While the public transportation systems in many international destinations are safe, clean, cheap and reliable, many seasoned travelers prefer having their own transportation, and in many areas it is necessary to rent a car to get from place to place.
There are a number of thing to remember to make renting a car internationally less costly and less of a hassle.
One of the most important things to remember involves traveling to Canada and Mexico in an American based rental car. In most cases, the insurance that comes with the rental car does not cover you once the car has left the country.
If you are not sure about your coverage, always be sure to check your rental agreement. While this is important in Canada, it is vital in Mexico.
While it is possible to buy special Mexican car insurance when traveling there, it is generally not recommended that casual visitors drive into Mexico. It is generally better to park in one of the border lots and take the shuttle bus to the border.
If you plan to drive abroad, either in Canada, Mexico, Europe or anywhere else outside the United States, it is a good idea to obtain an international drivers permit.
While an international drivers permit is not required everywhere, it is a good idea to get one. The fee to obtain an international drivers permit is low, and the literature that comes along with it is quite valuable. An international drivers permit can be obtained through an AAA office.
It is also important to check with the company that provides your auto insurance to see if you are covered for international driving. If your normal policy does not cover you, inquire about purchasing a special policy for your trip. Also check with your credit card company to see if the rental car collision coverage they offer is good outside the country.
When arranging for a rental car, it is usually less costly to do so before you leave the United States. It can also be considerably more trouble to wait until you arrive to rent a car, and you always run the risk that the type of car you want is not available.
When renting cars in Europe, it is generally best to choose a compact or subcompact car, as many of the streets in European cities are quite narrow, and parking is often very limited. It is best to rent the smallest car you feel comfortable with.
If you plan to combine a car rental with a rail pass, there may be discounts available. Always be sure to check with your travel agent and take advantage of any discounts to which you are entitled. Some hotels and airlines also have special deals on rental cars for their customers.
If you will be dropping off your rental car in a different location that where you picked it up, which is common in European rentals, be sure to choose a rental agency that offers a low drop off fee.
When planning your trip, always keep in mind that prices for gas and diesel fuel are generally much higher than those in the United States, often as much as three times as expensive. Be sure to factor fuel costs into your travel budget. This is yet another reason to rent the smallest car you can find.
Another reason a small car is important is the frequent lack of available parking in many resort areas and near many major tourist attractions. Even if you have a car, you may want to leave it at the hotel and take public transportation to these types of destinations.
When you pick up your car, be sure that you get the terms you agreed to before you left home. If the terms are not agreeable when you get there, be prepared to cancel the deal and make alternate arrangements.
It is also important to take a company representative with you and carefully examine the car's exterior for dings and scratches. Be sure to note any pre existing damage to avoid being charged for it when the car is returned.