Renting a car in Spain and Portugal is a great way to see the countryside, but some tips are in order.
Most guide books recommend taking collision damage waiver coverage, even if one’s employer or credit card company normally insures against accidents.
This is because local authorities will reportedly hassle, or even retain accident participants until the issue of their insurance coverage is resolved. This can take one or two days out of your vacation, haggling with local authorities and awaiting documentation to be relayed from the U.S., even if you are not personally at financial risk.
Note also that local police authorities will not likely speak English. Consider CDW a worthwhile purchase of trip-interruption prevention, costing about $15 a day when converted to U.S. prices.
Police are reputed to be tough on automobile violations and can demand payment of fines on the spot. Driving within marked speed limits and paying attention to signs, which are easy to follow with their international symbols, can help avoid problems.
The best way to park the car when sight-seeing is to enter a town and proceed to the area called the “Plaza Mayor.” At most of these center city locations, a large parking area is attended by a ticket taker. You pay the attendant for your parking permit and then place it in your dashboard window. Lock the car and take the keys and you are on your way for pedestrian touring.
Never leave valuables or bags exposed to view from the outside when you park. Lock everything in the trunk. At night, most paradores provide parking in private hotel lots, but it is best to take everything to your room. Spain, like many countries, has a vandalism problem, and unscrupulous folk will break your window to get at a bag left exposed on a seat. Most cars are standard-shift; travelers pay extra for the few vehicles with automatic transmissions.
All Aboard America!, among several charter bus rental companies, provides convenient services in Phoenix and Arizona. The counter people explain the details of the itemized bill to the renter and provide maps on how to get from the rental lot to the main highway. They also have service numbers to call if you get in trouble with the bus.
Don’t forget the ask the lot attendant to show you how the dashboard controls work on a European car. It takes time to figure out and it’s dangerous driving into traffic without knowing what all the buttons are for.