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First time renting a car internationally: Tips, tricks, things to watch out for?

First time renting a car internationally: Tips, tricks, things to watch out for?

Old Jul 10, 12, 10:14 pm
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First time renting a car internationally: Tips, tricks, things to watch out for?

Hello,

My wife and I have a stopover in Munich for a couple days on the way back to the US from Istanbul next month. Instead of spending the whole stopover in the city, we thought we'd rent a car so we could get out into the Bavarian Alps, etc.

I've never rented a car internationally before--is there anything I should be aware of that may be different than renting in the US? Are there any additional fees or surcharges to be aware of? How does insurance work? I've heard anecdotal stories of people renting cars in places like Ireland and paying hundreds of dollars in insurance coverage, but I'm not sure if this is typical (or even true!). Should I just go to a rental company website (National, Hertz, Sixt, etc) and book there, just as I would in the US?

Any tips or suggestions would be most appreciated!
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Old Jul 10, 12, 10:18 pm
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Wirelessly posted (BlackBerry8530/5.0.0.1030 Profile/MIDP-2.1 Configuration/CLDC-1.1 VendorID/417)

The first question you need to answer is whether the credit card you will be using for the rental provides free rental-car loss/damage coverage.
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Old Jul 10, 12, 11:18 pm
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Can you drive manual (stick)? If not, make sure you're renting a car with an automatic transmission. Unlike in the US, most of the agency's fleet will likely be manual.
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Old Jul 11, 12, 2:28 am
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Other than what guv1976 said regarding the insurance, I'd say remember that in Germany a Mercedes C-Class or a BMW 3 series is usually classed as a full sized car, not a luxury car.

If you're in Munich for a few days I'd really recommend a trip to Dachau (the concentration camp) and to Neuschwanstein in Hohenschwangau. Dachau is not a pleasant experience but it's enlightening and Hohenschwangau is simply stunning. The Neuschwanstein castle is beautiful as well.
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Old Jul 11, 12, 3:19 am
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Insurances are tricky. Most companies charge an Excess, if you have a claim - typically you pay the first EUR 1,000. CDW,TW,TP are the common inclusives along with the rental, but Excess cover insurance is something you need to purchase separately which will cover your tyres, windscreen, any damage to the vehicles on your mistakes and etc. While booking your car online it always suggest to take the Excess Insurance ( from Mondial mostly ) which will be around 5 to 8 EUR a day. All other insurances is always included in your rental agreement. Have a good trip
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Old Jul 11, 12, 7:39 am
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Consider a GPS that covers the area you are going to be in. It may be cheaper to buy a cheap one there than to update one you have here with the proper maps (assuming you don't already have it)

Check to see if you need an international drivers license and take care of that before you leave. It will usually say on your rental confirmation if they require one or not, depends on the location and company.
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Old Jul 11, 12, 8:40 am
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Remember to keep strictly to the right hand lane unless you're passing! No loitering in left hand lane.
There are speed cameras in Germany. While the autobahn generally does not have speed limits, there are sections which have speed limits, e.g. near towns, construction, etc. and these often have low speed limits and speed cameras.
Insurance is complicated in a few countries like Italy and Ireland. I once rented a car in Italy and returned it in Switzerland. There was a small scratch on top of the rear bumper which I'm sure was there when I rented the car but the garage was really dark. Even though I had Hertz CDW, my regular car insurance, my credit card insurance, I still had to pay over 1000 euros.
Flashing headlights can be confusing: in some countries (France), it means "warning: stay out of my way"; in other countries (Germany, I believe), it means, "go ahead and pull into traffic".
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Old Jul 11, 12, 12:19 pm
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Originally Posted by duluthDL View Post
Remember to keep strictly to the right hand lane unless you're passing! No loitering in left hand lane.
There are speed cameras in Germany. While the autobahn generally does not have speed limits, there are sections which have speed limits, e.g. near towns, construction, etc. and these often have low speed limits and speed cameras.
Insurance is complicated in a few countries like Italy and Ireland. I once rented a car in Italy and returned it in Switzerland. There was a small scratch on top of the rear bumper which I'm sure was there when I rented the car but the garage was really dark. Even though I had Hertz CDW, my regular car insurance, my credit card insurance, I still had to pay over 1000 euros.
Flashing headlights can be confusing: in some countries (France), it means "warning: stay out of my way"; in other countries (Germany, I believe), it means, "go ahead and pull into traffic".
Flashing head lights used to mean Move/stay out of my way in Germany esp. on the Autobahn. Now however you risk getting pulled over and ticketed for aggressive driving.
It's illegal to pass on the right,(Highway driving) don't even think about it! The polizei just appear out of no where to give you a ticket, no excuses. Speed Cameras are a fact of life, watch your speed!
DO NOT RUN OUT OF GAS on the Autobahn.
Fuel is bloody $$$$$$$$$$ last I saw was like 1,40 Euro a liter. Not uncommon to spend $75USD to fill up a small car.
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Old Jul 11, 12, 2:00 pm
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If you are going to stay for 2-3 days I would suggest taking a train as opposed to renting a car. But if you really want to rent here are the more potentially expensive issues:

