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Anyone ever rented a car for navigating in a foreign country? 😬

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I’m considering it, but it scares me witless. I am beginning to get an outline of a plan together for visiting dd in Feb next year; we plan to stay towards the north and visit Belgium, Germany, maybe Switzerland and Austria. Part of what we want to do is see castles, particularly Neuschwanstein. But it’s my understanding that this is difficult to do using public transport, unless you use an organized tour, which I don’t especially wish to do. 

I don’t know though...am I crazy! I mean, obviously, some people do it, so it’s not impossible, and I know some of you have lived in Europe and I’m guessing you had to drive eventually. Is it difficult? Not worth it? 

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I've avoided that at all costs so far in my life - I'm a scaredy pants. I have, however, visited Neuschwanstein with three kids and no your group. We traveled out of Munich, though. 

I would do it if I were NOT traveling with children and/or WAS traveling with dh. Google maps will still work, right? 

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We rented a car in Germany when we took a military space-a hop over there in Feb. 2018 to visit friends.  Actually, we had to rent 2 cars, since the 10 of us didn't fit in any one vehicle, lol.  So both dh and I were driving.  It was exciting!  

We rented our vehicles from the one place on base that was allowed to rent to retirees, but we had to hike over there from the passenger terminal with all our tired kids and luggage.  So if you rent from an airport, you'll probably have an easier time of it!  I think Costco rents cars overseas, so I'd probably look into that if we weren't going military.  

We didn't request or pay extra, but both of our vehicles came with navigation.  These were absolute life savers.  I literally can't imagine how we would have managed without them.  Dh and I went to Germany space-a on our honeymoon back in 1995, and we also rented a car then.  We navigated around by maps, and it was crazy, but it was just the 2 of us, so getting lost was not a big deal (well . . . there were some stressful moments, lol . . )  But with trying to keep the 2 cars together, and just for getting to places without wandering cluelessly around, the navigation systems were lifesavers.  

Each of us would have one of our teenage sons sit in the passenger seat and navigate, because even when the cool accent GPS lady was telling us to do things, sometimes I couldn't figure out exactly what she meant, and having another set of eyes was really helpful.  

It was really nice to be able to be on our own schedule and see whatever places we wanted to.  Also, we shopped at the local grocery stores for breakfast and lunch foods, to keep costs down.  That was much easier with a car.  

I didn't find the actual driving in Germany any different than anywhere else, although I really had to pay attention to the speed limits, since I didn't have a good feel for "80 kph" and what that felt like.  It was pretty easy to find parking, since we were primarily going to touristy attractions, and there were lots of parking signs.  

Oh, both our cars were standard, so if it's been awhile since you've driven one, brush up on that!  Fortunately it came right back to me, and I only stalled once the whole 2 weeks (and that was on a roundabout right after we drove off base, but fortunately no one else was around!). I think it's super expensive to rent automatics over in Europe.  I kind of liked driving the smaller cars over there. Our big 12 passenger van felt like quite the behemoth once we got back--although it is nice to be able to all fit in one vehicle.  

Oh, in parking garages, you pay before you go to your car and drive out.  So look for the machines as you are walking back to your car!  I got a bunch of travel books out of the library and skimmed them before we left the US, and I felt like they prepared me pretty well.  Things like how to pay in a parking garage where in those books!

I hope you have a wonderful trip! It sounds amazing!  One of the places we saw on our honeymoon was Neuschwanstein, and it was so beautiful!  A dream come true for me!

 

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We haven't done it in those countries, but we have in others.  It is really no big deal.  The biggest problrem we have had has been getting to the car rental place and they don't have the car we ordered, but eventually it gets sorted out.  Like most things about travel, leave room in your schedule for the unexpected.

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yes, we have rented cars in England, Portugal, and Costa Rica.  Of course, I much prefer driving out in the country or small towns to cities.  It's definitely a nice way to travel, especially if you have a travel companion to help navigate (and remind you to stay on the right side in England 😉)

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Don't forget that you can use Google maps to download a section of a map for offline use. That way if you don't have data you still can navigate. I find Google to be more up to date than most GPS systems.  I download a map before every road trip.

If you want to drive across a border, you may need a letter of permission from the rental company to do so legally, such as going from Belgium to Germany. That's not an issue if you fly between countries, and flying can be fairly inexpensive.

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I don't remember driving in Germany/Austria to be any different than in the US really, except people respect the passing lane on the highway and roads are narrower in towns and such. My family traveled all over the areas you're talking about by rental car when we took a family vacation in my late teens. I can only imagine it's easier now with GPS and Google maps.

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We reserved some for our three weeks in Europe a few years ago (Germany, Czech Republic, Austria), but ended up cancelling the reservations once we were there. We found that buses and trains took us everywhere we wanted to go, even way out into the country and to small towns. It was very relaxing to be able to look at the scenery and talk to each other without having to worry about directions, and my husband normally loves to drive.

