Why might you be better off not hiring a car?

  • Freedom is relative — if you are stuck behind the wheel of a hire car, you can’t enjoy seeing as much as you can looking out of the window of a train, or being in the open air travelling around by foot or on a bike.
  • Cost — hiring a car comes with lots of hidden extra costs, especially insurance excesses. Return the car with too little fuel and expect to pay a hefty surcharge, put in too much, and you’re needlessly paying for fuel you’re not going to use. However, the real hidden extra cost with a hire car comes if you are staying at a hotel that charges you for parking. In extreme cases, this can cost as much again as the cost of the hire car itself. This will obviously not be a problem if you’re staying at a rural retreat, or in a villa which comes with parking.
  • Travel like the locals — if you are hermetically sealed inside an air-conditioned hire car, you are only going to talk amongst yourselves. Walk the streets, ride the bus or take the train, and you will come into contact much more with locals who can give you excellent advice on hidden gems that mainstream tourist guides don’t cover. Taxi drivers can also be fonts of local knowledge, especially if you speak the lingo.
  • Discounts — many cities offer combined admission and transport tickets which are much cheaper than purchasing individual admissions. Family discounts are often also available.
  • Switch off — if you drive every day, especially if you have a long commute, surely a holiday is about switching off? Much better to take a break from driving as well — of course, this works the other, if your daily commute involves being stuffed into crowded tube trains, then a driving holiday will probably be much more attractive than a city break. However, when on holiday you can at least choose which time-of-day is best to get around.
  • Arguments — save arguments over who does the driving, and let somebody else do it!
  • Safety — the sad reality is that, in a world obsessed by a statistically minute terrorist threat, thousands of people around the world are killed or seriously injured each month on the roads. Driving in another country means complying with rules of the road and behaviours which can be very different to home — the unfamiliarity of driving on a different side only scratches the surface. Getting off jetlagged from a long haul flight and then going through long immigration queues only to wait again to pick up a rental car can be a recipe for disaster. Rushing back to the airport to catch the flight home, hitting traffic and panicking about being able to find somewhere to fill the tank can be equally dangerous — but with a bit of forward planning (for example, spend the first night at an airport hotel if you are arriving in the evening), these risks can be managed.
  • Environment — public transport is generally better for the environment than driving, although this will of course depend on where you are going and how many people are travelling together.
  • Social – not having a hire car to worry about means everyone can enjoy a drink or two (in moderation, of course!).
  • Security – it might be true that no-one gerts pickpocketed inside a hire car, but a car is still a valuable asset that is prone to theft and vandalism. Getting lost in the wrong part of town can be no better in a car than it is on foot

Other things to consider:

  • Is it worth hiring a car for just a few days, rather than the full trip?
  • Can I enjoy visiting two separate locations with a one-way rental?
  • Can I pick up a hire car in the city centre and return it to the airport (or vice-versa)?
  • Is it cheaper to get a hire car in the city or at the airport?
  • Will my airline give me the best car hire deal? (Probably not, but see why this is a bad idea, even if they seem reasonable value)
  • If I’m hiring a car for a group of people, will they pay a fair contribution to the costs, including insurance and parking?

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