Lately my friend AP asked me for destination tips for solo travellers, condition passport free travel. I recommended Sicily as there is stuff to see, nice beaches, good food and fabulous wine. Told her that the best way to see the island is to rent a car. She was like aaahhh I’m a bit of a cheapskate to rent a car but think it’s more convenient than wasting time on busses. She had a point.
Why rent a car?
I can reflect AP’s feelings as only last year I discovered the advantages of renting a car. Basically it all depends on the location and purpose of the trip. If the purpose is to have a pure beach holiday renting a car doesn’t make much sense. If the purpose is targeted at sightseeing in more than one city it is worth considering to rent a car. It can save you time and money.
The general indicator why renting a car or a scooter is poor or none public transportation in the location you are visiting. Ages ago on Bali me and my bestie PRS rented a scooter to drive around the island. It was either rent a scooter or constantly pay for taxis to get to the exciting temples in the heart of the island as the bus infrastructure on Bali is non-existent. As poor students we did a quick calculation and it turned out that renting a scooter will save us money which we can spent on beers in the evening 😛 Now I always have a smile on my face when I think about how much fun we had. Every time we were at a junction PRS had to remind me to drive on the left side of the road as in Indonesia you have left-hand traffic whereas in Poland we have right-hand traffic.
Last year however when I went to Tenerife with the purpose to chill out and do some sightseeing my calculation showed that it will be way cheaper to rent a car, pay for the petrol and possible parking than take a taxi to my hotel from the airport and back plus pay for local excursions. I didn’t regret that decision as I had quite an adventure while driving to one of Tenerife’s sights. I looked up on Google that there are some cool rock formations that rise from the ocean to a height of up to 800 meters, called Los Gigantes. I’ve put the location into the sat nav and naively thought that the GPS will take me to some kind of viewing platform or a beach, just like I saw in the pictures on the internet. Nope, the sat nav took me all the way through the narrow roads in the Masca Canyon. Geez, while driving I didn’t know what was bigger, the fear or the excitement. It was a spaghetti-like narrow road with traffic in both directions. At some point I saw a bus coming from the opposite direction and thought how on earth would I pass it with my Nissan Micra, that on this road seemed to be a huge car. The bus stopped and so did I. The driver was pointing to the right side of the road. Thought, huh? There is nothing, just rocks. However, there was a shallow drainage ditch and ofcoz next to it the rock wall. Figured that the bus driver wants me to drive as far as possible in that ditch so that the both vehicles could pass each other. Thought, here goes nothing. I kept driving with the right side of the car in the ditch and passed the bus by inches. Think I even stopped breathing for that moment. Actually it was a cool Top Gear like adventure which wouldn’t happen if I didn’t rent the car. So totally with it.
In case you are playing with the idea of renting a car during your holidays, go for it if it saves you time and money. Bonus is you get some cool adventures – priceless 😀
Tips on renting a car
You might think, how did you know where to go or how can you drive in a country you don’t know. No panic, Google Maps to the rescue. First thing I did after leaving the baggage claim area at Tenerife airport was to get a local sim card with data transfer so I could freely use Google Maps 😀 A local sim card is not expensive, mostly it’s the case of paying like 20 Euros for a data transfer range from 5 to 20 gig.
With driving in a country I don’t know, it’s not a problem either. The traffic rules in continental Europe are similar – advantages of living in the EU but it’s also not much different in other countries. The road signs like STOP, GIVE WAY, SEED LIMIT, NO ENTRY are similar in most countries. However, there are countries where I wouldn’t have the balls to drive, like Egypt or India where the traffic rules are based on jungle law. So it’s all common sense really, only it’s worth to read a bit about the traffic conditions before you go.
You can get good deals on car rentals when you book in advance. I mostly use kayak.com as they have offers from various car rental companies so I just choose the best one. Only my lesson learned from renting cars is to get an insurance. In Malaga I got screwed on an old car damage. When I picked up the car I took pictures of the car to document the already existing damages. As it was at night time and I was tired after the flight I didn’t look everywhere. As I was returning the car it turned out that the paint under the front bumper went off. I didn’t remember driving over a rock, high pavement or anything of that sort so definitely wasn’t me who did it. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a pic to prove it so the car rental company changed me for the damage – 300 Euros. Assholes, as they didn’t keep a record of all damages however I was argument less. OK, fine screw you. Since then I always get a car insurance from the car rental company directly. Why? Firstly, I’d rather invest 50 Euros then lose 300 again. Secondly, when you don’t buy an insurance or have an own insurance from a different agency the car rental company blocks a deposit on your credit card. Sometimes it’s up to 2000 Euros. If a damage happens the cash gets deducted from the deposit anyway. If you didn’t have any insurance bummer – this is what happened to me in Malaga. If you had an insurance from somewhere else, you need to spent time to fill in some forms to claim the money back that got deducted from the deposit. If you buy insurance with the car rental company you get the car from, the deposit is 20 Euros or none and if a damage happens, the company does all the paperwork. Good news is that the insurance prices between car rental companies and external insurance agencies are comparable. Which means I rather buy the insurance with the car rental company directly and save me all the stress.
My hidden renting a car agenda
For the past million years I’ve been a Top Gear fan. My unfulfilled dream so far is to have a smoke with Jeremy Clarkson and discuss Aston Martins. Well it would be him talking and me listening and nodding. Anyhow, during winter when I was going skiing every weekend I needed a car to pack all my gear and get comfortably to the mountains – train connections from Krakow to the mountain region in Poland are a joke.
Currently I don’t have a car as living in the city centre makes it pointless to own one but I do love driving. The best solution was to rent a car. Found a good offer on kayak.com and it turned out that the car rental company Carwiz is a new company run by amazing, positive and helpful guys. New company meaning new cars that just came out of the salon.
After the first weekend I kept booking the cars with Carwiz and I got surprised every time with something different. One time I got a tank like Toyota Camry the next time an elegant Mazda 6. Once I even got a bus like Renault Espace. Regardless of the car I felt a bit like in Top Gear, testing the car only I’m not as funny as Jeremy 😉 In December I plan a three week skiing trip to the Alps. I already mentioned that to the guys at Carwiz and hope they will surprise me again 😉
You see there is nothing difficult with renting a car, just do your research, book in advance and you can be sitting behind the wheel of a cool Toyota C-HR GR Sport version for a very affordable price, like I did last weekend while driving to Warsaw 😉