If you’re in the process of planning a trip abroad, it is always a good idea to familiarize yourself with local customs, specific driving procedures and the roadway culture of your host country. International travelers can be particularly vulnerable when driving in foreign cities due to their lack of knowledge regarding their surroundings but with adequate preparation, you will find yourself relaxed and enjoying your new environment!
When renting a car while traveling abroad, a valid US driver’s license is usually sufficient, but some countries do require driver’s to have an International Driving Permit. This widely recognizable form of identification is valid in over 150 countries and displays your name, photo and translates other important information from your driver’s license into ten different languages. Having this type of identification is also extremely helpful should you need to speak with foreign authorities at any point during your trip. AAA members, who can always find the best AAA car rental discounts with Auto Europe, can purchase IDP’s for a fee of $15 and non-members can obtain one for $25.
It is mandatory to maintain a certain level of insurance coverage on your rental vehicle while others are optional. The types of insurance you will encounter are as follows:
Fire -Damage to the vehicle due to a mechanical or electrical issue within the car itself
Liability – This is third party liability, people or items outside of the vehicle should there be impact between them and the rental car.
Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), which covers damage to the rental vehicle in the event of collision
Theft Protection (TP) covers theft of the vehicle itself (not personal belongings).
- Travel Insurance– an additional insurance that is relevant to less common travel that may be a required daily or flat fee. For example, if you’re traveling from Western European countries into Eastern European countries.
Additional Optional Coverage that may be available:
- Global – Insures things like tires, chassis, headlights and the windshield. It goes by a variety of names depending on the supplier and can include more or less of the noted item.
- Personal Accident Insurance (PAI) and Personal Effects Coverage (PEC). Covers you and other passengers in the vehicle and your belongings.
- Super Coverage – When you have CDW and TP, there are still deductibles applicable that you are obligated for prior to the insurance kicking in. Some suppliers offer an option to reduce or completely negate these fees for an additional fee paid locally
- Excess Refund or Zero Excess – With an Excess Refund or Refundable Deductible, you are still initially obligated for the deductibles, but have paid for additional insurance to have those funds reimbursed to you with retention of the appropriate paperwork. Zero Excess or Zero Deductible means that the deductibles are negated and there is no monetary obligation on your part to pay towards these.
The level of coverage available and necessary will vary on the country or countries and the supplier. In Italy, or instance, it is mandated that all rentals come with CDW & TP. For most options in France, however, you would be able to utilize the supplier insurance or a credit card option if it is available. To learn more, click here for a complete guide of the most common car rental fees and costs in Europe.
Tolls, Speed Limits & Road Signs
Tolls for select tunnels and highways are either collected at the border of each country, or you can purchase a sticker at the nearest service station or post office. If you are driving in Switzerland, Austria, or the Czech Republic, ask your car rental agent if the toll stickers attached to the windshield of your vehicle are current and where they are valid. In Europe you are required to turn on your headlights in tunnels and during spells of inclement weather. There are, however, several countries that require continuous headlight use regardless of the weather, so make it a point to have them on at all times. Country-wide speed limit signs are posted at each country’s border and display the maximum speeds for towns, rural areas, national roads and limited access major highways. Many countries in the EU utilize a set standard of road signs and traffic signals that help make driving easier for visitors. It is important to familiarize yourself with your base country’s specific signs, as the road signs in the United Kingdom do differ slightly from the road signs in Italy.
Distracted & Impaired Driving
All countries have very strict regulations regarding driving under the influence. Certain countries observe a zero tolerance policy, where as legal blood alcohol content levels can vary from 0.02 mg/ml to 0.08 mg/ml in other countries. If you are traveling in France, you will notice that your rental car is equipped with a breathalyzer, a feature that has transformed the country’s once extremely high drunk driving mortality rate into one of the lowest in the world. Navigating unfamiliar routes can be challenging and requires your full attention, texting or making calls behind the wheel increases the risk of being involved in a fatal accident by five times and is off limits in all EU countries.
Unfortunate instances do happen from time to time and in the case of an accident, it’s important to stay relaxed and document the event as thoroughly as possible. Get names of witnesses and write down their license plate numbers. Take pictures from all angles of the vehicle, including your surroundings, before you attempt to move it. It’s also helpful to make note of weather and road conditions, visible injuries acquired by any party, as well as the name of the police department and officer that responds to the accident. Be sure to contact your rental agent and insurance company as soon as possible, keeping in mind that Auto Europe is here for you toll-free 24/7 at 1-888-223-5555. Call as anytime with questions, or to make a reservation!