Whether it’s your gap year, much anticipated summer vacation or first-ever road trip, renting a car overseas and making your own way around can be easier and more rewarding than you think. Don’t let the lack of public transport make you miss that famous castle or idyllic bay you’ve always dreamed of visiting. Ready to hire a car? Here are some things to remember before leaving Australia…
1. International Driving Permit
It is better to be safe than sorry. An International Driving Permit is a translation of your driver’s licence, allowing motorists to drive internationally without further tests, provided their domestic driver’s licence is valid. In fact, some rental companies will insist on seeing an IDP before they will allow you to hire a car and in parts of Southeast Asia it can mean the difference between being fined, as an Australian licence will often be rejected by local police. You can get an IDP for as little as $40 from any state-based Australian Automobile Association.
2. Book before you land
Comparison websites, such as Skyscanner, mean it is easy to have your hire car sorted before you leave Australia. It sometimes feels like a leap of faith that you could arrive in Dublin airport and walk past the queues to pick up your keys, but that is the joy of the internet. You can also often get a better deal online, but beware of the upselling of products such as insurance and car size once you are at the rental desk.
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All hire cars in Europe come with Collision Damage Waiver. If you have an accident and damage the vehicle, your liability will be limited to the excess, which you can decide depending on the country and the car rental company. When you hire a car in the US, you need cover for Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and Loss Damage Waiver (LDW), since you may be liable for the total replacement cost of the vehicle. Some travel insurance policies will include all the insurance you need while some credit cards will provide insurance cover for your rental vehicle when you charge the hire to your card. Check with your card provider to see if this applies. And most importantly, read the fine print.
4. A sense of direction
There is nothing quite as exciting as pulling out a paper map and tracing your route with a pen. However, if our experience in Spain is any indication it can mean you end up in a town you weren’t actually aiming for. Some hire car companies will also provide a GPS system at a small extra cost, and if your destination includes a big city it is worth the expense. Be careful about using your mobile phone as you may end up with an enormous bill at the end.
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5. Remember where you are
Coming from Australia, it is easy to end up on the wrong side of the road. You will find it easy enough in the UK as people drive on the left hand side of the road, but the rest of Europe and America is right-hand drive. Take some time in a quiet area, if you can, to get used to the difference. Approach roundabouts and corners with caution as it is really easy to swing into traffic. If however you end up hiring at Rome airport, there is only one thing to do… take a deep breath and swing out with foot to the floor into the mad world of Italian drivers.
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