For the longest time, having to rent a car abroad was my least favorite part of travel. I loved the freedom that it gave me to explore & the way that it allowed me to get out & get lost, but no matter how hard I tried something would always go wrong. I learned lesson after lesson "the hard way" because every company & every country is different, but today I have finally got it all figured out! So here it is; for all of our travelers who rent cars abroad & crave the freedom that it brings you, these are our top TL Travel tips for SUCCESSFULLY renting a car for your next vacation!
GET YOUR PERMIT (IF YOU NEED ONE)
It's all about the documentation! While many countries will allow you to rent & drive abroad with your government issued driver's license & passport, many countries require an international driving permit as well. While these permits are not necessarily difficult to get, they can take some time to acquire & showing up without one could mean getting turned away from your rental car on arrival. Check with the embassy or rental car company beforehand, & if you plan on crossing boarders during your trip, be sure to do your research for permit requirements in those countries as well.
TL Travel Tip: A permit is not a replacement for your driver's license so be sure to have both on hand!
KNOW WHAT'S COVERED
Although your personal car insurance is not likely to cover car rentals abroad, your travel credit card (if you have one) will often have some form of basic coverage included. Check for coverage that you already have before you leave, purchase any additional coverage you may need & avoid paying at the counter for coverage that you already have.
TL Travel Tip: Print a copy of the coverage that you already have so that you can provide proof if questioned by the rental car company on arrival. In many countries, car rental agents will require a copy of your coverage should you decline theirs.
COMPARE RATES & GET THE BEST DEAL
Before you make your purchase, be sure to compare rates online through sites like Expedia who offer a variety of rates for a number of different companies. You may also want to check with any hotel or airline membership programs that you are part of as they will often offer rental car discounts in combination with hotel or flight bookings.
TL Travel Tip: If you are booking a car for 5 or 6 days, be sure to compare daily rental prices with week-long booking deals. In some cases it is cheaper to rent a car for the full week & simply return it one or two days early.
KNOW WHAT YOU'RE RENTING
Knowing the vehicle that you're renting is incredibly important because there are so many scams (& honest mistakes) surrounding this all of the time. When you first receive your vehicle & before you leave the lot, take a moment to inspect it & ensure that any damages are noted by your rental car agent.
If you are not leaving the lot with a full tank of gas, be sure that this is noted also so that you are not expected to return it with one. Take note of any dents or scratches from previous drivers & inspect the interior as well.
TL Travel Tip: Take extra precautions by taking time-stamped photos of any damages that you notice before leaving the lot to avoid being held liable or getting caught up in a scam (this is particularly helpful when renting scooters & motor bikes in Southeast Asia.)
KNOW WHERE YOU'RE DRIVING
The last one is simple but often overlooked. Make sure that you know the rules of the road in the countries where you're driving. Just because they drive on the same side of the road as you, does not necessarily mean that their laws are the same. Before departing, re-confirm speed limits & parking laws (especially in countries where the signage is not represented in English.)
TL Travel Tip: Obtain a copy of the foreign country’s driving laws & decide if you will be comfortable driving there BEFORE you book your rental car.
Renting a car abroad can be the perfect way to get off of the beaten path & experience things that other travelers may not have the chance to. It can be an incredibly fun & freeing experience, but it is always important to stay informed & follow the rules of the road (& the country!) If you have any tips or tricks that you live by when renting cars overseas, feel free to leave them in a comment below; we love to hear from you!