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I haven't rented, but I've driven a borrowed car in Norway when I lived there.  It was all going fine until I met up with a particular sign, which is very important. It's called the "Priority sign" and it is a yellow square. It means that your road has priority, or right-of-way, over other roads. You better know if you're on a "non-priority" or you could get schmucked. They don't use yield signs the way we do in North America.

 

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Many of the cars in Europe are stick-shift so if that's a problem for you, request an automatic. You will need an International Driver's license from AAA. Also bring the rental agreement and proof of insurance if you're covered. Otherwise they will add insurance to the bill. Most of the roads are well maintained and well marked, but you will want to have a GPS. Crossing borders within the EU shouldn't be a problem, but you could double check with the rental company. It's much easier to get around by car than public transport. The hotel websites or Airbnb will have information about parking. Quite often it is pay parking. One thing we have in Belgium is a plastic blue disk for the car window. You put this in the window in certain areas with the disk turned to the time of arrival. Sometimes you get two hours of free parking and the police will check the disk in your window periodically. Other places have machines where you get a paper ticket with coins, credit card, or a phone app. Another odd thing in Belgium is priority on the right. This means that few intersections are marked with stop signs, so you have to yield to the driver on the right, which is sometimes easier said than done because your view may be blocked by hedges or something. You might want to study European road signs a little bit before you come. 

Rest stops on the highway are usually pretty nice with restaurants, coffee bars, snacks, and toilets. The toilets are pay so you need coins but sometimes you get a voucher you can use when you buy something. We use a credit card with a chip and pin to buy fuel. I've never tried to pay cash so I'm not sure how thet would work. Generally there are not border checks but lately Germany is stopping cars to check for passports. This is mostly about checks for illegal immigration. 

Overall, it should be fairly easy. I hope you have a great time.

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I rented a car in St. Maarten this summer. It’s a fairly small Caribbean island that is half Dutch, half French. Although I had cell service and my Apple maps worked, I was not able to get turn by turn directions. Streets showed up and the blue dot where I was showed up, but I had to figure out where to turn. More than once I had to pull over to orient myself. I was by myself most of the time though. The times my brother was in the car with me he could help me figure out where to go. 
 

My only real difficulty is that I had to be a much more assertive driver due to heavier traffic than I’m used to. Also, the traffic signs were really different than in the US. Some I never figured out and some took a few days. Even though it was all one island the traffic signs were different depending on which part of the island I was on.  I wasn’t in a hurry or on a deadline and they are used to American drivers so it didn’t end up being a big deal, but I could see it being stressful to some people. CCC118F1-9DC1-414C-BD00-E69D6D53D1DC.thumb.jpeg.ba92dd1ca227a9aaff55d255001baff2.jpeg
school crossing93016F19-E04D-4747-A3B3-F68054E8951C.thumb.jpeg.cc148d61c456c003d6609825ed98ad50.jpegDouble speed bump511F376B-033F-4BC5-91FE-3462D10020E7.thumb.jpeg.7f8e72fbb4904794ccca363ab6a78011.jpegNever figured this one out

68AD4FD5-9BBC-42A2-9307-8C3899B6D9E9.thumb.jpeg.7202ba4d4c2da46319512e81f0599888.jpegSpeed limit 50 kph (this one took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out, I though they were highway numbers)82E0CDAE-BCD8-48AE-BB25-84CA123ECA61.thumb.jpeg.8fc47a2dcfa3d15f4a62aaf023b9f041.jpegIntersection ahead

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We've rented cars in Namibia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Ireland... it's really not that hard to drive abroad. The one thing to remember is the above - it *will* be stick unless you request and specially rent an automatic. When we went to Africa, dh had to do all the driving because I never learned to do stick. The camping vehicle didn't have an automatic option. Every time he drives stick, he stalls out like immediately. That time, in this giant truck, he stalled out like three times getting out of the lot. I'm sure they were like, ugh, these Americans. Then the kids (who refused to sleep on the flights) passed out in the back. And dh drove with his hands gripped like iron and his eyes bug eyed the whole way from the airport into town. And I'm all like, look, giraffes! Look, colorful houses! And dh is like, "Shut up! I can only look straight ahead at the road!" Lol. He was fine the next day.

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36 minutes ago, Farrar said:

We've rented cars in Namibia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Ireland... it's really not that hard to drive abroad. The one thing to remember is the above - it *will* be stick unless you request and specially rent an automatic. When we went to Africa, dh had to do all the driving because I never learned to do stick. The camping vehicle didn't have an automatic option. Every time he drives stick, he stalls out like immediately. That time, in this giant truck, he stalled out like three times getting out of the lot. I'm sure they were like, ugh, these Americans. Then the kids (who refused to sleep on the flights) passed out in the back. And dh drove with his hands gripped like iron and his eyes bug eyed the whole way from the airport into town. And I'm all like, look, giraffes! Look, colorful houses! And dh is like, "Shut up! I can only look straight ahead at the road!" Lol. He was fine the next day.

