A view of cars driving through a tunnel from the point of view of a driver of the car at the rear

Everything You Need To Know About Overseas Car Rental & Driving

2 June 2016

Words by Ben Stower

Business travel can take us all over the world. Although travel provides many enjoyable moments, one of the most stressful experiences in life can be driving in another country.

Getting behind that wheel, and even organising a set of wheels, can be a tough learning curve to throw into an already busy work trip.

But there's no need to stress, not when you have an expert's guide on the renting and driving rules and regulations in some of the most popular cities for Australian business travellers.

First tip out of the blocks: Book online. Using an online booking provider will make life easier. The process is simple, letting you choose the car class, rental company and pick-up/drop-off location. The best also let you pay in Australian dollars.

Business couple taking car keys from woman

Booking online still lets you pick up the car from an actual store (Image: Getty)

New York, USA

Renting

Cost at counter: About $140 per day

Budget options: Thrifty, Budget, Alamo and Dollar.

Luxury options: Avis and Enterprise.

Drop-off fee: Expect to pay a drop-off fee if you don't return the car to the same store where you picked it up.

Tolls: New York City is inundated with tolls, in tunnels, over bridges and on the highways. If you don't have an E-ZPass you'll need to pay each toll with exact change. Avoid the stress and add an E-ZPass to your booking if you think you'll be encountering a lot of tolls.

Fuel: Approximately $0.79 per litre.

Minimum age of driver: 18 (additional surcharges to be paid unless you're 25 or older)

Car advice: New York City can be a tough driving environment. If you're nervous it's best to opt for a larger vehicle that sits you above the traffic, such as an SUV.

Driving

Rules to consider:

  • Driving on right side of road.
  • No right on red – In many USA cities and towns it's possible to turn right at an interesection even if the traffic light is red. However, this rule does not apply in the state of New York to cities with more than one million residents. Certain signs may permit it in NYC, but when in doubt, wait until the light turns green.
  • Slow drivers to the right – There are no overtaking lanes in New York. Instead, in the case of a multi-lane road, slow drivers are required to stick to the right-most lane. This allows faster drivers space to go around.
  • An International Driving Permit is recommended, but not required.

Cars waiting at a New York City toll

Getting stuck in the cash line is a nuisance (Image: Getty)

London, England

Renting

Cost at counter: About $200 per day.

Budget options: Sixt, Budget, Alamo and Europcar.

Luxury options: Avis, Enterprise, National and Hertz.

Fuel: Approximately $2.31 per litre.

Minimum age of driver: 21.

Car advice: With the price of fuel around the city so high and England's notoriety for small lanes and tight parks, it's best to opt for a small car with high fuel economy.

Driving

Rules to consider:

  • Driving on left side of road.
  • Sequence of traffic lights – The UK includes a red + amber light before green to make sure drivers are ready to go, but you can't move until the green light.
  • It's illegal to use your mobile phone with the engine running even if the car is stationary, unless it's hands-free.
  • Anyone driving a vehicle in Central London between 7am and 6pm, Monday to Friday, needs to pay the Congestion Charge or risk being fined. This can be pre-paid online for the reduced price of $20 per day. Street signs indicate where the Congestion Charge zone begins and ends.

A street in England

Try to avoid London's Congestion Charging zones if possible (Image: Getty)

Singapore

Renting

Cost at counter: About $120 per day.

Budget options: Thrifty and Budget.

Luxury options: Avis and Hertz.

Tolls: Singapore's Electronic Road Pricing system (ERP) manages road congestion by charging drivers for using priced roads during peak hours. Make sure you add a CashCard to your rental car, which allows you to store money to be taken out every time you drive through an ERP gantry. Drivers without a CashCard will be charged a minimum of $10.

Fuel: Approximately $2.15 per litre.

Minimum age of driver: 20 (varies between companies).

Car advice: Singapore law requires all drivers on the road to have Third Party insurance cover. Make sure this is added to your booking.

Driving

Rules to consider:

  • Driving on left side of road.
  • Designated speed limits – Singapore has three speed limits for cars: 50km/h on roads; 70-90km/h on expressways; and 50-80km/h in tunnels.
  • The legal Blood Alcohol Content for drivers is 0.08 per cent.
  • Headlights must be turned on between 7pm and 7am.
  • An International Driving Permit is recommended, but not required.

Driving through a tunnel in Singapore

Drivers must stick to a 50-80 km/h speed limit when in tunnels (Image: Getty)


More advice for business travellers

Business 101: 6 Essentials You Need For Your First Work Trip

The Dos And Don'ts Of Business Travel With Co-Workers


Dubai, UAE

Renting

Cost at counter: About $60 per day.

