Driving a rental car in Europe is not as difficult or intimidating as I had thought. When we took our trip to France, I knew that I had no idea when we would visit again and I wanted to see as much of Normandy as I could in our seven days there. The only way to do that was for us to have a car at our disposal.
And, I am so grateful that we did! It freed us up to take back roads through France, eat in local restaurants that were not within walking distance to our hotel and it allowed us to drive the coast of Normandy without any time constraints.
Where To Rent A Car
We rented our car at the Charles de Gaulle airport from the company that we use quite often in the United States: Enterprise Car Rentals. Technically, we reserved the car while home in the United States, online, and just picked it up at the airport. Any company that you would use here can get you a car there, as well. Super easy.
If you go to a non-English speaking country, they have English speaking employees at the car rental facility to help you with your reservation–that helps out a lot with those contract details that you might miss otherwise.
MY ADVICE FOR RENTING A CAR IN ANOTHER COUNTRY:
- Google the traffic laws for the country and region that you intend to visit.
- Download images of the street signs a long with their meanings. Laminate that sucker and when you get your rental car, tape it to the dashboard. Know how to determine the speed limits. Not all countries use miles per hour. A lot of European counties use Kilometers per hour. I would suggest having a laminated card with speed limit conversions, as well.
- Be prepared with a lot of change in the currency of the country that you will be visiting for toll roads.
- As soon as we left the airport we were faced with toll booths. 1.) my French did not help me read the signs and it was a pretty stressful event the first time around. 2.) Luckily, when I did get to the correct booth, I did have enough change to get me past the booth and to our hotel. We ran into SEVERAL toll booths. Have change. No need to have foreign speaking people screaming at you for holding up the line.
- Make sure that you rent a car with GPS.
- I had intended to use my phone just like I do here in the states, but realized that I couldn’t use it without internet and data in a foreign country. Now, if you buy a package that gives you data out of the US through your phone carrier, then you should be good, but I didn’t do that. So, our GPS saved our lives. Also, since our cars here don’t have GPS, we weren’t very good at programming the one in the car in France. The service rep so very kindly programmed ours to speak English and then programmed it to get us to our hotel. After that, we had to learn to put in addresses ourselves. We survived!
- Rent an automatic transmission vehicle.
- I know how to drive a manual transmission car and was going to “do it the European way”, at first. I ended up choosing an automatic at the last minute and I am so very grateful that I did. There is so much that you have to learn, relearn and be very aware of when driving in a new country. Not having to deal with clutches and gears freed me up to focus on more important things.
- Get insurance on your vehicle and take out travelers medical insurance, as well.
- I didn’t want to have to deal with legal issues in a foreign country in the event that I was in an accident and accrued medical expenses or liability expenses. I couldn’t travel back and forth to deal with things such as that. So, it was just wiser to protect myself up front.
- Google–if you can–what the gas pumps look like in the country you are visiting. Google–if you can–what their roadways look like, as well.
- I know that might sound corny, but I was a little anxious the first time on the “interstate” in France because the way that it is set up is different from the US…not a ton, but enough. I went into it all assuming that it would look the same as in the US, though–I mean, it’s just a road after all, right? It just makes me feel better to be aware and prepared for the changes beforehand.
- Keep your gas tank full.
- You are in a foreign country, exploring, and cannot be completely sure where the next gas station will be. I learned that from experience.
- Pack snacks in your car for the same reason as keeping your tank full.
- You are out exploring and do not know where your next restaurant will be. Again, I learned that from experience.
If you would like to know more about our time in Europe read about Our road trip through Normandy, France.
Have you rented a car in a foreign country? Any advice to add? Please let my readers know in the comment section.
Thank you for reading.