OMG, that will totally be me! 😂 DD will be like, “Oh look, mom! Look at that adorable farmhouse!” And I’ll be like 🧟‍♂️

I do know how to drive a stick, though I should brush up, having not done it in several years. Ds drives a stick, though; I could take his truck for a spin for practice. 

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Yes, you would probably love it. If you plan to venture to England you need to get on the ferry and remember to stay on the left side of the road. I have never driven in the UK but have been all over the rest of Europe. Only thing is that streets are narrower (unless you are on the Autobahn 🙂 ) and sometimes they make you drive through small little openings that appear to be too small for a car but are not. I learned to drive in a small village in Europe but have driven the majority of my life in the US. I bet you could come by some international street signs if you are worried about it but most are self-explanatory.

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I rented a car in Denmark for a little trip with my daughter.  It was an adventure for sure!!

I learned how to drive a stick a couple months before going, because it seemed like all rentals were standard. The navigation was in Danish for a while, dd translated for me, but my daughter was eventually able to change it to English.

I was a fairly new stick shift driver so that was exciting, and driving among so many bikes in Copenhagen was really stressful. Roundabouts were everywhere, and I got more comfortable with them through our trip. 

It was a wonderful trip,though the driving was occasionally a little frustrating and stressful.  I’m so glad we did it. 

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I don't like renting cars in general and driving unfamiliar vehicles in unfamiliar places, but is there anything specifically that makes you nervous about doing it overseas?

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I've rented cars in the UK, France, and NZ. I didn't have to get an International Driving Permit (which is basically an official translation of your US license) because those countries don't require it, but according to this article Germany and Austria do, so be sure to get one from AAA. Driving on the "wrong" side of the road in the UK took some getting used to, but driving in France and Belgium wasn't much different from driving in the US. 

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3 hours ago, Rachel said:

I rented a car in St. Maarten this summer. It’s a fairly small Caribbean island that is half Dutch, half French. Although I had cell service and my Apple maps worked, I was not able to get turn by turn directions. Streets showed up and the blue dot where I was showed up, but I had to figure out where to turn. More than once I had to pull over to orient myself. I was by myself most of the time though. The times my brother was in the car with me he could help me figure out where to go. 
 

My only real difficulty is that I had to be a much more assertive driver due to heavier traffic than I’m used to. Also, the traffic signs were really different than in the US. Some I never figured out and some took a few days. Even though it was all one island the traffic signs were different depending on which part of the island I was on.  I wasn’t in a hurry or on a deadline and they are used to American drivers so it didn’t end up being a big deal, but I could see it being stressful to some people. CCC118F1-9DC1-414C-BD00-E69D6D53D1DC.thumb.jpeg.ba92dd1ca227a9aaff55d255001baff2.jpeg
school crossing93016F19-E04D-4747-A3B3-F68054E8951C.thumb.jpeg.cc148d61c456c003d6609825ed98ad50.jpegDouble speed bump511F376B-033F-4BC5-91FE-3462D10020E7.thumb.jpeg.7f8e72fbb4904794ccca363ab6a78011.jpegNever figured this one out

68AD4FD5-9BBC-42A2-9307-8C3899B6D9E9.thumb.jpeg.7202ba4d4c2da46319512e81f0599888.jpegSpeed limit 50 kph (this one took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out, I though they were highway numbers)82E0CDAE-BCD8-48AE-BB25-84CA123ECA61.thumb.jpeg.8fc47a2dcfa3d15f4a62aaf023b9f041.jpegIntersection ahead

The red and blue X sign means "no stopping." 

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21 minutes ago, EmseB said:

I don't like renting cars in general and driving unfamiliar vehicles in unfamiliar places, but is there anything specifically that makes you nervous about doing it overseas?

Nothing in particular but it’s harder for me to cope with uncertainty. I like being totally competent and even just *being* in a foreign country brings constant uncertainty. I try to embrace that, to be a person who is willing to grow, but I’m not naturally adventurous. It’s obviously easier to board a bus or a train and just look at the scenery as I go. 

I’m also not a person who loves to drive other people’s cars, and I feel stressed driving in an unfamiliar place. I got pulled over driving a rental in Colorado because I was driving with no headlights. 😂 I had to take a sobriety test; I guess the police officer couldn’t believe any sober person could be so dense not to realize why it was so bloody dark in Colorado! 

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Being able to drive in some places really opens it up so much. My mom was talking about going to the Yucatan and I was like, you should rent a car. That's how we did it and it was excellent. She was like, I can't, I just can't. No reason. It's like a barrier that you get stuck on and build up, but in the end, if you went, you'd be like, why was I so worried about this?

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We have rented many places in Europe and if you already drive a stick I don’t think you will have a problem.  We always review the road signs online before going as familiarity helps.  For instance a sign in white with a black diagonal line in England(and I think elsewhere)means it’s National Speed Limit on that portion of the road which is 60mph or 70mph depending on the type of road......divided or not divided.   For years my heart did a panicked pity pat when seeing that sign as I was zooming down a road because to me it screams no entry!  My worry now is that I will go into a no entry somewhere else.😂  So sign familiarity is good....also know what no entry actually looks like in the place you are driving.😉

Beyond that France has many toll roads which are lovely to drive on so if you are finding side roads are stressful move onto the toll roads.  It costs roughly €26 to drive from near Calais to Paris......which is about a 3 hour drive I think.  We generally go via toll and return on a different route depending on time.

