Depending on your personality, driving in Europe and other destinations abroad may seem incredibly straightforward, or it could seem exceptionally overwhelming. The way you drive at home may be different from the culture of the region you are planning on visiting, but the basic rules remain the same: obey speed limits at all times, be sure there is enough fuel, engine oil and coolant in your rental, check your tires and have all of your important documents on hand. It will also be in your best interest to do some background research before you leave home. This will not only give you an idea of what the speed limits and other driving regulations are like, it will also give you peace of mind and help you feel more relaxed. Here are some of the most important European driving tips we can offer – things to remember when renting a car abroad.
6 Tips for Driving in Europe
Manual versus Automatic
Manuals are cheaper to rent, but don’t let an attractive rate put you behind the wheel of a car you can’t drive. Whether you’re at home or abroad, replacement transmissions are expensive! So, if you’re more comfortable piloting an automatic, book one in advance, as supplies usually run low, especially during the summer months.
European gasoline powered cars are generally more fuel efficient than cars in the United States, and believe it or not, diesel cars in Europe are more fuel efficient than gasoline cars. Prices for diesel fuel in Europe are actually cheaper than gasoline, but due to new EU requirements regarding emissions, diesel may soon be closer to the price of gas. Still, diesel will generally save you right around 20 percent on your fuel costs. Be aware of what type of fuel your vehicle uses, if you aren’t sure, this information is listed on your rental voucher. And even though this may seem obvious, be sure you’re putting the right fuel into your vehicle when you’re at the pump. Diesel pumps are usually black and green, and contain a word similar to diesel like: gasolio, gasoleo, dresalolie, dizil, nafto or dizel. If you are unsure, ask an attendant.
Speeds limits are always posted in kilometers per hour instead of miles per hour, but getting used to this change won’t be an issue after a few days on the road. There’s a simple equation I like to use for converting kilometers into miles, it’s not exact, but it’s helpful. Divide the kilometers by two and then add ten percent to the original number. So, if your speed is 120 km/hr, then (120 ÷ 2 = 60) + 12 = 72 miles per hour.
It is usually not a hassle to cross a border into another country, but there are some exceptions. It’s important to have all of your important documentation on hand including passports for everyone in the vehicle, your auto rental contract and insurance paperwork. Border Officials do have the right to look in the car as well as the trunk, just be polite and patient, you’ll be on your way soon.
Don’t let the thoughts of nerve wracking traffic, large crowds, scarce parking and unfamiliar regulations leave you feeling timid, get creative and consider exploring smaller cities and towns. Rental cars are perfect for regional excursions and for longer legs of your trip; for instance if you are traveling from Rome to Palermo, and are planning on stopping to enjoy the sights along the way.
Asking for Directions
I know I have brought this up in a few of my other posts, but renting a GPS is crucial. Seriously, you will not regret this decision. In the event that you do need to rely on locals to help with navigation, getting information in an unfamiliar area is easier than you might think. Look for signs directing you to the center of town. There are usually tourism offices in downtown locations where there is almost always at least one English speaking person available. In the event that there isn’t a tourism office, locals are generally friendly are happy to try to assist you, just be cautious.
Preparation is key when it comes to traveling abroad and driving in Europe. You want to be ready to deal with adverse situations in the safest and most efficient way possible, so you are able to get back on the road and continue enjoying your trip! Remember, Auto Europe is here to help you throughout the duration of your rental experience, so feel free to call us toll-free 24/7 at 1-888-223-5555.