No right on red;
Passing only on the left;
Stopping on the autobahn is a huge fine (emergencies only and running out of gas isn't an emergency);
Speeding is mainly controlled through automated cameras, so you could accumulate a few and never even know until a month or so later;
Speeds are only posted when different from standard. whatever you want on autobahn but 130 suggested, 100 between cities on 2ndary roads and 50 anywhere inside a town. The speed limit changes are usually "cancelled" (greyed out sign) or a new sign if the new speed is also non-standard;
At a minimum, have a look at a table of international signs before you come;
Illegal parking is near impossible to get away with and you will pay;
Most importantly....look over the car very very carefully. You run a very high risk of being made to pay an exhorbitant for absolutely anything wrong. Small scratch, door ding, even a scratch on the wheel rim.
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Old Jul 11, 12, 2:33 pm
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I have rented cars and driven quite a bit in the Munich area.

Check your credit card, but I highly recommend that you get full insurance coverage through the rental car company, even though it is somewhat expensive.

A GPS would be very handy to have.

On the autobahns, stay to the right except to pass. This is strictly adhered to in Germany, and if you don't do it, you will stick out like a sore thumb. Not to mention the Mercedes grille that you will see a few feet behind your bumper. Most Germans will use their signals if they are behind you and want to pass.
Once you get a good ways outside of town, there will be no speed limit. If you are up to it, then enjoy it. If not, then just stay to the right. One time, I was driving at 120 MPH in the right hand lane, and Mercedes sedans were passing me like I was standing still. This was fun, but requires constant attention, and can be stressful.

When coming back into a city or populated area, the speed limit will be reinstated. Watch carefully for these areas, as this is where the police like to use radar. There will be signs that tell you in advance when the speed limit is back in force.

As others have stated, you will probably get a stickshift, unless you specify an automatic transmission.

Parking is at a premium in most cities in Europe. Be prepared to pay to park anywhere. In the countryside, it will not be so bad.

I wouldn't try driving around the heart of Munich city centre. I'm only referring to the very center of the city (the tourist district). The streets are narrow, windy, and there are too many pedestrians and bike riders. Believe me, you can make better time on foot in that area.

I highly recommend driving to Salzburg, Austria. You can get there easily by taking the A8 south from Munich, to the A1 once you cross the Austrian border. The drive is about 1 to 1 1/2 hrs, and is beautiful. There is no need to stop or clear customs when driving across the border. On the way back, stop and enjoy the beautiful clear waters of Lake Chiemsee, aka the Bavarian Sea. When dining in that area, ask for Hungarian Goulash soup, and you will probably will not be disappointed!