Budget options: Thrifty, Dollar, Keddy, Budget and Europcar.

Luxury options: Avis, Hertz, Firefly and National.

Tolls: You will need a Salik card to avoid paying fees for using Dubai's toll roads. Make sure you keep at least AED$4 on the card, as this is the amount taken off every time you pass a Salik toll point.

Fuel: Approximately $0.72 per litre.

Minimum age of driver: 21 (extra insurance must be purchased for any driver under the age of 25).

Car advice: Luxury cars are easier to find in Dubai, with many rental agencies boasting car lots with Dodge, Cadillac, BMW, Audi and other high-class makers. If you've been dreaming of cruising around in a Mercedes S-Class, you have a great opportunity to do so in Dubai.

Driving

Rules to consider:

  • Driving on right side of road.
  • Zero blood alcohol content is allowed in Dubai. If you are caught driving under the influence, you will be jailed and taken to court.
  • An International Driving Permit is required.

A man sitting at a table with a beer and car keys

If you drink, don't drive in Dubai. Not even after one beer (Image: Getty)

Frankfurt, Germany

Renting

Cost at counter: About $85 per day.

Budget options: Alamo, InterRent, Global Drive, Buchbinder and Budget.

Luxury options: Avis, Hertz, Europcar and Sixt.

Fuel: Approximately $2.10 per litre.

Minimum age of driver: 18 (drivers aged 18-24 may have to pay a surcharge).

Car advice: Renting from the airport is usually the easiest option, letting you drive right onto the Autobahn for easy travel into the city. However, if you wait to hire a car in the city centre, you can avoid the 20-per cent fee added to all airport rentals in Germany.

Driving

Rules to consider:

  • Driving on right side of road.
  • Winter or all-weather tyres must be fitted during winter.
  • It is illegal to use your high beams in urban areas.
  • A seatbelt need not be worn when reversing a vehicle.
  • Autobahn laws – No passing on the right; slower traffic in the right-most lane; indicators must always be used when changing lanes; obey speed limits when indicated by signage.
  • An International Driving Permit is strongly recommended, but not required.

Driving on the Autobahn in Germany

Keep an eye out for speed-enforced areas on the Autobahn (Image: Getty)

Mexico City, Mexico

Renting

Cost at counter: About $60 per day.

Budget options: Mex, Right Cars, America Car Rental, Hertz, National, Sixt and Europcar.

Luxury options: Budget, Avis, Alamo and Thrifty.

Tolls: Toll roads are relatively sparse in Mexico, but you may encounter some if you need to venture outside Mexico City. Keep an eye out for signs reading 'cuota', as this means toll road, while 'libre' means free road. At the moment cash is the preferred form of payment.

Fuel: Approximately $1.06 per litre.

Minimum age of driver: 25 (some exceptions, but a younger driver must pay expensive surcharges).

Car advice: Double check that the mandatory liability insurance is included in the rental price. If it isn't, you may have to pay twice as much.

Driving

Rules to consider:

  • Driving on right side of road.
  • Make sure you always slow down for topes (speed bumps), as these can damage your car if taken at speed.
  • Some driving signals in Mexico have multiple meanings – A left-side indicator could mean the driver is turning left or it's okay to pass them.
  • An International Driving Permit is recommended, but not required.

Traffic in Mexico City

Defensive driving is a must when navigating the oft haphazard traffic in Mexico City (Image: Getty)

Hong Kong

Renting

Cost at counter: About $100 per day.

Budget options: HAWK.

Luxury options: Avis and Hertz.

Tolls: There are certain tunnels and bridges around Hong Kong that will charge drivers for using them. The cost varies from HK$3 for Tseung Kwan O Tunnel to HK$30 for the Lantau Link. Payment can be made with cash or credit card.

Fuel: Approximately $2.68 per litre.

Minimum age of driver: 21 (surcharges for drivers younger than 25).

Car advice: Make sure it is absolutely necessary for you to rent a car in Hong Kong. With the high price of fuel, parking and rental, coupled with busy roads and periods of intense congestion, having a private car can often be more trouble than it's worth.

Driving

Rules to consider:

  • Driving on left side of road.
  • Silent zones – When you are driving in a silent zone you are only allowed to use your horn as a warning, not a rebuke. Signs indicate when silent zones start and finish.
  • An International Driving Permit is recommended, but not required.

Driving with a map

Opt for a GPS instead of having to read a map (Image: Getty)

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