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Tips for Renting a Car Abroad

Tips for Renting a Car Abroad

“Throw the keys through the kiosk’s open window. We’ll get the car when we open later”: Those slightly unorthodox drop-off instructions I once received from a Hertz manager in Croatia illustrate some of the differences U.S. travelers might encounter when renting a car abroad.

It pays to familiarize yourself with the local policies and protocols ahead of time. Here’s what you need to know before you accept the keys.

If you have a U.S. driver’s license, an international driving permit is officially required (along with your state-issued license) in Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Italy, Japan, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain and Thailand, although its use is not universally enforced. It’s also a good idea to carry an I.D.P., a booklet — slightly bigger than a passport — that translates a U.S. license into 10 languages, when renting a vehicle in a country whose language is not written in Roman letters.

An I.D.P. costs $20, is valid for one year and is issued to any applicant by a local AAA office (the only issuer in the United States authorized by the State Department). You must apply for one in the country that issued your regular driver’s license.

Car rental brands familiar to Americans operate throughout the world; those include Alamo, Avis, Hertz, National, Sixt and others. You can reserve a vehicle through a company’s U.S. website or through a rental aggregator such as, to compare rates.

The overseas branches of U.S. companies may not always be owned by the parent company. The discussion boards on websites like Tripadvisor abound with commenters calling out franchise operations of major chains for not providing the service they expect from a U.S. operation.

Franchise or not, disputes with a foreign branch should always be directed to the U.S. customer service operation, according to Hertz and Autoeurope.

The minimum age to rent a car varies by country and company, and it’s indicated on each rental agency’s website. Most countries charge a “young driver” surcharge for renters under 25. Some countries, such as France and Germany, allow (but do not require) companies to rent to 18-year-olds, but 21 is the typical minimum rental age for most.

At the other end of the spectrum, Hertz won’t rent a vehicle in Northern Ireland to anyone older than 79;…

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