Travelling by car is definitely our favourite way of moving around and seeing new things. We love the independence a car gives us. We plan our trip on our own, we don’t need to stick to bus or train timetables. When we find something interesting we stop by for a while and change our plans on the spot. On the other hand, when we decide that a specific place isn’t as interesting as we thought it will be, we pack up and proceed with our trip. Maks is yet another reason we like travelling by car. A few or a dozen hours on a bus with a lively and highly energetic 2 or 3-year old is quite challenging. When we drive a car, we plan our stops according to Maks. We can always stop to use the toilet, eat lunch or dessert or just fool around for a moment. We drove 10 000 km across Europe with our own car when Maks was 2,5-3 months old and we rent a car in most places we visit.
We drove through Italy, Spain, Belgium, Ireland, Gozo, The Canary Islands, Israel, Morocco, Thailand in rented cars. We also did it in countries that most people are afraid of driving in alone: In Georgia, Armenia or Mexico.
Lately, we got an e-mail with questions about renting a car safely. What to look for, what to do? We wrote back but also treated it as an inspiration. Let’s start then: how to rent a car?
1) BEFORE LEAVING: THE RESEARCH
First step: do we really need a car?
The process starts long before the trip. When we get our destination and plane tickets. We go through the guides, maps and information found on the Internet to make sure we really need the car. We check the distances between the areas we want to see the most, how many km do we need to do every day, we compose a general plan of our trip. That’s what we did in Georgia, Thailand and Mexico. Łukasz often checks Google Maps, examines the roads, the conditions and the terrain. He checks the road surface and condition on Google Earth. Because 100 km on a highway and 100 m on a curvy mountain road are two different types of experience.
Second step: read what they say but decide on your own!
We usually check other people’s opinions regarding travelling by car in a certain country too, but we don’t treat them as the most important factor. We type “travelling by car in Thailand into Google” and see what we get. Usually we don’t care about it that much. There are still only a few opinions about driving around Mexico or Asia because most people who go there try to travel cheap… and a rented car makes the trip significantly more expensive, especially if you’re travelling alone or with your spouse and there’s nobody else to share the expenses. On the other hand, opinions of British, German or American citizens are of no use to us. Because of their own road conditions, they’re used to other standards while for us, the roads in Thailand or Mexico are not shocking at all. Even the roads in Armenia that are full of holes didn’t discourage us since we were used to travelling around Poland. The negative opinions usually refer to the road conditions (“Georgian roads are a nightmare!!”), the driving style (“They drive like mad!!”) and bribes. These opinions did not scare us and we were right! They can point out what to look for but do not discourage us. In Armenia nobody asked us for a bribe, Georgia is driveable and as Łukasz says: if you can drive around Warsaw, you’ll drive anywhere. 🙂
From all the places we went too we didn’t rent cars in Vietnam and Cambodia only. In Vietnam you can’t’ rent a car without a driver and in Cambodia it’s very expensive and the only car rental that responded to our e-mail, mysteriously disappeared.
2) LET’S DO IT!
Third step: look for a car online!
Research za nami, więc do dzieła. Łukasz przeważnie wchodzi na stronę www.skyscanner.net (obecnie również www.skyscanner.pl) jeszcze, gdy jesteśmy w Polsce. W wielu przypadkach najwygodniej, gdy samochód czeka na nas na lotnisku.
We did the research, time for action. Łukasz usually visits www.skyscanner.net (no w also www.skyscanner.pl) while we’re still in Poland. In most cases it’s best to have the car waiting for us at the airport.
We search by date, arrival and departure time. We usually want the car to be ready an hour after we land and we return it 2 hours prior to our flight. We go through the list of suggested cars. The average sensible renting price is approx. PLN 200 for a day. In places where renting a car is popular you can also rent a car for PLN 80-100 for a day. We usually go for the Economy class, since Basic class (Nissan Micra for instance) is usually too small for our luggage (suitcases, pram, sometimes also a bed for Maks), and Łukasz gets angry with the state of the car 😉 If you’re travelling with a child, remember that you will have to pay for the car seat. Usually it’s approx. 4-7 euro a day but sometimes it can be a fixed price. Remember to book the seat in advance since in some locations the rentals only have a few car seats available on the spot.
We usually rent cars from companies such as Europcar, Auto-Europe or Budget. The cars have low mileage, are in god shape and cost less than at giants such as Hertz or AVIS.
As we search for our car, we also look at the specifics of the country and the means of transportation people recommend to use there – if you want to travel in Georgia for instance, choose a 4×4 car.
Fourth step: what to look out for?
It’s very important that your car has unlimited mileage (most cars do) and preferably Full Insurance as well since it will make you feel safer. Keep it in mind though, that sometimes, insurance means that you have to pay the damages yourself and then file for a refund.
Also, check if there’s a deposit for the car required and how big it is. Sometimes it can be a few thousand zloty (1500 euro) that are blocked on your credit card on arrival and usually returned 7 days after returning the car.
Think if you really need a GPS device from the rental. Łukasz used to take his GPS from Poland along with the holder and just uploaded the relevant maps onto it. Now he uses TomTom app which is a great solution for travelers. Maps of Europe cost 64 euro which makes it a bargain if you’re planning more car travels around Europe.
Another important thing is to decide where you want to pick up your car: at the airport or in the city centre? If you’re planning to travel around the island for instance, it’s better to pick it up right after landing. However, if you’re flying to Bangkok and want to spend a few days there, it’s no use renting a car on the first day since you want move around Bangkok in it anyway. It’s even worth taking a taxi back to the airport when leaving Bangkok. The other thing to decide on is where to return the car. If you want to return the car elsewhere, keep the drop-off costs in mind. Sometimes it’s approx. 100-200 Euro, but in Australia for instance, it may be as much as PLN 10 000! (long distances).
3) UPON ARRIVAL
Fifth step: check your car and drive!
If you pick up your car at the airport it’s usually waiting for you after arrival. The car rental offices are usually marked good and you should have no problems finding them. Have a passport/personal ID and a driving license on you. Printed booking confirmation can also be helpful. A credit card is essential too.
After you have fixed the formalities, the clerk will scan your documents, you will pay and the most important moment – picking up the car – will come. Remember to check any damages and don’t trust the clerk. Yes, they check and mark all the damages and scratches but for your own good, take some pictures yourself… Unless you have Full Insurance 🙂
Rented and checked – let’s go!