The freedom could blow your mind – stop where and when you want, blend with the locals, picnic till your heart’s content – so many advantages
OK there are complications – driving on the other side of the road for one.
Here’s some tips for staying safe
1. Know the road rules
There are some odd rules – anything from keeping your shirt on no matter how hot it is (Thailand) to not being able to go into some areas on certain days (Manila). Most guidebooks have a section on local road rules, and your local automobile association can also help. Take particular note of who has the right of way on a traffic circle, which lanes can be used for overtaking, is an indicator required when overtaking, and just which of those blue, yellow and white lines can you park on.
2. Figure out your insurance needs
Don’t leave the decision on insurance coverage to those few panicky moments at the rental desk. Do your research, the credit card you used to pay may cover the excess should you have a scrape. If not, look for travel insurance that covers rental car excess. It will be worth it and is cheaper than buying collision waiver insurance from the hire car firm.
3. Find the best deal
Car hire firms work the same as airlines. That means you book early for the cheapest deals. Save money by collect the car from a depot in town rather than the airport. Do your sums though, what you save you may well pay getting to the depot in town anyway. Having one driver can also save money; look for firms that allow a second driver for free. Be aware drivers under 25 and over 70 may face surcharges or not be able to rent at all.
4. Choose the right vehicle
Travelling with children or a lot of luggage? Then book a car big enough for your needs. If you have to upgrade at the desk because your luggage won’t fit it will cost you a motza. Manual transmissions are the norm, so if you’re not comfortable driving a stick shift, book an automatic. Best to book it well in advance as there will be fewer automatics in the fleet, and expect to pay more.
5. Get an International Driving Licence
Most hire car firms require an International Drivers Licence (IDL) even if technically you can drive with an Australian licence. Get your IDL from your local motoring association before you leave home, it is valid for one year or until the expiry date of your licence, whichever is first.
6. Local routes
Sat Navs make navigation a breeze. They can be hired but for total confidence BYO yours from home (with the latest maps). Alternatively use the GPS on your smart phone. A word of warning, make sure you have a local plan or use a pocket Wi Fi with a local SIM card to avoid excessive download costs. It is also a good idea to have a printed road map as a backup.
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