Sunny afternoons visiting little cities along the French Riviera, coastal paradises along Italy’s Amalfi Coast, or Ireland’s gorgeous country backroads can be best accessed by car. Renting a car in another country can offer you some of the best adventures in your desired destination, but it can also be a big headache for those who aren’t prepared.
Rental car companies offer travelers vehicles all over the world, but before you swipe your credit card and head into unknown territory, it’s important to consider whether or not renting a car during your travels is the best call.
Pros of Renting a Car
1. Easy, comfortable travel
Long layovers in airports, traveling for hours by train and transferring between stations, or taking stuffy buses can put a real downer on your otherwise glamorous travels. On the other hand, taking a car is private, spacious and efficient when it comes to comfortability. No waiting in long lines, worrying about boarding passes or train tickets, and you can also opt for an electric or hybrid vehicle to reduce your carbon footprint.
2. Explore new places
Flying across a country will surely get you to your destination in a timely manner, but it may not take you on the most scenic route. Taking a car allows you the freedom to decide what you see along the way. You can decide to stop in a nearby city for lunch, or take a backcountry route that offers gorgeous scenery.
3. Travel on your own schedule
When you reserve a flight or other form of transportation, delays or cancellations are out of your control. With a rental car, you can head on your way at your own pace, pick the route that works for you and have more control over your travels as a whole.
4. Great for group or family travel
Imagine you arrive at the airport with a group of friends or your family, all dragging clunky luggage behind them and trying to keep track of their passports and tickets. It’s likely not a pleasant image. Renting a car, eliminates some of the hassle of group travel, provides more personal space for your party, and can turn into a fun road trip memory for everyone.
Cons of Renting a Car
1. You need an international driver’s permit
In order to rent a car abroad you’ll need to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) in your country of origin. Make sure to find out if the country you are traveling to requires this. For example, U.S. citizens who decide to take a road trip through Canada or Mexico can use their state drivers license and do not need to obtain a new permit. In most other countries, you’ll need an IDP, which can be issued by the American Automobile Association or the American Automobile Touring Alliance. Americans must obtain this permit before they leave on their trip.
2. Traffic rules vary
It will come as no surprise to travelers that some countries such as England, Australia, India, Japan and more, drive on the left side of the road. Should you choose to rent a car in one of these countries, completely switching the orientation of your driving can be extremely difficult. Additionally, in many popular tourist countries such as Italy or Spain, the most common type of car available has a manual transmission. So if you can’t drive stick, you may be out of luck, or you will have to specifically request and wait for a vehicle with automatic transmission.
3. Can be expensive
Though it may be a great alternative to flights, trains, or buses, rates for renting are car are often inconsistent and can cost a pretty penny. Prices can be as low as under $100 for three days or as a high as $500 for one.
4. Getting stuck in traffic
Planes and trains can often be delayed, but when you are driving you can of course get stuck in traffic. During the height of tourist season, traffic can be grueling in big cities and may have you wishing you just took the train so you could sit back and relax.