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I’ve done it in England, Iceland and France. 

England was the trickiest at first because of driving on the left, but it just took a brief period of time to adjust. I felt like I was learning to drive again as a teenager. I just had to think really hard about everything at first. But the learning curve was quick, like a day or so. That trip was in 2000 so we didn’t have GPS. Dh just navigated for me using old fashioned maps. 

For Iceland and France we dowloaded maps to Google maps so we’d have them even when offline. That made it very easy. Honestly, driving in either place wasn’t really any different than renting a car and driving in a different place in the US. The one exception was Paris. I didn’t drive there because I’m not as confident with big city driving. Dh drove and then once we got out of the city we switched. I’ve driven in other big cities (NYC, LA) but Paris was insane. It was like there were no traffic rules and the cars just did what they wanted. Even dh who rarely gets flustered said it was a little unnerving. 

I don’t drive stick and we’ve never had a problem getting an automatic, you just have to request it. 

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Well before there were navigation apps in cars, rented for getting places.  Mostly in UK.  So no new language to learn and I learned common rules and road signs before starting out.

It was fine.  

I was already driving stick shift, and the side of car for driver and on road in UK seem more reasonable to me, since as a right handed person I like my right hand to have wheel and my left to have stick shift. 

Biggest thing I wasn’t used to was in country, one lane roads where someone had to back up a long way till a turn out let the other go by.  

 

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5 hours ago, Rachel said:

511F376B-033F-4BC5-91FE-3462D10020E7.thumb.jpeg.7f8e72fbb4904794ccca363ab6a78011.jpegNever figured this one out

 

It’s a useful one to know: No Stopping / No Parking

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Request an automatic. They’re increasingly common, but a stick shift will give you more options. 

Get the full insurance deal so you’re not worried constantly about scrapes and dings. That extra money is worth the peace of mind. 

You shouldn’t need an international license in any of those countries. Your valid US license is fine. You can check with the rental car companies to be sure. 

Spend some time looking at routes you want to take. Consider cost of gas, toll roads and borders when calculating time and $$.

Most cars will have navigation, but you can download offline google maps or get a local SIM so you have data. In some countries Waze is better and more up to date than google maps; ask the rental company what they use. 

In this day and age of google and Wikipedia, it's easy to look up road signs and traffic laws for each country. Common differences of US and the rest of the world are that right turns aren’t allowed on red, you don’t necessarily have to come to a full stop for a passing emergency vehicle, and there are stricter rules about passing on the left and hogging the middle lane on a freeway. 

Good luck and have fun!

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we rented a car in Austria - we did drive into germany. (a lot of back and forth)   it got us places you simply couldn't get to on a bus or train.  (I ❤️ Piber - Lipizzaner stud farm)   We had a European sim card for the phone (don't buy it at the airport - go to a phone store - much cheaper). - not just an Austrian one.  so, we had navigation.  dh did the driving - but he lived in Austria (many years ago).   when we got to Vienna, we returned it and used the trains.  (and the mitlestadt?station - if you do the 'express" between the city and the airport - you can check your baggage there!  (depending upon airline). P

there was one point it said to veer left and go straight - um, there are buildings there....(so we didn't - and it rerouted) we were on the bus, and it did exactly that.  I felt like we were on the knight bus - there was a tiny ally that appeared - the buildings felt barely wide enough for the bus. (that was in Innsbruck)

we didn't have any problems.

 

if you go to Vienna - go to dinner at Figlemiller's at least once.  don't be scared by the line, it moves fast.  (they take reservations if you call DAYS ahead.)  we ended up there every night..  (hangs head in shame....it was so good)

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1 hour ago, KateUK said:

Request an automatic. They’re increasingly common, but a stick shift will give you more options. 

Get the full insurance deal so you’re not worried constantly about scrapes and dings. That extra money is worth the peace of mind. 

You shouldn’t need an international license in any of those countries. Your valid US license is fine. You can check with the rental car companies to be sure. 

 

We had to have an International Driver's license.  our US license was NOT good in Austria.

and yes - if you can drive a stick, get one.  we had a cheap 3cyl car, had amazing gas mileage.

dd's boss was in several countries - and can only drive an automatic.  I don't remember which country, she had to go 40 minutes away from the airport to get a car that was an automatic.

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What got me at first was the narrowness of the roads in the country. There are rules about who gets to go first! And at any unmarked road you yield to the right, UNLESS you are on a priority road, and then you don't. 😂

Whenever I go home, I'm amazed by how much space there is between moving vehicles! 

I don't drive in the big cities (driving around Liege was terrifying!!); most people park outside town and take the metro or little train around town. I'd definitely look for this option. It's cheap, fast and you don't have to pay premium parking rates in town.

