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 Whether you’re cruising Germany’s celebrated Autobahn, circumnavigating Iceland’s fascinating Ring Road or driving Argentina’s endless Ruta 40, the romance of the road is alive and well around the globe. But before we hand you the keys, here are 5 things you should know before renting a car abroad.


1. Plan well in advance

This is even more true when traveling abroad than it is the United States where even the smaller airports offer a smorgasbord of rental car companies with price points to match every budget. But when traveling abroad, the last thing you want to do is arrive on an exotic island or small town and be held hostage to whatever price the rental car company wants to charge for the single Nissan Sentra left on the lot.

Related: How to travel off the beaten path anywhere on earth.

2. Reserve an automatic

We’ve made this mistake before. In the United States the assumption at rental car companies is that your gear shift will be an automatic, but that’s not the case in other parts of the world. In Europe, for example, if you simply show up at the car rental desk at the airport or metro area without anadvance request for an automatic, you might be greeted with a sea of stick shift vehicles and nary a single automatic in sight.

3. Know the rental insurance rules

Things like navigating unknown terrain, interpreting foreign traffic signs and potentially driving on the other side of the road in countries like Britain, Australia, India and about 200 others, could make you a little more accident prone that you’d otherwise be. According to Allianz Global Assistance, having a good rental car insurance plan offers the best recourse in case of collision or theft. And remember, most U.S. auto insurance policies don’t cover driving abroad. Plus, Allianz Global Assistance says some countries require higher insurance limits than your everyday car insurance policy provides. Add to this the knowledge that some developing countries have unpaved roadways and much more daring drivers (see a full list of the most dangerous countries for driving here), and you’ve suddenly got plenty of good reasons to get covered.

4. Know the rules of the road

Remember in National Lampoon’s European Vacation when the Griswold’s ended up in a loop in front of Big Ben and Parliament because they weren’t accustomed to entering and exiting the traffic circles common in the U.K.? Although many countries adopt traffic signage that is akin to what is used in the United States and Canada, it might help to internet search “rules of the road” for whatever country you’re visiting. Again, you can rest just a bit easier with a car rental insurance plan, available through companies such as Allianz Global Assistance.

Related: How to make the most of hurricane season deals—without the worry.

5. Obtain an International Driving Permit

An International Driving Permit or IDP is a valid form of identification in 150 countries and will be recognized in places where a U.S. driver’s license isn’t. It contains your name, photo and identification in ten languages and is easily available for purchase at both AAA and the National Auto Club. Regardless of where you’re traveling present your IDP at the rental car counter.

Tagged: Europe

Note: Orbitz compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

Jason Heidemann

Jason Heidemann

Jason is a Lead Content Specialist for Expedia Group, and manages content initiatives across numerous Expedia-owned brands. His work has been featured in the Chicago Tribune, Time Out, the Huffington Post, Chicago Magazine, Passport and many others.

7 thoughts on “5 things you should know about renting a car abroad”

  1. That’s good to know that you will need to reserve an automatic vehicle if you are traveling outside of the United States. I never learned how to drive a stick-shift, so I would definitely need to find a car rental service that lets me reserve an automatic vehicle. I’ll need to keep this in mind for the next time that I travel outside of the United States. Thanks for the info!

  2. Nowadays, with smartphones, you can use google maps (or a similar app) to maneuver through just about any city or town abroad. Google has made a lot of improvements to their maps and navigation app, so it’s even easier to use and navigate with it than before! Just make sure to also keep your eyes on the road- especially when you’re driving outside your country- use a car mount to keep your phone as close to the road as possible.

  3. I really like what was said about renting a car abroad. I am sure you can find cheap rentals out there as well! The point I really appreciate in this article is to reserve an automatic. Those will just save you so much headache!

  4. I think that the most expensive rental car companies are near the airports! I have more questions about car insirance it’s a little expensive, does anyone know how to make this thing cheaper?

  5. Hey, I have problems with insurance in Ireland, they unhold money in my mastercard, about 2500 dollars, as a compensation , If I make accident in this country and my insurance was not good for them.

  6. This post is truly helpful. You cover everything here. Though, I don’t drive. I find this really worth reading especially for people who are planning to do this Thanks for writing this!

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