Have a fun & safe trip.
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Old Jul 12, 12, 5:50 am
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Thanks to everyone for the great replies so far!
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Old Jul 12, 12, 6:14 am
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Rent a small car. I often see Americans who cannot manouever their larger Mercedes or BMW out of the rental park house at MUC. Lanes are narrow, especially in towns, spaces in garages are not as wide as in America, and generally there is less space for street parking (and some creative parking as a result)

Hertz at MUC often runs out of automatics, requiring 'upgrades' to the vehicles most of us don't want in Germany ie SUVs, mini vans, etc.

Diesel will generally be more cost effective than a gas vehicle. There is a long thread here on how to drive on the Autobahn. It isn't what many Americans imagine it to be. The A8 from MUC to Salzburg can be one of the most dangerous and also one of the most blocked in Germany. You will get to know 'Stau', and it isn't a place you will want to be. Check for holiday periods; not just Bavarian ones, but northern ones as well as the A8 is the main route for travel from northern to southern Europe to holiday destinations.

Don't use the horn except in cases of danger. Gratuitous tooting as practiced in America and Asia just isn't done.

I would ignore the GPS recommendation. (Especially to purchase one here?!!) They are pretty much standard in German rental cars, and the American one with German/Austrian maps can be rather useless. If you absolutely want to guarantee one in the rental, you can book it at time of rental, but they are standard for pretty much every VW, Mercedes, BMW rental. Garmin never did manage to figure out the main park house in Salzburg is inside a mountain, and thus directs one to places where no vehicle can drive.
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Old Jul 12, 12, 4:10 pm
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When returning the car, make sure you get all the papers back and that the car is checked for damaged. It can be very difficult to fight a claim for a "chip" later on.
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Old Jul 12, 12, 8:08 pm
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Originally Posted by bankops View Post
If you are going to stay for 2-3 days I would suggest taking a train as opposed to renting a car. But if you really want to rent here are the more potentially expensive issues:

No right on red;
Passing only on the left;
Stopping on the autobahn is a huge fine (emergencies only and running out of gas isn't an emergency);
Speeding is mainly controlled through automated cameras, so you could accumulate a few and never even know until a month or so later;
Speeds are only posted when different from standard. whatever you want on autobahn but 130 suggested, 100 between cities on 2ndary roads and 50 anywhere inside a town. The speed limit changes are usually "cancelled" (greyed out sign) or a new sign if the new speed is also non-standard;
At a minimum, have a look at a table of international signs before you come;
Illegal parking is near impossible to get away with and you will pay;
Most importantly....look over the car very very carefully. You run a very high risk of being made to pay an exhorbitant for absolutely anything wrong. Small scratch, door ding, even a scratch on the wheel rim.
I agree with your post, except the begnning and the end.
A car is exactly what you need if you want to go into the country and have only a couple of days.
I have rented cars in Europe many times, and have never been charged for anything other than the rental rate, taxes etc. Once I expected to be charged as I I found a hubcap missing in the morning when we got to the car for an early morning (6:00 a.m.) flight from LIS. The rental location was not open when we arrived at the airport to return the car. We were supposed to park the car in an unattended lot and drop the key through a slot. I was expecting to be charged for the hubcap, but never was.
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Old Jul 12, 12, 8:10 pm
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Originally Posted by rwmiller56 View Post
I wouldn't try driving around the heart of Munich city centre. I'm only referring to the very center of the city (the tourist district). The streets are narrow, windy, and there are too many pedestrians and bike riders. Believe me, you can make better time on foot in that area.

I highly recommend driving to Salzburg, Austria. You can get there easily by taking the A8 south from Munich, to the A1 once you cross the Austrian border. The drive is about 1 to 1 1/2 hrs, and is beautiful. There is no need to stop or clear customs when driving across the border. On the way back, stop and enjoy the beautiful clear waters of Lake Chiemsee, aka the Bavarian Sea. When dining in that area, ask for Hungarian Goulash soup, and you will probably will not be disappointed!

Have a fun & safe trip.
Good advice about Salzburg and Hungarian Goulash.
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