You’ve planned your well-earned trip and are daydreaming about driving through the countryside of Tuscany, with the sun on your face and villas passing by. If buses and trains aren’t your thing and you long to see the foreign sites on your own time, there are plenty more things to consider when renting a car abroad? A little preparation is well worth the effort.
No matter how cautious a driver you are on home soil, driving in foreign territory poses its own unforeseen challenges with narrow roads, poor visibility of objects, unfamiliar rules and maps to navigate. Enjoying your road trip comes down to preparation and comprehensive insurance so you can relax and know you’re covered, if the worst happens.
Some cautionary and practical considerations include:
- Confirm whether your travel insurance policy already covers damage to rental cars abroad, and if so, top it up to include additional coverage such as towing and liability (injury to others and damage to property).
- Check to see if your credit card covers auto insurance that includes renting abroad at no additional cost. Get in touch with your credit card company by calling on the number given on the back of your credit card to learn what you’re already covered for.
- As either a stand-alone insurance policy, or a top-up to your travel insurance or credit card coverage, consider buying comprehensive accident protection from the rental car agency. Read the fine print!
Research and Preparation
- Do plenty of research beforehand about driving conditions in the area and the local rules. Travel websites and forums are a great place to learn from others’ experiences, get tips and insurance advice.
- The first consideration is what side of the road you’ll be driving on. If you’ve never driven on the opposite side of the road while sitting on the ride side of the car, consider renting an automatic rather than dealing with standard gears. Practice around the block or in a parking lot before hitting the roads.
- An International Driving Permit may be required for some locations. If unsure, check before you travel. You can obtain an IDP at a local office of either American Automobile Association (AAA.com) or the National Auto Club.com.
- Research can include visiting Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT.org) which provides comprehensive “Know before you go” information and country road travel reports.
- Check the rental car over for damage and ensure it’s reported before leaving the car lot. Take pictures of the condition of the car before you drive it, to ensure you’re not billed after your return for “phantom” damages.
- Get comfortable with the indicators, lights, gears, type of fuel needed, alarms, air conditioning or heat, radio, horn, wipers, and hazard warning lights. Know where the car registration paperwork is kept.
- Be on the alert for local parking restrictions to avoid unforgiving tickets.
- Be aware of national holidays, so you’re not surprised when roads, gas stations and stores are closed.
- Get a rental car with a current GPS system.
Some research and proper insurance coverage will bring peace of mind when venturing off in your holiday rental car.