us up at our hotel in Rome and drove us to the Amalfi Coast. While in Amalfi, he took us on excursions to visit the jewels of the area. I was worried about the crazy driving along the small streets of the area but he made each trip pleasant and carefree. He was born and lives in Sorrento and is very knowledgeable about the area. He is a delight, takes very good care of his customers and is very proficient in English. At the end of our stay, he drove us to Tuscany. If you desire to go to southern Italy but don't want the hassle of trains or planes, Vittorio is the man for you!
George and Julee Barber
Seattle, WA USA 01/11/2012
International Drivers License Advice
We just want to alert travelers who drive in Spain that you will do yourself a big favor if you pick up an International Drivers License at AAA ($15) before you leave the USA. We just returned from our third driving trip in Spain. For the first time, I was stopped for an illegal left turn off Goya in Madrid. Local enforcement stopped me and checked my papers. My valid Iowa license was not good enough for them and I was fined 250 Euros on the spot. They also threatened to impound the car. Apparently it goes back to some Vienna treaty from years ago that was not officially signed by the U.S. A visit to the U.S. Embassy the next morning provided no help. I should have gotten the IDL before we left. I certainly will in the future. By the way, no mention was ever made of the need when I rented from SIXT in Madrid, and the Barcelona SIXT representatives told me I didn't need an International license.
Decorah, Iowa USA 01/06/2012
Car Rental in Europe
Last year I traveled for a week in the UK and a week on the continent. I rented separate cars, both from Avis. I reserved the cars online through the Avis website. I had clear quotes with prices stated in US dollars. When I returned and got my credit card bills, I found I was charged 2-1/2 times that amount for the actual rentals. I am still fighting the battle. Avis has blamed the overcharge on, in order, exchange rates, taxes, car upgrades, lack of documentation, and finally their own inability to deal with their European counterparts.None of those claims are valid. The quotes were in USD, taxes were clearly stated as included, I did not upgrade my car, I supplied documentation out the ying-yang, and their problems with the European office are theirs, not mine. It was a total rip off. I am posting similar messages all over web travel sites to caution people against Avis Europe and fraudulent practices.
Mertztown, PA USA 01/04/2012