If there’s one thing the United States has, it’s space. The continental U.S. is spread across 4 time zones, and once you include Alaska and Hawaii into the mix, that sprawl goes into 6 time zones.
When you go to Europe though, it’s a whole different ballgame. Those countries are tiny in comparison to us. I mean, the entire EU could fit into half of the U.S.
I love this picture…it puts it all into perspective:
So let’s say you’re traveling to Europe and you plan on renting a car. You’ve checked if you’ll need an International Driving Permit or not, and it turns out you will, so you’ve done what you need to do to have that in hand. You also know what happens if you get a ticket in another country, so you’re good there, too.
You’ve been banking PTO for a while, and you’re going to be gone for 4 weeks, with plans to visit 7 countries. You’re going to start in England, then take the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle train (a.k.a. the car train through the Chunnel) into France. After that, you’re going to drive to and through Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Sweden before bringing the car back to the rental company and flying home.
But wait…CAN you do that? Driving through different states with a rental car isn’t the same as driving through different countries with one. You’ve got, like…international borders. And rules.
As it turns out, you need to check with your rental car company before you start on this journey. Some countries may be entirely off limits. There may be further limits and/or charges depending on what kind of car you rent, if you plan on driving rental to another country. You may need to consider border crossing fees. And some vehicles, depending on your plans, may not be allowed on a ferry.
All of this should be documented on the rental car company’s website before you commit and they’re things you should definitely take onto consideration before you decide which rental car company to go with.
Each company has its own rules for where you can and can’t drive.
You are only allowed to use the vehicle in the following countries:
- Czech Republic
- Great Britain
- San Marino
Entries to Italy and San Marino are not only allowed for vehicles of the premium and luxury class.
Porsche vehicles may only be driven in Switzerland, France, Germany and Austria.
You are not allowed to use the vehicle in the Albania, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belarus, Cyprus, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Croatia, Iceland, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Macedonia, Moldavia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine and any country outside continental Europe.
if you buy Travel East cover (only available at selected rental locations and on selected vehicles), you may also take our vehicle to Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Croatia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.
You can bring out-of-country rentals into:
- Czech Republic*
- Great Britain
- San Marino*
- The Vatican*
* Unless you have rented an Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Volkswagen, Land Rover or Jaguar.
Hertz has rental rules up the ying yang. Click here for specifics. But the bottom line is if you plan on driving in Europe and cross country borders, don’t rent from Hertz 😉
Sixt also has lots of rules for driving their rental cars in multiple countries across Europe (but they’re not nearly as bad as Hertz’s). Click here to get a taste of them.
The bottom line
There are, of course, many other companies that have rental cars across Europe. But this gives you a taste of what you may encounter.
The bottom line is that driving across the U.S. is not the same as driving across Europe. Before you get married to the idea of renting a car in Europe, check the rules of your rental car company of choice, and see how they compare to your plans of driving into and through countries A,B, C, etc. Good luck!
Feature Photo (cropped): warrenski / flickr / CC By-SA 2.0
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It used to be far simpler; UK cars not allowed in Continental Europe and vice versa. Restrictions to go to Eastern Europe and, for more expensive cars, into Italy.
It’s a bit complicated in ways you don’t describe but not all that hard. I regularly drive rental cars from Europcar and Sixt through Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland as well as Ireland, France, UK at times. Getting vignettes, dash parking clocks/paying for parking and tolls are the biggest challenges for most Americans. Eastern Europe is a whole different ballgame due to theft. Also one-way drop fees can be brutal. I think driving in Mexico or Caribbean countries is worse and more dangerous.
I rented a car in Albania last month and drove through Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia and North Macedonia before dropping the car back at the Tirana airport. Just make sure you have the signed form from the car rental agency confirming that you’ve notified them you’ll be leaving the. county, and get the €30 multi-country registration form from one of the agencies.
We had no issues at all.
Forgot to add Kosovo to that list of Balkan countries I drove through. The rental was through Budget, mid-size car, €272 for 12 days plus €80 for a second driver. Although we were told we needed International Driving Permits (and we had them), they were never checked at a border.