While many travellers may believe that it’s difficult to rent a car and drive overseas, most American and Canadian drivers may be pleasantly surprised by how easy it is. Some advantages of car rental are when visiting areas that are not well-served by public transportation, or when travelling with a family.
Most European countries will permit Americans and Canadians to drive using their regular driver’s license and passport. Some other countries like Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Greece, Hungary, and Italy require the International Driving Permit, which is available at auto club offices in the US.
Car Rentals in Europe
Generally, American and Canadian drivers experience few problems renting a car. Most drivers over the age of 25 can rent a car. There are restrictions for senior drivers in countries such as the Czech Republic, Great Britain, and Northern Ireland.
Just as in the US, it’s possible to rent a car at the airport, though it’s a very good idea to have a reservation. Make sure you tell the rental company exactly which countries you will be driving in, as requirements for documentation and insurance vary between countries.
Drive by Rules of the Road
Make sure you research traffic rules where you’re headed. For example, in the US, most states allow drivers to turn right on red. This varies throughout Europe: several countries allow turns on red only when specific signs are posted. A green arrow on a traffic light or a flashing amber arrow indicates that it is permitted to turn right on red.
It’s also a very good idea to look up common road signs and translate them before you go so you know what to expect. Especially if you don’t speak the language, you could make a time-consuming or even a dangerous mistake by not following the road signs. And don’t forget to stay on the left side of the road in the United Kingdom!
If You Run Into Trouble
It’s better not to have any encounters with local police, but if you do, you may find that the penalties for running stop signs are different than in the US or Canada. Dave Abels lists stop sign violations as one of the most common causes of car accidents, so penalties for violating rules can be steep! For example, in Germany, the fine for running a stop sign is 70 euros, or $82. In France, the fine is 135 Euros, or $159.
Driving in Europe
If you pay close attention to the requirements and the rules of the road, driving in Europe can be enjoyable. It’s convenient to have your own car, and it can be fun to experience the area the way locals do.