How to Rent a Car in Europe
My own travel style has evolved over the years. In the past I generally bought one big, fat, wonderful railpass for my entire trip. These days I cobble together a few cheap flights within
Renting a car in
First decide, though, if you'll need a car. If you're just going from big city to big city, take trains instead;
For the best price, book in advance from home. Most of the major U.S. rental agencies (including Alamo/National,
European cars are most economical when rented by the week with unlimited mileage. Daily rates are generally quite high; typically, the longer you rent, the less it'll cost per day.
Plan your route thoughtfully with these tips in mind: Picking up a car at an airport sometimes costs more than picking it up downtown. Avoid picking up or dropping off your car in a small town on a Sunday or anywhere on a holiday, when offices are likely to be closed. If your route involves a ferry crossing, such as between
To avoid backtracking, pick up the car in one city and drop it off in another. (Bigger car-rental companies are more likely to have more branches, increasing your options.) There's generally no extra charge to pick up and drop off at different locations within the same country, but be warned that international drop-off fees typically add
Talking about fees, you could write a book about all the extras (someone probably has). Tax is generally 18 percent to 25 percent on top of the base price. The CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) insurance supplement runs about
Automatics can tack on an extra
How much to budget for a typical rental? Allow about
For a trip lasting several weeks or more, look into leasing (technically, buying the car and selling it back). Prices include all taxes, as well as theft and collision insurance (comparable to CDW), and you get to use a new car.
For a short trip, consider rail-and-drive passes. Along with a railpass, you get vouchers for a few
If you don't decide until you get to
Be sure to bring your driver's license; it's all you need to drive in most European countries. Some countries such as
Learn the rules of the European road. Check the U.S. State Department Website, www.travel.state.gov, select "International Travel," specify your destination country, and click "Traffic Safety and Road Conditions."
Once you're behind the wheel, you may curse the traffic jams, narrow roads, and macho habits, but driving in
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