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    1. Member The_Real_Stack's Avatar
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      07-11-2019 09:54 AM #1
      Wife and I are headed to France in August/September, and we are attending a wedding in the Brittany province. So I have to play planes, trains, and automobiles to get there, because the train doesn't take you all the way there. We've already rented a Fiat 500 or similar from Auto Europe in Man Pedal Edition, and I fully intend on being the comical Full Bodied American driving the tiny Euro hatch.

      But what do I need to do about a license? Do I need an international one, or does my Illinois one appear sufficiently socialist to the Frogs? How about insurance? I have a USAA credit card and USAA insurance so I imagine I'm covered, or should I plan on getting the extra insurance I always pass up from Hertz, etc in FreedomLand? I am aware that DUI laws are draconian, so no Bordeauxs or Champagnes across my lips inside the 8hr bottle to throttle guidelines.

      What else do I need to know?


      For added fun, see my companion thread in OT, how do I use my cell phone in France?
      Quote Originally Posted by Volkl View Post
      My wife wanted a SUV with a manual transmission. I suggested a Wrangler, she said no way, too masculine

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    3. Member DonPatrizio's Avatar
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      07-11-2019 10:10 AM #2
      I've only ever driven in Italy but I got an international driver's license through AAA. I think Sixt made a scan of it and my real one when I picked up the car.

      As far as driving the drivers are much better but the cars are generally slower. It's infuriating when you return stateside: faster cars but stupid drivers.
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      07-11-2019 10:12 AM #3
      I was in France spring 2018. I used my normal 'merica license, the rental agency didn't care. As for the cell phone, I have Verizon, I just needed to activate my cell plan's international option, for Verizon it was 10$/day with 500mb of data. If you're not Verizon, there might be different things.

      Overall, I was surprised at how similar it was to driving in the US, just with better lane discipline.

      Also, sorry about the Fiat 500. What a ****ty car. It doesn't really matter though, you'll probably end up with a different car anyways because the French don't care about you and you'll get what they give you. They hate fat people though, so maybe they will try to find you an extra small car just to **** with you.

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      07-11-2019 10:23 AM #4
      I've never seen anyone care about the International Drivers license.

      Check the fine print on your credit card for coverage and ability to waive the LDW. My Chase Sapphire Reserve has that.

      Sixt has good cars

    6. Member The_Real_Stack's Avatar
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      07-11-2019 10:31 AM #5
      Quote Originally Posted by mrothwell View Post
      I was in France spring 2018. I used my normal 'merica license, the rental agency didn't care. As for the cell phone, I have Verizon, I just needed to activate my cell plan's international option, for Verizon it was 10$/day with 500mb of data. If you're not Verizon, there might be different things.

      Overall, I was surprised at how similar it was to driving in the US, just with better lane discipline.

      Also, sorry about the Fiat 500. What a ****ty car. It doesn't really matter though, you'll probably end up with a different car anyways because the French don't care about you and you'll get what they give you. They hate fat people though, so maybe they will try to find you an extra small car just to **** with you.
      I'll be in like hour 20 of my journey when we get to rental care stage, after a redeye flight, navigating de Gaulle, and then finding and taking a 2-3 hour train ride, so I'm sure we'll all be in fine spirits.
      Quote Originally Posted by Volkl View Post
      My wife wanted a SUV with a manual transmission. I suggested a Wrangler, she said no way, too masculine