 

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With Dh all the time. Google maps works great. We’ve rented  in Austria (and many other countries) with US license and have never heard of needing an international one, how odd. I can’t drive in Europe because i’m not used to urban driving even in the states and the closeness between the cars freaks me out. I’m the same when my friend drives me around NYC. Actually I try not to look too closely how close my bus gets to the cars here,  or “surely he will not fit on that cobblestone street” but yes he does!

the drive you are considering I think will be just fine. There is a particular drive to Dubrovnik (in a freaking van full of kids) I don’t wish to repeat for love or money. 

 beware the electronic speed thingies you may get a ticket in the mail. I hear...😂

Edited by madteaparty
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I think you have to stop and buy a vignette when you drive into Austria. This might not be the case with a rental car. It's basically a road tax. Another thing to ask about. There are also low emissions zones in Germany where you have to have a special sticker to go into the area based on the emissions of your car. We have to do this for our personal car to go to Christmas markets in Germany. I never thought about this with a rental car. I also wonder how it works.

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7 hours ago, gardenmom5 said:

we rented a car in Austria - we did drive into germany. (a lot of back and forth)   it got us places you simply couldn't get to on a bus or train.  (I ❤️ Piber - Lipizzaner stud farm)   We had a European sim card for the phone (don't buy it at the airport - go to a phone store - much cheaper). - not just an Austrian one.  so, we had navigation.  dh did the driving - but he lived in Austria (many years ago).   when we got to Vienna, we returned it and used the trains.  (and the mitlestadt?station - if you do the 'express" between the city and the airport - you can check your baggage there!  (depending upon airline). P

there was one point it said to veer left and go straight - um, there are buildings there....(so we didn't - and it rerouted) we were on the bus, and it did exactly that.  I felt like we were on the knight bus - there was a tiny ally that appeared - the buildings felt barely wide enough for the bus. (that was in Innsbruck)

we didn't have any problems.

 

if you go to Vienna - go to dinner at Figlemiller's at least once.  don't be scared by the line, it moves fast.  (they take reservations if you call DAYS ahead.)  we ended up there every night..  (hangs head in shame....it was so good)

OMG, when I was a kid, I was completely obsessed with Lipizzaners! I had not even thought of that, but that would fit my touring philosophy well. (I don’t like box-checking travel; I would much rather see and do some less-common things.) 

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I have driven in Mexico. Same cars as in the USA. The road signs are in Spanish but it's obvious (IMO) what they mean, if you know the shapes of road signs in the USA, even if you can't read Spanish.

I would not  drive in the UK or in any country where they drive on the Left side of the street/road/highway.

The laws are probably totally different than those in the USA. For example, many things that would be a "Civil" matter in a court in the USA, here in Colombia, and I believe in most of the world, are considered to be "Criminal" matters.

That is probably why the 42 year old wife of a U.S. Diplomat in the UK who was in an accident where a 19 year old man on a motorcycle died, invoked "Diplomatic Immunity" and left the UK.

You would need to know what documents are required for the car and also if an emergency kit is in the car, where it is.

Enjoy your trip and drive safely!

Edited by Lanny
correct typo from USA to UK for diplomats wife
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I worked for a German company with headquarters in a non-tourist area.   I've rented many cars in Germany.   There were only two things to get used to

1)   Highway directions aren't labeled by a direction, they are labeled by the end point of that highway.   That end point town might have 3 people there and not on your map.   My German co-workers were amazed that I was used to just driving someplace without getting directions from someone first.  I didn't have navigation so I had to have a compass.   I'd just pick a direction, and then u-turn if I was going the wrong way.   So, use GPS.  

2)  Driving on the highway, you need to pay almost as much attention behind you as in front of you.  

 

If you get an automatic the car will almost always be a large one.  This is because they think that all Americans want large cars.   But, the parking spaces are almost always smaller.  I used to request the Mercedes series A.    It was smallish and easy to park.  

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18 minutes ago, Lanny said:

 

The laws are probably totally different than those in the USA. For example, many things that would be a "Civil" matter in a court in the USA, here in Colombia, and I believe in most of the world, are considered to be "Criminal" matters.

That is probably why the 42 year old wife of a U.S. Diplomat in the UK who was in an accident where a 19 year old man on a motorcycle died, invoked "Diplomatic Immunity" and left the UK.

I hadn't thought about this. In the UK if she was breaking the rules of the road (for example speeding or  driving on the wrong side of the road) she could be convicted of dangerous driving causing death, which leads to unlimited fines and imprisonment of up to 14 years.  What would be the equivalent in the US? Here's an example of a case

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-49641733

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32 minutes ago, shawthorne44 said:

I worked for a German company with headquarters in a non-tourist area.   I've rented many cars in Germany.   There were only two things to get used to

1)   Highway directions aren't labeled by a direction, they are labeled by the end point of that highway.   That end point town might have 3 people there and not on your map.   My German co-workers were amazed that I was used to just driving someplace without getting directions from someone first.  I didn't have navigation so I had to have a compass.   I'd just pick a direction, and then u-turn if I was going the wrong way.   So, use GPS.  

