Road tripping. Day tripping. I’ve always found any kind of driving holiday to be the best way to see Europe. No other form of travel is more convenient, giving you unlimited freedom to travel when and where you please.
Train travel is great. There are some incredible train journeys around Europe but making spontaneous stops isn’t quite so easy and of course trains don’t go everywhere. Buses on the other hand cover almost every part of the continent but they can be slow, tedious, dirty and generally uncomfortable. Flying around Europe is fine if you want to visit big cities but not much more. For me, driving always wins out.
Which Hire Car Company?
Back when I lived in Paris, before I got my own car, I used to hire a car 3 or 4 times per year either for short trips around Paris or longer road trips in Europe. I’ve tried Hertz, Europcar, Sixt and a few independents but 9 out of 10 times I would hire a car with Hertz. The cars they offer, the ease of renting, unlimited kilometres, full insurance options, and the customer service is generally way better than the others and the price is usually reasonable.
I never rented with Avis as they were always much more expensive than other car hire companies. After Hertz, Europcar would be my second choice and you can sometimes get a good deal with them if you’re an Accorhotels member.
Visiting Multiple Countries
Something to be aware of when hiring a car in Western Europe is that you’re sometimes not allowed to drive the car into Eastern Europe or the Balkans. This is particularly true for luxury cars like BMWs and Mercedes. I think it’s an outdated regulation many rental agencies have which I’m sure will change in the future but for now be sure to read the rental fine print carefully if you plan to travel outside of the country of hire.
When road tripping around Europe I like to plan a round trip, doing a loop of different cities and countries. It’s usually more practical to start and finish at the same destination and it’s always cheaper. One-way rentals can be outrageously expensive, especially if you plan on leaving the car in a different country.
To Pay For Excess Reduction or Not?
For short trips I always pay extra insurance to waive the excess (deductible) to have peace of mind when driving. It’s not that I expect to have an accident but other drivers can be careless and it’s not uncommon to return to your parked car to find a small ding. For longer rentals I usually skip the added insurance and hope for the best.
Tolls and Vignettes
Don’t forget that in many European countries you need to pay a toll to drive on the motorways. This toll is usually paid at toll booths or with a vignette sticker which you place on your windscreen and a couple of countries require an electronic device to pay the toll. Read this to find out the requirements for each country.
It’s easy to book online if you know when you are going to be travelling and it’s usually cheaper than booking the car when you arrive at the airport or train station.