    7. 07-11-2019 10:37 AM #6
      I just use my Florida license, never had an issue.
      I don't prepay anymore, after a debacle where I was charged twice.
      I once got a Fiat 500 and had to put my suitcase in the back seat because the trunk didn't cut it. If it's two of you and you both have suitcases, upgrade to a Golf/Megane.
      Last time I went I had a portable hotspot mailed to my first destination so I had wifi the whole time and it worked all over Europe. Came out to about $10/day. Apparently now AT&T will give you a international data plan for the same price, so it's worth looking into with your service provided.
      Stay out of the left lane if you have no business being there.
      Side note try to rent your car and return in the same location. I've seen fees as high as 1000Euro for returning in another country.
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    8. Member Galrot's Avatar
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      07-11-2019 11:06 AM #7
      Be prepared for people to not give a **** while parallel parking. I stayed a couple of months in Bordeaux last year and the amount of times I heard someone bump into the cars outside of the my apartment was unreal. Most of the cars also looked like just been in the battle field. Also another thing people park literally everywhere and couldn't give less a crap about pedestrians. Sights likes there were commonplace:




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      07-11-2019 11:07 AM #8
      I'm in Spain now, driven all over from Morocco to Norway. Don't rent bigger than you need, but people manage tour busses and range rovers, so don't sweat it. If you pay for the extra insurance, you can ding the mirrors with minimal concern.

      It can be helpful to have a paper copy of the rental when you arrive. I don't want to hand my phone to a random anywhere.

      I have the AAA license. $25 and 10 minutes for one less paper to be bothered about.

      If you might possibly cross a border in a rented car, make sure you have the right papers/talk to the agency. They get serious about the carte de gris, saying you aren't stealing the car.

      I have not had a problem showing up and renting without a reservation. If the avis counter is slammed, it's people who didn't know about europcar, so they'll be available, and I don't have to wait for 7 families to figure out what a litre is and how many of them they might need.

      T-mobile is free for text and data at reduced speed. It's been fine.

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      07-11-2019 11:17 AM #9
      I've not driven in France, but been there a few times and driven in a bunch of other EU countries.

      • Your insurance probably won't work, call and ask.
      • Often, liability is included in EU rentals. Ask when you pick up the car. If you want collision on your vehicle, they'll be happy to sell you that. I'd recommend it.
      • Your drivers license proves you can drive, but doesn't prove who you are. Your passport proves who you are, but doesn't prove you can drive. You'll need to carry both.
      • There's something called an International Driving Permit (IDP). You can buy one a triple AAA; it's basically your license translated into a bunch of langauges. Some countries require it; I don't think France does but it could make things easier if you get stopped.
      • Watch some youtube videos of roundabouts to get a feel for what's appropriate.
      • Read up on the signs, laws, and road-markings in advance. They're a bit different, and not always intuitive.


      Quote Originally Posted by Galrot
      Be prepared for people to not give a **** while parallel parking.
      This. Parking culture in France is different from here; it's like some consider contact OK. This reason alone is enough for me to want to buy the insurance.

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      07-11-2019 11:26 AM #10
      Rome and Paris were the only places I saw people actively and intentionally nudging other cars, mostly in the places commuters were dropping their cars for trains. Those people buy ****ty cars to park there. You will probably park in parking garages if in a city, or in a well defined parking lot or at least spacious field. Nicer newer cars are worth more in Europe, so people take care of them. Park near those people.

      Also, I never went out without my passport. Credit card transactions, police stops, emergency room visit, hotel check in...
      Last edited by gotcha640; 07-11-2019 at 11:28 AM.

    12. Member The_Real_Stack's Avatar
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      07-11-2019 01:18 PM #11
      Quote Originally Posted by Galrot View Post



      Oh, yeah, this pic is of parallel parking.

      JenniferLawrenceYeahOk.gif
      Quote Originally Posted by Volkl View Post
      My wife wanted a SUV with a manual transmission. I suggested a Wrangler, she said no way, too masculine

    13. Member atomicalex's Avatar
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      07-11-2019 01:37 PM #12
      Do the international license so if you get pulled over, the locals can read it.

      Otherwise, you can rent on your US license no probs.
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    14. Member Jimmy Russells's Avatar
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      07-11-2019 01:47 PM #13
      Driving over there rocks. I like Europcar and Sixt, no problems with either, and good cars. I do get an IDL each time, it's only about $25.