2)  Driving on the highway, you need to pay almost as much attention behind you as in front of you.  

 

If you get an automatic the car will almost always be a large one.  This is because they think that all Americans want large cars.   But, the parking spaces are almost always smaller.  I used to request the Mercedes series A.    It was smallish and easy to park.  

Yes. Think hard before getting a large car in Europe. The lanes and parking spaces are small, and you will often be parallel parking.

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20 minutes ago, Laura Corin said:

I hadn't thought about this. In the UK if she was breaking the rules of the road (for example speeding or  driving on the wrong side of the road) she could be convicted of dangerous driving causing death, which leads to unlimited fines and imprisonment of up to 14 years.  What would be the equivalent in the US? Here's an example of a case

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-49641733

 

Thank you for the link. That reinforces my belief that I should never drive in a country where they drive on the Left.  I think that is why the Wife of the U.S. Diplomat who left the UK, invoked Diplomatic Immunity. Not to be subject to that.

In the USA, it would depend upon the laws of the state where it happened. I think there is a possibility of jail or prison time, but that is (if I assume) probably rarely imposed, depending upon the circumstances. And the sentencing would be up to the Judge or the Jury and the sentencing guidelines for that kind of crime.

 

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2 hours ago, Lanny said:

 

Thank you for the link. That reinforces my belief that I should never drive in a country where they drive on the Left.  I think that is why the Wife of the U.S. Diplomat who left the UK, invoked Diplomatic Immunity. Not to be subject to that.

Not to be subject to the laws of the democratic country in which she was resident?

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37 minutes ago, Laura Corin said:

Not to be subject to the laws of the democratic country in which she was resident?

 

Diplomats have immunity from those laws.  They are not like a normal Alien, who is a legal resident of a country where they are not a citizen. Here, I am an Alien, with a Permanent Residency Visa. I am subject to all local laws, the same as if I was a Colombian Citizen.  There are special laws for Diplomats who are working in another country temporarily. The same things happen in the USA, with diplomats and their families.  They have Diplomatic Passports.

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I just want to say I would never take a rental car between the UK and Europe as a tourist.  Turn in the car and get a vehicle that is designed to be driven on the right or left....whichever is that countries norm.  One of the most important checks I do because drive in a left handed and right handed country frequently is “am I (the driver) sitting in the middle of the road”...........that is my new “I am comfortable driving” place.  We also make sure we have an alert passenger riding with us on our initial drive when we switch countries.

 We have taken our UK car into the E.U. and it’s really extremely hard driving a car that isn’t properly designed for the road, imo.  Takes an incredible effort to not mess up which is why we pay for the toll on the way in to Disney/Paris.  We are a bit more comfortable on the way home but we always have a passenger on duty watching signs, side of road, etc.  It’s nice having 4 licensed drivers in the family now.  Personally I find the E.U. cars on UK to be really scary to be around, especially the lorry’s, because poor lane control because the steering wheels location makes it really hard to place yourself properly in the lane.

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5 minutes ago, Lanny said:

 

Diplomats have immunity from those laws.  They are not like a normal Alien, who is a legal resident of a country where they are not a citizen. Here, I am an Alien, with a Permanent Residency Visa. I am subject to all local laws, the same as if I was a Colombian Citizen.  There are special laws for Diplomats who are working in another country temporarily. The same things happen in the USA, with diplomats and their families.  They have Diplomatic Passports.

I know that diplomats can do this: it's important so that corrupt governments cannot twist laws to put pressure on the representatives of other sovereign states. Unless the woman believes that this is an illicit shakedown, I believe she had a moral duty to remain. Furthermore, she stated to police that she would not be departing the country 

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20 hours ago, Rachel said:

...My only real difficulty ...the traffic signs were really different than in the US. Some I never figured out and some took a few days...


In case it helps:

European street signs.jpg

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23 hours ago, Quill said:

I’m considering it, but it scares me witless. I am beginning to get an outline of a plan together for visiting dd in Feb next year; we plan to stay towards the north and visit Belgium, Germany, maybe Switzerland and Austria. Part of what we want to do is see castles, particularly Neuschwanstein. But it’s my understanding that this is difficult to do using public transport, unless you use an organized tour, which I don’t especially wish to do. 

I don’t know though...am I crazy! I mean, obviously, some people do it, so it’s not impossible, and I know some of you have lived in Europe and I’m guessing you had to drive eventually. Is it difficult? Not worth it? 

 

My husband will drive/steer/sail just about any form of conveyance just about anywhere. It is one of his most cherishable qualities and has enabled us to do all sorts of things and have all kinds of experiences that would otherwise simply not be possible.  We've rented cars all over the world, with all kinds of languages and alphabets and driving conditions, including long before the invention of GPS which makes the undertaking massively easier.

