Renting a car in a foreign country gives you the freedom to discover places that are off the beaten path, but you’ll need to do some research before you book, such as what your expected daily fuel budget will be (gasoline in countries like Iceland and Norway can cost as much as $7.50 per gallon).
The most important rule? Always reserve in advance. Here are some other key things to consider.
Get an International Driving Permit
A number of countries in Western Europe, including the U.K. and Ireland, will accept your U.S. driver’s license. But travelers venturing into southern or eastern Europe will typically need an International Driving Permit.
For $20, this passport-like document can be acquired from authorized entities like AAA. It translates your license into 10 languages and makes it easier to rent a vehicle.
Decipher European Road Signs
As of 1978, most countries have standardized road signs. Auto Europe provides a comprehensive list of common signs — as well as a few country-specific ones (no passing tractors in Sweden, for example, and Germany’s Autobahn entrance markers).
Chances are your credit card includes a Collision Damage Waiver on rental vehicles. But before you decline the rental company’s CDW, check with your card company to guarantee that your car is covered.
Certain countries may be excluded (Ireland and Italy, for example), and almost all credit cards will refuse to insure exotic, antique, or premium models (if you’re driving an Aston Martin across the English countryside, you’ll definitely need to get extra coverage). Find out how much your deductible is; you may wish to spring for a zero-deductible policy instead.
Brush Up On Local Traffic Rules
Research the laws specific to your destination. While the United States enforces a blood-alcohol concentration limit of 0.08 percent, many European countries have much stricter limits. In the Czech Republic and Romania, for example, a driver’s BAC cannot exceed 0.0 percent.
There are other country-specific laws to keep in mind, like cellphone and seatbelt use and restricted-traffic zones monitored by cameras (in many historic city centers, traffic is restricted heavily).