      Oh and be careful if you are driving into city centers. A lot (most?) cities have a barrier that if you cross into that downtown circle will cost you money, like 20 euro flat fee whether you're there all day or two minutes.
      Last edited by Jimmy Russells; 07-11-2019 at 01:49 PM.

    15. Member IJM's Avatar
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      07-11-2019 01:48 PM #14
      Quote Originally Posted by atomicalex View Post
      Do the international license so if you get pulled over, the locals can read it.

      Otherwise, you can rent on your US license no probs.
      Came here to post this. I once got pulled over in Italy at a routine check point, and the rural cops I had a bit of a language challenge.

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      07-11-2019 02:05 PM #15
      I rent cars in Europe at least a couple of times a year. In fact, I'll be in Portugal next week.

      I've never had a problem with my US license. I always put the rental on my AMEX-P and I don't buy insurance via the rental agency as it is a scam. Your full coverage home policy and a good credit card will be more than sufficient! Watch out for cyclists!

      Enjoy the trip.

    17. Don't be me. Don't be a 'Rick' Cabin Pics's Avatar
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      07-11-2019 02:14 PM #16
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    18. 07-11-2019 02:28 PM #17
      I lived there for a year.

      Just use your US license, never gonna have an issue, I never even bothered getting a license from Europe, still owned a car.

      Traffic cameras everywhere, if you think America is a “police state”, you’re gonna change your mind when you’re in Europe, America is gonna feel like the old west.

      DONT CRUISE ON THE LEFT LANE!!

      You’ll need a vignette (Sticker on your windshield) to drive through Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia. Or you’ll get a fat ticket.

      *Sometimes* in Italy you’ll have to pass on the right, because Luigi doesn’t wanna get off the left lane with his Fiat.. the Italians are stubborn.

      If you’re going to small towns, carry cash.

      Only rely on Visa and MasterCard. Discover and Amex are not widely accepted.

      Carry cash.

      Try to rent through Germany, you get better cars for cheaper. SIXT has always been awesome for me every time I go back.
      My family doesn’t listen and they keep getting stuck with stupid fiats. They’ve paid more for Fiat Puntos than I’ve paid for a Mercedes E class and a MK7 Golf.

    19. Senior Member LT1M21Stingray's Avatar
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      07-11-2019 02:40 PM #18
      Quote Originally Posted by JackStraw79 View Post
      I've never seen anyone care about the International Drivers license.
      The International Drivers License is just a translation of your regular drivers license. You still need to carry your drivers license with you.
      Quote Originally Posted by Mk1Madness
      Back when making your car faster and better handling was the big thing.
      Quote Originally Posted by Tavarish
      The car's best safety feature includes ejecting you in the moment of impact and wishing you the best of luck.
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    20. Member Galrot's Avatar
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      07-11-2019 02:51 PM #19
      Quote Originally Posted by Ilikewaffles View Post

      If you’re going to small towns, carry cash.

      Only rely on Visa and MasterCard. Discover and Amex are not widely accepted.

      Carry cash.
      Pretty much every place in France take cards in my experience. I basically never used cash while I was there. If you are going to visit other countries like for example Germany then it is something else and you should probably carry cash, but there is no need for it in France.
      Last edited by Galrot; 07-11-2019 at 02:56 PM.

    21. Senior Member LT1M21Stingray's Avatar
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      07-11-2019 02:56 PM #20
      Quote Originally Posted by Galrot View Post
      Pretty much every place in France take cars in my experience. I basically never used cash while I was there. If you are going to visit other countries like for example Germany then it is something else and you should probably carry cash, but there is no need for it in France.
      Visa/MC works great everywhere in Germany. Same with France. It's good to have some cash with you. Some places you need coins to go to the WC.
      Last edited by LT1M21Stingray; 07-11-2019 at 03:03 PM.
      Quote Originally Posted by Mk1Madness
      Back when making your car faster and better handling was the big thing.
      Quote Originally Posted by Tavarish
      The car's best safety feature includes ejecting you in the moment of impact and wishing you the best of luck.
      Buy my couch!