I myself am substantially less intrepid: I'm not comfortable driving *myself* on the "wrong" side of the road, nor would I want to drive on my own in countries in which I can't reasonably expect to communicate if there were a fender-bender or minor accident requiring a hospital visit. 

I've actually rented by myself in the Netherlands and Germany; and would be perfectly comfortable doing it in Belgium Switzerland and Austria as well.  Roads are better than here, signage is better than here, rule of law is better than here (i.e. you won't get policeman holding out for bribes etc as can happen in some places), and sufficient people speak English that in the event of a run-of-the-mill hiccup you'd be fine.

Have a great time planning and doing..

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8 hours ago, Quill said:

OMG, when I was a kid, I was completely obsessed with Lipizzaners! I had not even thought of that, but that would fit my touring philosophy well. (I don’t like box-checking travel; I would much rather see and do some less-common things.) 

you can get into a show at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.  (might be informal, practice type, but you'd get to see some performance.)

when we were there, the stallions were on tour, so they brought in some in training, some colts, and some mares.  (one mare decided to rolling the dirt, so the others followed).  Even the mares are tracked and must pass muster before they are considered for breeding.

they were shorter than I was expecting.  At Piber, I was standing next to the fence where the foals are.  one was nibbling my skirt. I would have loved a picture, but wanted it out of his mouth before he put a hole in it.

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pretty much the only way to get to Neuschwanstein is a tour - or private car.  it's quite a hike up to the Schloss, or your can take a bus, or a horse drawn carriage.  (because of my health, and difficulty walking - we took the carriage.).   Plan to buy your tickets before you arrive - weeks before.  You can buy same day tickets at the ticket booth - but plan to get there VERY early, before they open.  Even then, there was quite a line to buy tickets before the booth opened when we were there.  then we had to wait for our tour.  We also did Schwangau, we had plenty of time while we waited for Neuschwanstein.  tours run about every five minutes, you don't get a lot of time to look as they move you through.

I much preferred Hohenwerfen.  (and HohenSalzburg).  As for Schoenbruenn… Plan on time.  lots of time.  The grounds/palace are immense.  there is a little tram that will go around the grounds, where you can get on-off.  it's the easiest way up to the Gloriette.   Vienna is pretty flat.  We were in an AirB&B just off Stephan'sPlatz.  very convenient.

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We rented a car in Dublin to drive to the Wicklow Mountains and the Glendalough Cathedral/Monastery.  It was an easy process to rent the car.  Driving was interesting because we are used to driving on the right and in Ireland they drive on the left.  My dh drove and I navigated.  It was difficult, but we thoroughly enjoyed the adventure.  We were able to take our time and stop and explore the areas we were most interested in and not be on anyone's schedule.  The manager of the hotel where we stayed in Dublin moved some things around in a small lot behind the hotel and made a little parking space for us.  I have great memories of it.  It was a fun challenge and I say if you are interested in it, then go for it!  One thing I remember vividly was that the car was VERY small!  

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We've rented cars in Europe and have never needed an international license, but you should check country rules just to be sure.

As mentioned in other posts, definitely request an automatic if you are not comfortable with the manual shift.

Someone mentioned that you need to look behind you as well as in front of you. What that meant to us in Germany (and other countries also, but Germany in particular) is this. On the Autobahn in places there is no official speed limit. In practical terms that means that there will probably be people who are driving faster than you, but this works well. If someone pulls up behind you, they will put on their left indicator signal, which means they are politely asking you to move over so they can pass. You move to your right, they zoom, and everyone is happy. It's easier to just keep right unless overtaking to be honest.

When we rented our car last time in Germany, the rental company asked us not to take their vehicle into the Eastern European countries, which were all listed specifically on the rental agreement (such as Poland, etc). 

When we drove through Switzerland, the main thing that the border control cared about was the road tax decal. I think someone mentioned this upthread. Even though it was a rental vehicle, we had to buy the decal at the border control office. The decal is good for a year, I think, but we had to buy it anyway. It wasn't very expensive.

As mentioned upthread, the road signs are excellent, particularly in Germany and Spain, but you need to know how to use them. Unlike the U.S., the signs do not show direction, i.e. South. Instead they show the next large city in that direction. Once you figure this out, it's easy. I like to have a paper map so I can trace the road and see what next big city is, and then we are good. Nav is a good thing to have, too. Some rental cars/companies have this. Request in advance just in case.

I agree with taking full insurance, including scrapes and scratches. We didn't want to expose our own insurance. Your credit card company, as long as you rent the car with their card, may offer some insurance - check if it works in the countries you are visiting.

Neuschwanstein Castle is beautiful, very much worth the visit. But. You won't get to see it the way it is shown on postcards. Those photos are taken by people who climbed a very steep mountain nearby. It is on a steep hill, and the last part of the climb is quite steep. At the bottom, there are (or were) notices to the effect, advising people with physical challenges to take a shuttle or a horse cart. When we visited the castle, it was snowing and the road was slippery. The shuttles were not running, although the castle was open to visitors. The horse carts were still operating, but the wait was long, so we just walked/climbed. It was quite a challenge, but we are not exactly in great shape. Since it was snowing, there was really no line to buy tickets. You have to wait for a tour in your language. We had to wait until there were enough people who wanted a tour in English. There were several groups that went before us that had Chinese language tour.

