Travel Europe

Europe Car Rental - Driving Tips You Need to Know

"Car rental agencies are always very busy and like to just hand you the keys and paperwork and let you deal with it."

By: Tom Ellerbe

Be sure to get an International Drivers License before you depart the USA. You can get the license from the Automobile Association or the National Auto Club. Some countries like Italy require an International Drivers License for all rentals. There are also some restrictions in various countries for young and seasoned travelers, so be sure and do your research.

Car rental agencies are always very busy and like to just hand you the keys and paperwork and let you deal with it. Make sure someone takes you to your vehicle and explains in English all the instructions to operate and use all the accessories. Many foreign autos have controls that you might find confusing. Learn how your security alarm system functions.

Become familiar with the type of "petro" or gasoline, your car requires. Gas or "petro" is one area where travelers will immediately understand why Europe favors smaller compact cars with manual transmissions. The cost of fuel and small medieval narrow alleys in Europe make small cars more practical. Overseas fuel costs can range from $10.00 to $15.00 dollars per gallon.

If you do have car damage or involved in an accident, follow all the procedures given to you. It is a good idea to take photos of any damage to your or the other car. Insurance and liability varies from country to country. The European roads have traveling tourist from many regions and countries with wide variations in liability coverage.

Auto pick up and returns from airports is very similar to the USA, but train stations are much more of a challenge because rental agencies are not always located at the train stations. I suggest renting a car with a GPS unit or bring your own navigation system with you. Make sure it has European software that will work in the countries you will be traveling.

Be familiar with the local road signs. You can google road signs and symbols on the internet. Study the signs and take copies with you. You just need to know the basics so you can travel within the law and avoid potential problems. Your first time on the motorway is not the place to learn.

Learn the fundamental rules for using the toll roads. Study the exit signs, pay station layouts and methods to pay. These toll road instructions are not always in English. Some countries do take credit cards and you need to pay attention so you will be in the correct lane when you exit to pay. You can usually find all this information listed on the internet. Keep plenty of euros in change as you might have 10 toll stops in a 50-mile run.

Europe is very serious about alcohol limits for drivers. The blood alcohol concentration limit for drivers generally ranges from 0.02 to 0.08. Expect zero tolerance in Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine and the Russian Federation. The bottom line is the same as in the USA "Do not Drink and Drive."

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