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|Advice for Renting a Vehicle When Vacationing Overseas|
|Written by Donna Schwartz Mills|
|Tuesday, 10 August 2010 13:40|
Does the phrase "full-size vehicle" really translate? Plus, tips from the experts on decoding European street signs!
For many of us, summer is synonymous with "road trip": the simple and joyful act of packing your family into your car and driving to new and exciting destinations. It gets a little less simple when you plan a "fly-and-drive" excursion involving a rental car. And it can be downright complicated when your destination is overseas.
Our family just returned from a two-week visit to the United Kingdom, where we covered a lot of ground in England, Scotland, and Wales. It was an adventure that began when we started scouting the web for a vehicle to get us around the country. That's when we discovered that passenger cars in Europe have funny names (to Americans, anyway). I was familiar with Vauxhall, which is a make owned by GM... but would their Corsa be large enough to transport three adults, a teenager, and baggage? And what the heck's a QashQai?
Hertz "Super Agent" Berry Ross offered us some guidelines for selecting a rental car overseas. "Many European vehicles are smaller than what we're used to in the U.S., but then again, the roads are often narrower too!" he says.
Ross notes that:
We ended up with a Ford Focus Titanium wagon, which was a somewhat more luxurious vehicle than the Focus models I've driven in the States. It was also large enough to handle our family and our luggage as we made our way through London, Cardiff, Liverpool, Blackpool, and Cumbria (in the northwest corner of England).
If you plan a road trip in another country, you need to find out if it's actually legal for you to drive there. We've never had a problem in the United Kingdom (which is where my husband was born). It's one of many nations where a valid U.S. driver's license is sufficient for visitors. However, the State Department suggests it might be worth your while to obtain an International Driving Permit as a supplement to your license. The Automobile Association of America is the only authorized provider of IDPs in the United States.
I briefly contemplated getting behind the wheel myself this time, but chickened out (as I have on the previous dozen times we've visited my husband's family in Wales). I'm terrified that I'll forget to stay on the left-hand side of the road.
This is something to keep in mind when traveling to many former lands of the British Empire (like Australia, New Zealand, and India). But the Japanese roads are left-sided, too, so again, you need to do your research before you go.
Fortunately, my husband is ambidextrous when it comes to driving. That's a good thing, because it's not just left-right disorientation that frightens me away from the driver's seat in Britain. The narrow, windy roads are different there, beginning with the circular intersections and funny-looking road signs.
Hertz's Berry Ross advises travelers to remember that, in Europe, "the color red on a road sign signals negative information such as a warning or prohibition, while the color blue is positive in that it signals an obligatory action or some feature that you can take advantage of--such as a bicycle lane, a rest stop, or a parking garage."
Ross also points out that in Europe dashed center lines mark passing zones, while solid center lines denote no-passing zones (just like the United States). But while in North America yellow markings separate opposing traffic flows and white lines separate traffic moving in the same direction, in Europe, white lines are used in both cases.
Finally, like Boy Scouts, drivers should always be prepared. The emergency number to call in the United Kingdom is 999; if you get into an accident in a European Union country, 112 is the number to dial. Many cell phones are already pre-programmed with both these numbers, as well as 911. For more information, check out the Hertz European Drivers Guide.
For an extended stay you may find that purchasing a car and reselling it at the end of your stay might be your best value. Sites like Motors.Co.UK can give you a quick preview of the local market.
Donna Schwartz Mills has been writing about family travel since 2003 at SoCalMom.net. This article originally appeared on AskPatty.com--Automotive Advice for Women and is reprinted with permission.