Renting a car in Europe is not necessary. But how romantic is it to picture driving through Tuscany, with the roads hugged by vineyards? Or feeling the rush of adrenaline as you push the gas pedal down just a little further on the Autobahn? Renting a car generally means you can get places inaccessible by public transportation. While buses and trains are amazing in Europe it is true that once you leave the suburbs of a city the amount of public transportation slows down. And the last thing you want is to get stranded somewhere after having missed the last bus.
We rented a car 7 times in Europe – 3 times in Germany, once in Italy, Ireland, Denmark and France.
Some things to keep in mind:
- Europe is designed to encourage you to use public transportation. Therefore parking is expensive and tolls are expensive. I mean,Â really expensive. We paid 45 Euros to cross a bridge from Denmark to Sweden. Just driving on the highway in France for an hour cost us 20 Euros. The tolls are so high they have credit card machines at the toll booths.
- Car insurance is clutch. Don’t buy the ridiculous insurance at the register that the rental company will try to up-sell you. Instead check into your credit card to see if they will cover you. Although, you will generally have to pay for extra insurance in Ireland – and it will be expensive. European drivers are amazing, but they infinitely suck at parking. I challenge you to find a car parked on a street without a scratch on it.
- In conjunction with above – take pictures when you return the car and keep them for your records. We dropped off a car, signed the paperwork and left… and as we left we heard our car being driven away and then a squealing crunching noise. Sure enough we got a bill for damage that was absolutely not our fault. Take pictures.
- Get a GPS. Even Christopher Columbus got lost. Your phone battery will die, or you won’t have service (especially true when traveling between different countries). The google maps directions you printed will have road names on them – but the actual roads will be sign-less. It is worth it. Trust me.
- Add the cost of parking into your hotel bill – maybe it’s cheaper to find a hotel with free parking. 20 Euros a night adds up fast.