How to Hire a Car Abroad

Finding cheap car hire abroad

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  • The Travel Mum

Hiring a car abroad can be a game-changer for your holiday experience, offering freedom, flexibility, and the opportunity to explore your destination at your own pace. If you’re travelling with kids this is a great way to do things at their speed, ensuring they are safe and comfortable as you travel around. 

Navigating the ins and outs of car rental in a foreign country can be scary, especially if you have never done it before. From understanding local driving laws, driving on the opposite side of the road, to choosing the right rental company and car, there are lots of factors to consider. In this guide, we’ll go through everything you need to know when wondering “How to Hire a Car Abroad”.


Finding Cheap Car Hire Abroad


Where to start?!

First things first you want to browse what is available for your dates and destination. This is really easy using a comparison website. This is the one we prefer to use when looking for cheap car hire abroad. Put in your pick up airport or location plus your holiday dates and browse through all that is available. Booking in advance is essential to getting the best car hire prices and finding the right car for you.


What should I be looking out for when hiring a car?


Will there be enough room for everyone plus their luggage. If you have small kids take into consideration the size of their pram. Will the boot of your chosen car fit it in? Are there three doors or five? If you have car seats to get in, five doors will make your life a lot easier.

Consider the local roads

Compact cars are ideal for navigating narrow city streets, while bigger SUVs or minivans offer more space and comfort for longer journeys or big family holidays.

Manual vs Automatic

Make sure you are comfortable driving the option you choose.


Many cars will come with unlimited milage, but this isn’t always the case. Check what the milage limit is, and if it suits your plans.

Fuel Policy

Most will be ‘full to full’, which means they will give you the car with a full tank of petrol and expect you to return it with a full tank. Some companies may have a “full to empty” policy, meaning you pay the company for a full tank of fuel and bring the car back empty. This is usually the more expensive option.

Pick up location

Not all hire companies will have an office at the airport terminal. Some will require a shuttle bus that takes you to their location away from the airport. We have used both. If short on time you may prefer to choose a car where pick up is at the airport terminal. It can often be cheaper to use a company that is located away from the airport.


Many companies will offer free cancellation which is useful if your trip gets cancelled. Pay attention to when the free cancellation period ends.

Company reviews

This is important for both the third party site which is organising the car hire plus the actual car hire company. It’s worth noting that many car hire companies have bad reviews, most people don’t bother reviewing if the experience was hassle free. But have a read of the actual comments and look out for red flags.

Car seats

It is going to be cheaper to take your own, as most airlines will let you check them in for free when travelling with children. If you don’t want the hassle of carrying them to and from the airport, look at the price of car seat hire as an extra with your car and then decide if it is worth the extra spend.

Minimum driving age

You usually have to be 21 to hire a car abroad. Most companies will charge extra to those under 25.


What do I need to book car hire abroad?

  • Your passport
  • A valid driving license
  • You will likely need a CREDIT card (not a debit card) in the name of the named driver.
  • Potentially an international driving permit – If you have a UK photo license you likely wont need this in the EU. But always check.

You will be asked for the above when you go to collect your car. When we first ever started hiring cars abroad we always came up against an issue with the credit card. First we took an AMEX card, which most companies don’t accept. The second time we took my credit card, but my husband was the named driver. In that situation we had to pay to add me on as a driver. Make sure you learn from our mistakes!


Why do I need a credit card to hire a car abroad?

Most companies will hold a deposit incase of damage. They like to do this on a credit card. Check what the deposit amount is and ensure you have the right credit limit on the card. Most will be between £1000 – £2000. This is never taken if the car is returned in good condition.


Do I need to purchase extra insurance for my car hire?

The basic rate that they will charge you comes with basic insurance, this usually covers theft, damage and injury. It doesn’t usually include damage to wheels, tyres, windscreens or loss of keys. It also doesn’t cover the deposit which is being held on your credit card. For this you need to purchase ‘excess insurance’. If you write the car off, they will keep your deposit. But with excess insurance you can then claim it back. It isn’t essential that you have this, but the cost is minimal and can save you a lot of money should the worst happen. The car hire company will offer a full package of insurance, check what this includes and compare it to excess insurance that can easily be found online by doing a quick comparison search.


Picking up your car hire

Find the desk

The first thing you need to do is find the car hire desk. It may be that they don’t actually have one and you need to find the shuttle which will take you there. Regardless the information desks in the arrivals hall will be able to point you in the right direction.

Provide your documents and don’t be roped into extra insurance!

The worker at the desk will want to see the documents mentioned above, your booking confirmation and your credit card. They will likely try and sell you additional insurance. If you have bought your excess insurance separately through another company, just let them know you have this and don’t need anything additional. You may have paid for extra insurance via the website which found the car hire company for you. Again, let them know you have already purchased the additional insurance that you need. They will then give you the keys and likely give verbal directions to where the car is parked.

Inspect the car

They will have likely given you a document showing existing damage (if any) to the car. Make sure you walk around the whole car and ensure this document is correct. I always take a video of the whole car, including the wheels, before we set off. That way if there is an existing bump or scratch, I have evidence that it was there before we collected the car.

Check the petrol level, if it isn’t full take a picture of where it is. This way you can return the car with the exact same amount. I always take a photo on the milage too, especially if we have a milage limit.


Extra tips when hiring a car abroad

  • If you plan to add an extra driver, do it at the time of booking. It will likely be more expensive to add at the desk.
  • Always enter your flight details when booking car hire, this means if there is a delay they will be aware of it. Otherwise they may think you are a no show and give your car to someone else.
  • Research speed limits (mph vs kph).
  • Driving on the opposite side of the road can be scary. Just remember that as the driver, you should always be in the middle of the road (never on the outside). Automatic cars are easier to drive than manual if you are nervous.
  • Do your best to clean the inside of the car before returning. This will avoiding additional cleaning charges. Try and reduce the amount of sand build up if visiting beaches, and give the backs of chairs a rub down if little feet have been kicking at them!
  • Bring a car phone holder if you plan to use your phone as a sat nav. Download the ‘offline maps’ on google of the area you will be driving. This will save on your mobile data.
  • Have a USB charger which can be used in the car.



I hope this article on “How to Hire a Car Abroad” has been helpful. Whether you are fancying a road trip or simply a more convenient way to get around, hiring a car abroad is a great way to experience a holiday more flexibly. We have a social media video here summarising the key points. If you would like to know anything else, drop us a comment over on socials!

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