Find out how you can rent a car abroad to discover more places from the country you're visiting.

How To Rent A Car Abroad

Renting a car abroad is the best way to discover more places in the country you’re visiting, places where you wouldn’t get too easily (if at all) without a car. It’s the perfect way to go on a road trip and stop in picturesque places to take photos. However, a lot of people think it’s too difficult or too expensive, so I would like to tell you everything you need to know about renting a car on your holiday.

1. Decide on the type of car you want

Well technically step 1 would be to get your driving license, but since you’re reading this, I assume you already have one. 😉 First of all you should decide what type of car you will rent: do you want one with manual or automatic transmission? Two doors, four doors? For how many people?What about gas: petrol or diesel? Keep in mind that diesel cars are more fuel efficient but the price of diesel (as well as renting such a car) is usually higher. Here is a list of fuel prices in Europe.

Tip: Make sure you know how the fuel tank should be when you return the car, the most common are “supplied full, return full” or “supplied half full, return half full”. Though I haven’t encountered it, I heard it was possible to be charged up front for a full tank and return it empty.

2. Choose the right company

To find the best offer, you need to look for a site where you can choose from different rental companies and filter the results according to your needs. This way, you can compare the prices and see which one best fits your budget, as well as how extra options can add to the total cost.

Tip: You can’t rent a car without a credit card, the companies require one and you need to make sure you have enough funds on it (they usually block an amount for security reasons that gets unblocked by the bank after 30 days). Some companies (like Europcar) have a strange policy that says the credit card must be in the driver’s name.

3. Choose the additional options

This is the step where you need to be careful because additional options can lead to a much higher bill since they are charged per day. Some things are necessary, like a child seat, but you can do without others. Getting a navigation system can be quite pricey if you rent the car for more days so think twice before choosing it. You could even buy one before the trip or use an app on your smartphone.

Tip 1: If the driver is under 25, it will cost more. If there is an additional driver, there will be an extra charge as well.

Tip 2: If the drop-off location is different from the pick-up location, it will also lead to more costs.

Cape St Vincent in Portugal, a place I wouldn't have seen without renting a car

4. Read about insurance

You’ll be offered a lot of choices when it comes to insurance and they will seem so confusing, you’ll end up telling them to give you the best one. The most common are CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) and LDW (Loss Damage Waiver). CDW covers damage from an accident that happened while the car was moving, while LDW covers theft and vandalism. There are also options to get an insurance for passengers in case of an accident. This is why it’s best to read the terms carefully and decide which one is best for you.

Tip 1: try not to get into an accident! 😉 If something happens though, you need to alert the police as well as the rental company immediately.

Tip 2: when you get the car, an agent will check it for scratches and dents. You should check as well and point out if they miss any, so you won’t have any problems when you return it.

5. Research the laws of the country

Every country has different laws and driving makes no exception. Some have different speed limits, others have left-hand traffic, or in some having a few beers before driving could get you in jail (or hospital, don’t drink and drive, kids!). Also, some countries may require the driver to have different items in the car, such as a first aid kit or a warning triangle.

6. Return the car

Lastly, return the car (preferably in one piece) on time. If you’re late, you could be charged for another day and I’m sure you don’t want that. Make sure the tank has enough fuel so you won’t have to pay for that either. An agent will inspect the car for scratches and you should check to see whether you have forgotten something inside, since it could be quite a hassle to get it back.

However, the most important thing to remember is: drive safely and have fun! 😀

Have you ever rented a car abroad? Would you like to?

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Renting a car abroad is an excellent way to discover more places from the country you're visiting. Here's everything you need to now to make the whole process go smoothly.

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  • Thank you for this! It’s very informative! I’ve even bookmarked it for future travels. 🙂
    We rented one in Greece (a Fiat Panda :D) to get to the starting point of the Mt. Olympus trek, but since it was in Greece, they accepted cash and it was ridiculously cheap, no safety deposits needed.
    We are always anxious about renting cars during our travels, and if we only need it for shorter distances, we usually decide on a scooter/motorbike instead, especially if it’s just the two of us.

  • Glad I could help! I was nervous the first time we rented one since I didn’t know what to expect, but it went alright and now we usually rent a car if we stay in a place for more than a few days. I wanted to make the post as informative as I can, and not rant about my recent experience with Europcar, haha.

  • Great tips Vlad. We struggle a little more now we have a little one as we can never be sure the car seats will be available. I also find the hidden extras that car companies charge very cheeky. It definitely pays to shop around.

    • Car rental companies, just like low cost airlines, are always looking for ways to make an extra buck if people aren’t careful…

  • I’ve rented cars so many times. In croatia, they were really picky when they inspected the car when we gave it back. They were trying to make us pay for old damages/scratches. So it’s important when you take the car on the first day to check everything carefully and to write it on the sheet of paper EVERY SCRATCH before signing it. We used alamo, and wouldn’t recommend it.

    In the US on the other hand, it’s so smooth, they don’t give a shit. Everything is so easy, not surprises. It’s so pleasant to rent a car over there. We used budget car.

