Car rental agency

Do you need to rent a car in Europe or other overseas destinations?

Should you rent a car on your next trip abroad? Making the call is harder than ever.

Consider my recent trip to Portugal’s Alentejo region just as the delta variant of COVID was beginning to loosen its grip on Europe. The region of central Portugal, known for its castles, olive groves and vineyards, has excellent public transport.

But I couldn’t plan my ambitious itinerary around bus and train schedules. There were also security concerns, with COVID cases rising again and a new variant looming. Things got complicated very quickly.

Experts say it will remain complicated for many travelers this summer. Between ongoing COVID-related safety concerns, a seemingly endless rental car shortage, and feeling like all is unfamiliar even in a place you’ve been before thanks to the pandemic, transportation options for your trips abroad have never been so difficult.


Don’t assume you need a rental

Experts say your default answer to “Do I need a rental car when I’m abroad?” should always be “not necessarily”.

“The car is often not the best means of transportation when you’re abroad,” says Kris Wsul, who runs Senderisto, a company that makes travel backpacks. The places you are likely to visit will likely have high fuel prices, traffic, and limited parking this summer.

Most other countries in the world have public transport systems that make driving a burden more than anything else. This is especially true in highly developed countries.

“Trains go all over Europe, and if there’s no train, you can take a bus,” says Charlie Leocha, a European travel expert who now heads the nonprofit travel advocacy group Travelers United. “They are clean and upscale.” (Editor’s note: Christopher Elliott co-founded and writes for Travelers United.)

And if you decide to rent a car, it warns you to be careful of toll roads.

“In Europe they seem to need a little loan,” he says.

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How much does it cost?

If you choose to rent a car, price is usually the most important factor. Fares are all over the map due to ongoing vehicle shortages.

For example, when CD Lazear traveled to Cape Town, South Africa this fall, he found that rental cars were unaffordable. He decided to use Uber instead. But in Johannesburg the prices were much cheaper and he could even get an upgrade through Hertz. Lazear’s employer, a New York-based luggage delivery company, strongly encouraged him to use rental during the pandemic, so it was an easy decision. “Renting a car is cheaper than carpooling,” he recalls.

How many passengers do you have?

It also depends on the number of people traveling with you. If that’s just you, a car can be impractical and expensive. But if you’re traveling with your family and need the flexibility to, say, stop at a grocery store or visit a remote attraction, then a car might make more sense. That’s the advice of Michael Stalf, who runs a German car rental company called My One Car.

Its car rental prices start at 40 euros per day, which can be much cheaper than the train if you have more than one passenger. (Please note: in order to keep prices low, his company does not accept credit cards. Payments are made by bank transfer.)

“It depends on where you want to go,” he says.

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What is the risk of public transport?

There is also the security aspect. After the onset of the pandemic, travelers who normally wouldn’t hesitate to take the train began to have second thoughts. Pattie Haubner and her husband visited France for two weeks late last year. “Before the pandemic, we would visit for long stretches of a few months and use all forms of transport during the trip, including train, buses and boats,” she says. But not this time.

“We felt a rental car was the best option for health and safety reasons,” says Haubner, a retired communications professional and frequent air traveler from West Nyack, New York. “It allowed us to forgo all public transport for the entire two weeks.”

Of course, for some travelers, nothing replaces the train, even in the event of a pandemic. Susan Stevens still refuses to rent a car and plans her summer vacation around train schedules. Her 2022 itinerary will take her and her husband through Portugal, Spain and Germany. This time, she will pack extra masks and hand sanitizer.

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“Traveling by train allows us to meet locals and takes the hassle out of parking and driving,” says Stevens, a retired publicist from Lakeside, Michigan.

Ultimately, whether you need a car while abroad is up to you and your travel goals. In Portugal, I managed to find a Volvo XC40, one of my favorite cars, for weekly rental through Europcar. It was a mixed blessing. The compact SUV took us everywhere we needed to go, but filling the tank cost a small fortune. In the end, we saw places in Alentejo that were not accessible by public transport, which was well worth it.

If there’s one thing the experts agree on, it’s that you have to think carefully before making a decision. This includes making an honest assessment of your driving skills. Are you able to drive a vehicle with a manual transmission? Because you might get one if you rent a car.

“What is your driving experience in other countries? says Erica Mallin, travel consultant specializing in off-road travel with Roads Less Traveled Italy. “Do you know the language at all? How many wine tastings do you want to do?”

So true. You can tick all the boxes on renting a car, but you have to remember that you’re still on vacation.

Essential car rental tips for international travel

Before using your credit card to rent a car abroad, assess whether you are fluent in the local language and comfortable driving on the right side of the road or driving a shifter, which are still common there.

Don’t forget the basics of car rental. Check your insurance coverage (many credit cards will cover an international rental). “Call the number on the back of your card to confirm if they offer coverage in the country you are traveling to and ask for a letter of cover in case the rental company requires proof,” advises Jonathan Weinberg, CEO of the rental site. of AutoSlash cars. com. Also, don’t forget to take “before” and “after” photos or videos of your vehicle in case you need to prove you didn’t damage the car.

Watch for supplements. For example, if you rent a car in London, you could face a congestion charge of 15 pounds (just over $20) per day and an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) charge of 12.50 books ($17) per day. Ash Lonare, a frequent driver in London, recommends either public transport or hiring an electric vehicle. “All fully electric cars are completely exempt from London congestion charge, as well as the ULEZ charge,” he said.

Stay alert for driving challenges. That would be driving across the road in countries like Australia, the UK and Japan, which can be tricky. But Bud St Pierre, marketing manager of a resort hotel in St. Simons Island, Georgia, rented cars in England for his family vacation, and says that – for him, at least – adapting is not not hard. “But you have to be prepared,” he adds.