Renting a car to drive around Europe should make your trip a lot easier. However, driving someone else’s car across the Continent can be disconcerting. Not only are fuel prices and the rules of the road different from what you’re used to, but the legalities of renting and insuring a car on holidays can be challenging to keep up with, as well.

The good news is that these legalities are unlikely to change overnight so you can find out what to expect before you hit the road. Do your homework then - check out and keep these six tricks in mind and you’ll find that your road trips are not only more cost-effective but also less stressful in the long run.

a car parked near a bay

Secure a vignette

While road tripping through continental Europe, you should have a vignette sticker in your windshield. This vignette is not a light dressing to put on your salad but rather evidence to law enforcement that you’ve paid your highway taxes and can legally drive on European roadways.

If you happen to rent your car in one of the countries that require you to have a vignette, you’ll be good from the start. However, you can also buy vignettes at most petrol stations and at border crossings for between 3 and 10 euros.

The countries that require you to have a vignette posted on your windshield include:

  • Austria
  • Czechia
  • Slovakia
  • Romania
  • Switzerland
  • Hungary
  • Slovenia
  • Bulgaria

Keep in mind that you’ll only need a vignette if you’re crossing international borders and heading into or out of these aforementioned countries. If you’re not travelling too broadly, you’ll be good to go without a vignette in hand. Still, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

a young woman sitting on a car

Get your cards and documents ready

Working through paperwork in order to go on holidays isn’t exactly fun, but it is necessary if you want your time abroad to be as stress-free as possible. With that goal in mind, make sure you take with you an operating credit card with sufficient funds, a valid driving licence and ID. 

If a no-deal Brexit becomes a reality, you may also find that your road trip through Europe requires you to have a Green Card on hand or an International Driving Permit (IDP). While the former shouldn’t concern you when you’re only hiring a car (the rental company usually covers you), it makes much sense to take care of the latter one as you may need it anyway. 

There are new regulations concerning international driving and they basically require an IDP so it’s advisable to get one. Having an IDP, you can rest assured your papers comply with international driving requirements. And it’s only a matter of £5.50 after all.

driving with children

Choose the right rental car 

With the paperwork tips and tricks out of the way, you may find yourself asking: what kind of car should I rent in order to balance my need for a fuel efficient city car and different countries’ driving styles?

Depending on the route you want to take, your budget and, obviously, the number of people travelling with you, you may decide one thing is more important than the other. However, with a wide range of vehicles available, it’s not difficult to find a rental car which can satisfy all your travel needs. The key thing is just to define them first.

Because road safety should always factor into the kind of car you rent, consider renting an automatic car in countries that drive on the right hand side. It is already challenging to adjust to right-hand traffic, why adding extra stress having to change gears with the other hand? Alternatively, get a crash course in driving on the right.

Avoid unnecessary rental charges

In that vein, you don’t want to accidentally incur additional fees just because you picked up your rental in an inconvenient location. While having a rental car waiting for you at an airport or train station makes getting to your next destination much easier, it can also raise the cost of your rental by a significant amount.

In order to save a bit of money, it’s best if you take public transportation to your rental’s office and take your rental car from there.

Be aware of border fees

If you’re determined to go on a road trip, some rental companies charge you extra money for taking their cars across international borders. In the EU, this isn’t too much of a problem. Nevertheless, when you enter a non-EU country, you may see a rental charge of between 15 and 50 euros.

As you can see, there is paperwork you need to secure and tricks you need to know in order to drive safely and cost-effectively across Europe. With these tips in mind, you should drive around without any trouble. Happy travelling!