Getting around while on séjour
Long-term Rental Cars
Renting a car online is fairly straightforward. It’s the insurance issue that makes it complicated and costly. Buying insurance from the rental agency can run anywhere from $10 – $35 per day. And when you need a car for 2-3 months, the costs add up fast.
It’s worth calling your credit card companies – they will often provide some coverage free of charge. But be sure to read the fine print carefully for rules and exclusions. For example, the American Express Premium Plan will provide collision insurance free of charge – for 30 days. But before day 31, you’ll need to turn in the car, close out your account and then rent another car.
Before you leave the lot, make sure you know if you can leave the country. If you get into an accident in Spain, when you weren’t supposed to leave France, you’ll be on the hook for damages.
And make sure you know how to drive a stick!
This NYT article provides some good food for thought when renting a car abroad.
Short-term Lease Cars
A great alternative to the cost and hassle of renting a car is to lease a new car (also called Purchase/Re-purchase or Lease/Buy-back). There are regional companies (for example, Renault and Peugeot) who make the process fairly simple for foreigners and the benefits are huge: insurance is included, there are no mileage restrictions, no VAT and you drive off the lot in a brand new car.
Costs of driving in France
Think gas prices are high in the US? Think again. Europeans have long grown accustomed to outrageous gas prices. It’s not unusual to pay $7 per gallon of unleaded gasoline in France. Diesel is generally cheaper, which is good reason to choose a small, efficient diesel car.
Toll roads are also much more common in Europe than they are here. Remember to have cash on you when you travel the highways. The toll booths are automated and they won’t accept your credit card unless it utilizes chip-and-pin technology.
International Driving Permit
The IDP is basically a translation of your U.S. drivers license into several languages.
The IDP is valid all over the world, but where you actually need it is up for debate. Many people say they’ve rented cars all over the world and have never needed one. Technically, some countries may require it before you are able to legally rent a car.
To be safe, you can get an IDP quite easily by contacting your local AAA. You don’t have to be a member, and you won’t have to take a drivers test or a written test and it’s inexpensive (~$20).
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