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Having just returned from a worldwide road-trip (interspersed with flights of course) that started from Singapore to Thailand through Malaysia then Darwin to Sydney in Australia, to Amsterdam Netherlands and through the Tuscan countryside and quaint Belgian villages then across to America where we drove from Mexico to Las Vegas through the Joshua Tree desert.
Quite an adventure in itself. In fact the adventure of a lifetime. But one of my key learnings I would like to spill the beans on is the car rental. Across each country and sometimes city, I tried different car rental companies. After months of online research and quizzing travel experienced friends I made some choices and booked a different company in each continent based on different features.
In Singapore I started with Sixt rental. It delivered the car to my door on a weekend and had a competitive rate. I then switched halfway throught the journey to Thailand to Hertz which I have to say has great service and was quick and easy to rent. Aso their onlien rate was better than others. If I had to choose from Singapore to Thailand the winner was Hertz.
In Australia I started in Darwin which brought an immediate care rental problem. I had booed with Avis and their airport office only opened at 9am when my plane arrived at 6am. I had booked online and the office hours stated 6am opening but I guess in a sleepy country town, 6am is a bit too early for some. Luckily Hertz was the only office open at that time (the only 24 hour office). On the way to Sydney I switched to the cheapest car rental in Australia called No More Birds - strange name but great rates for rentals longer than 7 days. The office is open only limited hours and there is no airport offices, just city offices which is a little inconvenient. But..the money you save compensates for the cab fares and a little more. The way they keep the prices low is that all cars they rent are only Toyota Corollas, so if you are into choosing models this might not be the best way for you. Be sure to specify auto or manual as in Australia the lowest price is always manual. Always check the car for previous damage as often in Australia windscreens get chipped from old stony freeways and small country roads.
Next we flew across to Europe and started our rental (aptly) with Europe Car Rental. It was all fine until it came to returning the car when we had a major meltdown. We were charged with damages on the car that we had previously marked as existing damage. They were extremely anal that we were not specific enough on existing damage. To me it stank of trying to squeeze extra money out of their customers and really left a bad taste in my mouth as well as a hole in my pocket of hundreds of Euros! Back in Amsterdam we went back to Hertz. I rented a car at the Hertz Amsterdam central city branch, which is walking distance from most hotels and was quick and simple when I booked in advance over the internet. An essential tool for the trip is a GPS and I like that Hertz has the, true to its name, 'NeverLost' GPS for dummies. The Old City of Amsterdam is like a maze in a mouse cage filled with clueless tourist pedestrians, angry cyclists, surging trams and signposted with weird unpronounceable names. Just getting to the freeway can be a challenge.
Across to America and we started in LA, again with Hertz. Now renting a car in LA is a must. You are what you drive, as the motto goes in this status obsessed city. Everyone drives everywhere, public transport is non existent and cabs cost a fortune so renting a car is the only way. Hertz has a collection called The Fun Collection that has pink Hummers, yellow convertible Mustangs, sparkling gold luxury sedans and stretch limos. It was like being in kid in a candy store. If you love cars, this is the place to rent. My other half is a bit of a greenie at heart and was veering towards their Green collection of hybrids and electric cars but the shiny, colorful fun collection won me over. Cruising in a Hummer in LA past the Hollywood sign was incredible. Heading across to Vegas we (reluctantly) switched to National car Rental which was efficient, easy and quick. No waiting in long queues if you join their Emerald Club (but a bit of a hard sell on the additional insurance as you pick up your contract). In and out in 30 minutes was a dream. Lastly in America we tried Midway Car Rental to compare the budget companies to the majors. It saved some dough (about $20 a day) but the range was more limited as were the office hours, but I guess thats the trade-off.
So, on this car rental adventure we had as many different experiences which we will take on board for our next big roadtrip.
About the Author
Kristina Foster is a freelance travel writer. Her articles have been published in Elle magazine, 2-Mag, Harpers Bazaar and Bambi magazine across Asia.
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