    In Iceland, it’s useless to take the extra insurrance, because if the tires explode, if you have sand/gravel damages or if your windshield breaks down you are not covered. If you have an accident, even with the extra insurrance, you still have to pay a fixed amount. So there is no need to pay for it. I wish I had known that.

    • I used Budget (no problems with them) and Europcar, who were okay if it weren’t for the weird things they did with my credit card (they blocked the total cost from the card and then charged me for the car while that amount was still blocked, resulting in a negative balance. Who even does that?!).

      • yeah, that’s really weird ! :s I’ve never experienced that 🙁

  • I love road-trips when in Europe! I have rented in the south of France, Italy, and Czech Republic. On all of those, the ability to veer off the typical itineraries with ease was one of the highlights.

    • I love road trips too! This year will be the first time we go abroad with our own car instead of renting one (short distance though, to Greece via Bulgaria).

      • I cannot wait to read all about it!

  • galanda23

    I rented cars in Europe many times when and I always got good deals. The only time I encountered a problem was in Romania. Those guys are crooks, nobody should do business with the rental car companies there. Not only they give you shitty cars, but they overcharge you like nowhere else in the world. They don’t respect their terms of contract either: they quote you a price and they charge you double. We almost got into litigation with one of these companies.

    • Sorry to hear you had troubles! What companies did you rent from?

      • galanda23

        I can’t remember exactly, I just threw the paperwork away. They quoted me $650 for 9 days and charged my credit card around $1,200. Can you believe it?

        • Oh my god, did you rent a limousine?!? Seriously, I haven’t paid that much anywhere, the car we rented in Portugal last year for 10 days was around $530, only because we added another driver, extra insurance and switched to a diesel car (I think the initial price was around $320). Even $650 seems a lot for Romania to me, based on the prices and cost of living here. 🙁

          • galanda23

            Of course I didn’t rent a limousine. You might not be aware of these prices in Romania because you didn’t have to rent a car there, but believe me there was never a time when I wanted to rent and got a decent quote. Luckily, most of the times we land in Tg.Mures and we rent from a very small local company. They charged us only 210 EUR/week, which is very decent.

  • That is a very awesome and helpful post Vlad!!
    Great point about choosing between gas or diesel… that’s very important to know!
    This post reminded me of my honeymoon.. W and I rented a car in Dubai at the airport. We made the reservation in advance and chose a car with GPS… getting there we went to the company and got the keys. First it was pretty hard to find the car, and I must say it was a bit stressful. Second… the car had no GPS at all and were lost in Dubai for 2 hours until we managed to find our hotel with a paper map 😀 hahaha today I can laugh about it!

    • Oh man, I would’ve been SO pissed, haha! We always bring or own GPS though, it saves us a lot and knows all the best routes 😀

      • hahahaha yes!!
        We have GPS but on the phone, and we didnt have any downloaded from the UAE as we trusted the car would have GPS… when we got to the hotel we downloaded one hahaha

  • We love to renting car abroad and we did in Iceland and the whole of the Balkans. We are planning to do in NZ too.

    • You just described two road trips I’m dying to take, Iceland and the Balkans, haha 😀

      • Hahaha! It was soooo much fun. Our trifecta would be completed if we do NZ by car (at least the South Island) We have been researching about it. My husband did it on a trip with Contiki and he said he can definitely drive, the only bad part is — left hand drive! Lol! Anyway, we want to do another road trip of Europe again, countries we haven’t visited together. Its on our list too. The US is also a nice place to tour around with a car. We did Niagara, Quebec and Montreal by car from our hometown – Philly. 🙂 Let me know when you finally did Iceland! 😛

  • I have never rented a car abroad, but it sounds pretty similar to America.

    • Yes, I assume it’s the same everywhere, although different companies have different rules.

  • donoghuemc

    Great tips – all very important, especially knowing the laws in each new country you’re visiting haha on my parents last trip to Europe they drove across the continent and I kept getting amusing messages from mum clocking in how many times they got pulled over for breaking some kind of new law!

    • Haha, the only problem we had was getting a ticket for parking in a wrong spot at the airport, even though a flight attendant told us it was okay to park there 😀

  • Melody Pittman

    Great suggestions. We have rented them many times and the rules always change when on someone else’s turf. One thing I would add is to make sure to bring copies of your agreement you’ve worked out because they often try to jack the price up and unless you have that documentation, they will win. Thanks for watching out for us!

    • Excellent point, I always bring copies of reservation confirmations, including at the hotels. You’ll never know who you’ll have to deal with. 🙂

  • Really good points! I never rented a car before (I feel so insecure about my driving skills, because the last time I drove was at my driving exam, haha), but I feel that it’s about time for me to do it!!
    I should probably wait until I turn 25, though, to save a bit money. It doesn’t make much sense to me that renting is more expensive if you’re younger, but oh well.

    • Haha, same here, I haven’t driven since my exam and that was a long time ago. But I feel I need to start doing it, it’s super useful on longer trips.