    22. Member sebastianjbauer's Avatar
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      07-11-2019 03:00 PM #21
      +1 for all of the above, i.e. US license is fine, rent with a good credit card (AMEX) and forego the pyramid scheme rental insurance, and yes, definitely rent from SIXT... in Germany if you can (Stuttgart might be a fun place to rent... you could go to the Porsche & Mercedes factories, and it's about 80 miles from the border). that said, i just did a search on Sixt picking up at Charles de Gaulle (Paris airport) in your approximate date range, and i was offered an A4 avant for $50 a day, or a C-Class convertible for $80 a day... so either way, you're good.

      i'm currently there in Germany, and have been renting a brand-new E-Class 300D wagon for 2 weeks and i'm paying approximately $900 USD (that's about $65 a day – i've literally paid more renting a Toyota Corolla from Enterprise in the US).

      i'm originally from Germany, and i always use my US license. i still have my German one somewhere (it doesn't expire), but i don't even bother trying to find it, or getting an international license.

      yes, definitely don't drink and drive, and do NOT overtake on the right in Germany or France. that's a gnarly ticket, and they've gotten very smart about linking your traffic infractions back to Freedomland. ask me how i know.

      as for your cellphone, i have AT&T and i have the international day plan added to my regular plan, which means if the signal registers outside of the US, i get unlimited text, calls, limited data (but more than enough for heavy email/mapping/internet use), for a flat fee of $10 per day.
      Last edited by sebastianjbauer; 07-11-2019 at 03:03 PM.
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    23. Member robr2's Avatar
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      07-11-2019 03:02 PM #22
      Quote Originally Posted by Galrot View Post
      Pretty much every place in France take cards in my experience. I basically never used cash while I was there. If you are going to visit other countries like for example Germany then it is something else and you should probably carry cash, but there is no need for it in France.
      Quote Originally Posted by LT1M21Stingray View Post
      Visa works great everywhere in Germany. Same with France. It's good to have some cash with you. Some places you need coins to go to the WC.
      And see if your bank will give you a PIN to go along with your chip card. I hard a difficult time a couple of times in Germany without a PIN.

    24. Senior Member 6cylVWguy's Avatar
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      07-11-2019 03:06 PM #23
      I would err on the side of over-preparing for the trip. Last thing you want outside of the US is a hassle because someone wants to be a d-bag or you have some unexpected attention from the law. I did the international license thing when I drove in Germany a bunch of years ago. I'm pretty sure I didn't have an international license in Iceland. In Mallorca the hotel I was staying at had rental cars on the property. I didn't plan on renting at all, but asked at the front desk. With very little hassle and no international drivers license, I was sent loose in a 5MT Citroen C3 to drive on the wonderful mountain roads.

      As far as insurance is concerned, you should call USAA to make sure you know what they recommend. Though I probably would just opt for the overseas rental insurance if it's not much extra.

    25. Member The_Real_Stack's Avatar
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      07-11-2019 03:23 PM #24
      FYI we don’t intend on leaving France (for the duration of the trip) and I want to turn in the car before I get back to Paris. No interest driving/parking/having a rental in Paris
      Quote Originally Posted by Volkl View Post
      My wife wanted a SUV with a manual transmission. I suggested a Wrangler, she said no way, too masculine

    26. Member Jimmy Russells's Avatar
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      07-11-2019 03:27 PM #25
      Quote Originally Posted by The_Real_Stack View Post
      FYI we don’t intend on leaving France (for the duration of the trip) and I want to turn in the car before I get back to Paris. No interest driving/parking/having a rental in Paris
      You can choose your pickup and drop off points when you book. Just choose a drop off point outside of town, near a train station or something and use the train to get back into town. Usually pretty easy and they don't typically charge for different drop off point.

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