ETA

I forgot to mention that the same road/expressway can have different names or numbers. So on your Nav it may be called I5 or something, but what you see on the road sign in front of you is something like K28. This is normal - the same road has a EU name as well as a country name. This is where a paper map is useful because it shows both the EU and local country name for the road. It's confusing for the first hour maybe, but after that it's fine.

ETA 2

In cities we mostly parked in underground garages or other garage-type structures. I never figured out how the on-street parking meters worked. 🙂

 

 

Edited by RosemaryAndThyme
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7 hours ago, AprilTN said:

We rented a car in Dublin to drive to the Wicklow Mountains and the Glendalough Cathedral/Monastery.  It was an easy process to rent the car.  Driving was interesting because we are used to driving on the right and in Ireland they drive on the left.  My dh drove and I navigated.  It was difficult, but we thoroughly enjoyed the adventure.  We were able to take our time and stop and explore the areas we were most interested in and not be on anyone's schedule.  The manager of the hotel where we stayed in Dublin moved some things around in a small lot behind the hotel and made a little parking space for us.  I have great memories of it.  It was a fun challenge and I say if you are interested in it, then go for it!  One thing I remember vividly was that the car was VERY small!  

We did similarly but from Wicklow drow all the way to Shannon as we flew out of there.

We used Sixt as they had a station at the airport and would be open when our flight came in, as with April that was NBD.

Only dh drove, we rented a small stick shift as it was cheapest, I have a lot of experience driving a stick (had one for 7 yrs) but I didn't feel comfortable driving one on the opposite side of the road with the opposite/left hand. I was the navigator too, no gps for us, again more money. It was an adventure for sure. A little bit of stress for dh getting the hang of it and me getting the hang of the navigation but we had no big issues. The lanes were sooo small, not in urban areas but around Wicklow and such we were glad to have the tiny car.

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17 hours ago, Laura Corin said:

I know that diplomats can do this: it's important so that corrupt governments cannot twist laws to put pressure on the representatives of other sovereign states. Unless the woman believes that this is an illicit shakedown, I believe she had a moral duty to remain. Furthermore, she stated to police that she would not be departing the country 

 

 I read (in my Google Feed on my phone) last night or early this morning, a story that was (I think) on the web site of a newspaper in the UK. Let us assume everything in the story is true, which may or may not be the case.  There are about 23,000 people in the UK with Diplomatic Immunity.  Family friends of ours were in the USA, recently, for one year, with Diplomatic Passports. My guess is there are a huge amount of people in the USA with Diplomatic Passports as I write this.   Many people with Diplomatic License plates abuse the Parking Laws in NYC and in DC. That's the trivial.  However, some of them are guilty of crimes like Rape and Murder.  The vast majority of them are law-abiding people like our friends.

What I had read earlier was that she had indicated, earlier, that she was not planning to leave the UK.  My guess is that the decision was then made for her by the U.S. State Dept. or the Defense Dept., and that she was advised to leave the UK, or ordered to leave the UK. Probably with her DH and their DC.

According to that last article I read, her DH did not work in the new U.S. Embassy in London. He was not a "Diplomat" doing "normal" things in an Embassy or Consulate.  He was stationed at an RAF Air Base that is leased by the USA.  His work, according to the article, has something to do with Intelligence and they cannot risk him being "outed". 

If that is true, I doubt that anyone in that family will be returning to the UK again.

I am very sad for the young man who was on the motorcycle and was killed in the accident and for his family. A tragedy.

Edited by Lanny
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On 10/6/2019 at 9:16 AM, Lanny said:

 

Thank you for the link. That reinforces my belief that I should never drive in a country where they drive on the Left.  ...

 

I agree with you on not driving on the left.   I would be a danger on the road.  I'd be fine in traffic.   But, the first time I had a make a right turn on a lightly traveled road, I'd either do it wrong, or have a panic attack.   I am willing to drive anywhere where you drive on the right and people follow road rules.   So, far that has meant that I didn't drive in England and Taiwan.  


I have relatives that were amazed that I drove in Eastern Europe without a problem.   But, they thought nothing of driving in England.   I don't understand. 

Since you are driving, look into Rothenburg ob der Tauber.   A true gem, and the museum is awesome. 

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We rented a van in Ireland.  It was a stick.   If you are used to driving on the right, and you visit somewhere that drives on the left, do not get a stick !!!  I am really good at driving stick, but shifting with the *left* hand had me all messed up.  In combination with driving on the left, it was just too much.    Another thing I would do differently is use the internet (not available back then) to learn all the road signs and symbols of the country you will be driving in.  It would have helped so much.  Those weren't in any of the travel guides we read.  

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