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Driving in Europe

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Peugeot Traveller

ABOVE: The Peugeot Traveller van on a European highway. Residents of countries outside the U.S. can save money with short-term tourist leases from Peugeot.

Tips on renting a car

  • Comparison shop. Check prices at European brokers that specialize in leisure rentals and short-term leasing programs. (See page 5.) Check each company's age restrictions if you're under 25 or over 65, and see "Lease for longer trips" below.

  • Plan carefully. Rent a car for only as long as you'll need it, to avoid early-return penalties. If you're on a budget, avoid drop-off charges by planning a circular itinerary.

  • Book ahead. If you live outside Europe, you're likely to get a better deal by making arrangements from abroad.

  • Lease for longer trips. A short-term car lease can save money on rentals of 21 days or more. Such "buy back" or "purchase-repurchase" leases are especially useful for students and senior citizens, since age restrictions are minimal. For details and companies that offer leasing programs, see page 5.

  • Buy a pass. A Rail 'n Drive Pass combines the speed and comfort of train travel with the convenience of a vehicle for local excursions. (See page 5.)

  • Think small. Fuel is expensive in Europe, streets are narrow in many cities, and small cars are easier to park than large ones. Unless you need a large car or van, stick with a small to midsize car.

  • Shift for yourself. Cars with automatic transmissions can be hard to find and expensive to rent in many countries. They also use more fuel. (Exception: If you're uncomfortable with the idea of shifting gears with your left hand, a car with automatic transmission may be worth the extra cost in Britain and Ireland.)

  • Important note: If you're picking up a car outside the European Union, you may encounter bureaucratic hassles if you later decide to drop the car off in an EU country. To avoid potential problems, ask for a car that's regisftered in the EU if you plan to drive there.

Tips on driving in Europe

  • Prepare at home. European regulations, driving customs, and road signs can be confusing to foreigners, so use the information resources on page 3 and page 4 to learn the basics ahead of time.

  • Be alert. If you're from North America, forget about turning on the cruise control and floating along in the left lane while listening to Santana and slurping coffee from your MegaMug. You could have a panic attack when a BMW comes tearing up behind you, left flasher blinking, at 250 km/h (156 mph) or faster. And if you've never had to enter or exit a traffic circle (a.k.a. rotary or roundabout) in heavy traffic, get ready for a new experience--especially if local laws give priority to traffic coming from the right.

  • Carry an International Driving Permit. This passport-like document (sometimes called an International Driver's License) is a translation of your home license. It's required in some countries and optional in others, but it's well worth having to avoid problems if you're stopped by the police or want to rent a car in a foreign country. See our International Driving Permit article.

Next page: General driving links

In this article:
Renting and driving tips
General driving links
Driving links by country
Route planners, where to get a car

Other articles about driving in Europe:
Car rentals: When to rent, when to lease
Rental-car isurance
Short-term car leasing
Car or train? (A quiz to help you decide)
International Driving Permit
Europe by van and motorhome