10 tips for car hire abroad for the first time

Are you planning to drive while on holiday for the first time? If you are, then there’s a few things to think about before you hire your first car, scooter or bike abroad.  Keep reading for 10 tips for car hire abroad for the first time.

1. Remember to take your driving licence 

The first thing is to remember to take your driving licence! This may sound obvious but if it’s your first time driving abroad then it’s easy to do.  You may not usually take it with you on holiday.   

Make sure your license is still in date, ideally with at least six-months on it before it expires.  Brexit has changed quite a few things and like passports, it’s best to have time left on it.

Bike rental - RiA Vistas
Bike rental

2. Inspect the car you hire before leaving the rental office

You should always check any car you’re about to hire for existing scratches, dents or other noticeable things.  In most, if not all cases, these would be pointed out to you by the rental owner before you drive away.  They should also mark it on the rental agreement.  There’s a reason they do this and why you should  check.  It’s to make sure that if you do cause any damage to the car, you’re only charged for what happened during your rental time.

Car hire check

3. International Driving Permit - post Brexit UK requirement

Unfortunately, now that the UK has left Europe, in some cases your driving license alone (if you’re a UK resident) will no longer be enough to hire a car while in Europe.  This doesn’t apply to everyone though — only people who still have a paper licence and not a photocard one.  If you have a license that was issued in Jersey, Gibraltar, Guernsey or the Isle of Man, then you won’t be able to use your license on its own and need a relevant IDP.

So, what’s an  IDP?  Before travelling you’ll need what’s called an IDP – International Driving Permit.

The permit will allow you to drive in a number of countries where your UK license alone will no longer be recognised. There are different IDP’s depending on the country you want to visit: 

  • 1949 Convention IDP
    You’ll require this sort of permit is you want to drive in Spain, Malta, Cyprus or Iceland.
  • 1968 Convention IDP
    If you want to drive in any other EU country, or Norway or Switzerland, you’ll have to get a 1968 Convention IDP.
  • 1926 Convention
    You will need this form to travel to Liechtenstein.

If you’re based in the UK, visit the UK government website for the list of all the IDP’s here. For your local country, please check your options via for obtaining an IDP if needed.

4. Check the fuel gauge before setting off

The owner will likely tell you how much fuel is in the car already.  However, it doesn’t hurt to check the fuel gauge yourself.  Depending on the agreement, you’ll either need to bring it back full or to the same level it was when you hired it.  If for some reason you don’t quite manage to get petrol, some rentals will allow you to just pay the petrol difference in miles. 

5. Plan where you want to go or the days days you’ll use the car

You may not need to hire a car for the full duration as it all depends on what else you’re doing while away.  Try to list the places you want to visit to figure out where you’d need to drive to.  Group activities over a few days as it’s more cost effective to hire a car consecutively instead of hiring it a day here or there. 

Car hire - trip planning
Car hire - planning your trip
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6. Take your driving documents with you

I’m not just talking about your license!  Make sure you carry the rental agreement with you at all times in case you get stopped by police or get into an accident.

Avis car hire - Greece_RiA Vistas
Avis car hire in Greece

7. Check for nearby petrol stations before you leave

When you hire a car, you should also be provided with a map and told where the nearest station is.  Petrol stations have always been pointed out to me before leaving the rental company offices.  Although most car hire companies will do this, it’s always good to look for the nearest petrol stations yourself.  Some rental owners tend to share a few good places to visit but if yours doesn’t just ask.  I’m sure they’ll be happy to help with some recommendations.

Fuel guage - car hire

8. Carry a car charger with you

If you’re going to be out all day, take take a phone lead or car charger with you.  Some newer model cars will have a USB point so you can charge direct.  If not, you can buy one of those push-in car chargers from Amazon to take with you.  I did that on my last trip – handy!

9. Driving shoes

If possible, try to have a pair of flats or pumps with you.  Since you’re on holiday you’ll probably step out in a  pair of flip flips or strapless sandals.  They may be comfortable for the beach, but not the best option for driving, especially if you’re a new driver.

10. Don’t forget which side of the road to drive on!

Always double check which side of the road you’ll need to drive on!  It can be so easy to go into your normal routine and forget.  If it’s your first time driving abroad or you’re a relatively new driver, best to check – that and key road signs.  I’ve heard of a few near misses so it’s easily done!

Driving in Europe_RiA Vistas
Which side to drive on
My recommendations for car hire companies

I’ve used all of the car hire companies listed below and had very good experiences with them all.

For car hire and bike rentals in Greece:

  • Carma Cars – Kallithea, Kassandra – Halkidiki
  • Avis – Neos Marmaras, Sithonia – Halkidiki
  • Motomania – Perissa, Santorini

For car hire rental in Spain/Balearic Islands:

Carma Cars - car hire Kallithea
Carma Cars - car hire Kallithea_RiA Vistas
Carma Cars - car hire in Kallithea
Keep these simple tips in mind when you’ve booked car hire in another country for the first time. 
 
 Fancy island hopping in Greece?  Check out my post on hopping between the islands – 5 tips to book Greek ferries for your first island hopping solo trip.
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