Seven Tips on Driving Internationally - Page 2

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Driving at night
 (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

Rent at an Airport Location
Generally, airport locations have a greater selection of cars, as well as more reputable operators. In most locations it’s not unlikely to find at least one, if not several, familiar American car rental operators such as Hertz and Avis, both of which operate in well over 100 countries. The other advantage to renting in an airport location is that you can avoid city center traffic because you can usually get on the open road in fairly short order.

Rent a GPS, if Available
As in America, this is as standard option in most of Western Europe. While it costs a bit more, it’s never a bad idea, even if you only use it as a back-up. Many GPS units allow you to pre-program your entire itinerary (if you have one) so you don’t have to worry about navigating as well as driving abroad. This is especially helpful if you’re driving solo or your partner is busy taking care of the little ones in the backseat. If you’re using your phone as a GPS device, make sure you’ve thoroughly researched the data charges in advance—the last thing you want is to save $12 a day on a GPS rental only to come home to $1,200 international roaming charge bill.

Buy the Best Local Road Atlas
Even if you’ve got a GPS, buying a good road atlas will only add a fraction to the total cost of your rental. Car rental companies generally don’t sell them. Gas stations, convenience stores, and bookstores are your best bet. Each country will almost certainly have at least one go-to road atlas used by its truck drivers, taxi drivers, traveling salesmen, and so forth (tiny England, for example, has three). Whether you’re using the Michelin road atlas in France or the Guia Roji in Mexico, the map will be an essential part of your driving kit abroad. An atlas gives you a context for your driving route and provides an essential back-up to a GPS, which can stop working or be completely unintelligible if you don’t speak the local language. Another big plus? With an atlas in hand you’ll look more like you know what you’re doing.

Chat with Your Rental Agent
Local knowledge is always best, so take the time to have a friendly chat with your rental agent when you pick up your car. Ask questions such as: Are there any new driving laws in effect in your country? What types of mistakes do international drivers generally make in your country? Are there any roads or areas I should avoid? Even if the agent isn’t a fount of helpful driving tips, they will likely provide you with at least one or two useful suggestions.

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