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Renting a Car in a Foreign Country: 5 Things to Consider

While there are certainly benefits to be gained by renting a car when you travel, such as the freedom to go where you want when you want, there are also bound to be drawbacks. For one thing it can be a lot more expensive to rent a car than it is to take public transportation like buses and trains, or even to utilize taxis, depending on how much you need to get around, how far you’re going, and whether or not you can haggle. But considering you’ll also have to find your own way around in an unknown locale, the difficulties of renting a car can quickly mount. That said, frequent travelers may be perfectly comfortable with the prospect of driving a rental car in foreign countries. But before you give it a whirl, here are a few things you might want to consider first.

  1. International driver’s license. Some countries are willing to rent you a car based on the fact that you have a license to drive issued by your country of origin. But others require you to obtain an international driver’s license before you arrive. You should be able to find this information prior to travel, especially if you call ahead to reserve a rental car. But it could take several weeks to get your international license. And while the fee is small and you don’t have to take any tests (provided you hold a current, valid driver’s license), it’s just one extra step you’ll have to take if you want to rent a car in some foreign countries.
  2. Insurance coverage. Before you decide to get behind the wheel in a foreign country, you’ll want to call your automotive insurance provider and make sure that your coverage extends to driving cars abroad. In some cases you will have to purchase temporary additional coverage, but you might be better off just paying the additional daily charge for insurance offered by the rental company. Your best bet here is to compare costs before you decide.
  3. Costs. Chances are that renting a car is going to be your most expensive option, but you might still want to check on the price of buses, trains, cabs, or any other available forms of transportation. If you plan to hit up a lot of different places, the costs may even out, and having a personal vehicle is certainly more convenient. But don’t forget to factor in extra costs like insurance, fuel, parking, and so on.
  4. Rules of the road. Learning driving laws in other countries can be a difficult undertaking, but you’re not the first foreigner to get behind the wheel, so you’ll often find that there are resources designed to help you out. Not only can the car rental agency likely give you some pointers, but there are all kinds of websites devoted to making sure that foreign drivers don’t make egregious blunders when they hit the road at their destination.
  5. Difficulty of driving. Reading maps and following navigation is one thing, but when you opt for car rental Portugal to India to Costa Rica, you need to do so with the knowledge that it may not be as easy to drive in a foreign country as you anticipate. For one thing, all of the road signs might be in a language you don’t speak or symbols you can’t read. And then there are the nuances of driving that locals understand but that foreign drivers may struggle with. For example, some countries have roads where there is no clear delineation of lanes. When driving in India, a six lane road could have three lanes going each direction one minute and then five lanes going one way and one lane going the other with no apparent warning, simply because the flow of traffic dictates who goes where. This can be confusing and potentially catastrophic for foreign drivers that aren’t in the know.
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