So, you want to road trip but you don’t have a car? Well that’s a bummer, isn’t it?! The easiest solution is to buy one? Or maybe you can find a buddy who has one?? But let’s be serious for a minute or two!! In this article on how to road trip when you don’t have car, I’m mostly going to show you that it is easy to rent a cool car or camper, whenever you want to road trip outside of your own country. I’m also going to give you a few tips on how to manage this, what to look for and what to be mindful of.
To road trip is the best way to discover a country or a region! This is a personal opinion and I’m totally biased, of course. But if you start road tripping, you will soon find it very addictive!
Road tripping is freedom. You chose your own path, you get to explore at your own pace, to go where others don’t go… You don’t have to figure out how public transport work. And you don’t have to wait patiently when your train or bus is delayed. Yes you might get stuck in traffic, but you can just exit and go somewhere else. You don’t arrive at the places you want to visit with hordes of tourists who were downloaded from a bus for a 30 minutes tour. You can take your time, explore, come back, wait for the sunset if you wish…
One thing that is important on a road trip is the vehicle you are driving. It has to be sufficiently comfy and safe, but most importantly it should be fun and adapted to your trip. So when you are planning a road trip in a foreign country where you will need to rent a car or camper, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.
What should you rent? It depends of your goals
We had booked our flights to San Francisco and I had prepared a preliminary itinerary for our epic road trip. Mr A was in charge of renting a car and got all excited when he realized we could rent a convertible Ford Mustang. So we did! And it was perfect. Messy hair in the wind, we drove for days with the heat on and the roof top off. Yeah, we got sick!! But it really didn’t matter.
On the other end, in Turkey or in Cyprus, we didn’t pay enough attention to the car we rented and ended up with non memorable cars. I’m not sure what type of car could have made these trips more memorable, but it surely wasn’t the ones we had!
You need to rent a car that is going to fit your needs and the type of road trip you are taking.
Big enough for all the passengers and all their suitcases, small enough if you intend to drive in cities (especially European ones). Safe but fun!
If your goal is to go camping, than you should consider renting a van or camper.
In which case, you need to pay attention to all the options that are available, since you may not be able to come with all your camping equipment.
Is the van or camper equipped with a kitchen unit? Does it come fully equipped (pans, cutlery, fridge, coffee maker!…)
Do you have to bring your own sleeping bag? Your own tent?
If something isn’t available, think of how it will affect your trip. For example, you can easily fit in your suitcase a little camping stove and coffee maker if it’s something you need (I do!!). However, you might not be able to bring a full set of pots and pans, which means you won’t be able to cook. If having breakfast, lunch and dinner at restaurant is out of the question, than maybe you should find another vehicle which will have all you need.
If your goal is to go from hotel to hotel, than you should rent a normal car.
In my opinion, the smaller, the better, for various reasons including: fuel consumption, parking, easy driving on small roads, price… small but I’m not saying pocket small either. And don’t forget pleasure… hence the convertible Ford Mustang! But I will admit the Fiat 500 we rented in Italy made the trip really fun!
If you want to alternate between camping and hotels, than it gets complicated!
Mixing styles makes things complicated. Let’s say you are flying to Lisbon, where you will stay a few days before hitting the road to discover the country side, where you intend to go camping, if the opportunity or need arises.
To go camping, you will need to bring your equipment which will take up a significant part of your luggage allowance (assuming you are flying to the county you will be visiting). If you are going to use it twice during your trip, is it worth it? You may answer that you will bring the bare minimum and you’ll be ok.
Fine by me, it is your choice of course. I’m just pointing out that you may be better off choosing one option or the other. Or consider glamping instead!
For our road trip in Slovenia, we took our own car and left with everything we needed. One morning, we woke up in a campsite and I noticed that the couple next to us had not only slept in their cars but were getting ready to take off as soon as up. I wanted to offer them a coffee but we only had 2 mugs and by the time I had figured it out, they were gone. It may not seem important to you but I surely felt bad for them! How could you not have a coffee in the morning?! (or tea, ok!!!)
Click on the image above to hear the coffee brewing!
So choose you vehicle wisely! Basic needs like a good night of sleep and good meals become really important when road tripping!
Things to be mindful of when renting a car or RV
It usually cost a pretty penny to rent a cool converted van or car, especially in high season. The daily cumulative costs (rental, 2nd driver, insurance, campsite charges, fuel…) will most likely be equivalent to the cost of a fairly nice hotel. When you rent a camper, you need to be sure that you will make the most of it!
If you decide to rent a car and stay in hotels, you may not need to pre-book all of them but you should know in which areas it is necessary to book in advance.
In a lot of countries, you are not allowed to do wild camping so you will have to find campsite along your itinerary. if you’re adventurous and prefer to find a very off the road, hidden place and hope for the best, you need to know that fines for doing so can be hefty. In some other countries, it might be safer to stay in an official campsite anyway. This is especially true if you are travelling alone. One of the best thing about campsites, apart from meeting other like-minded people, is hot showers!!
The size of your vehicle
In the list of rental I give you below, I purposely left out, big RVs. If you intend to rent a big camper van, be careful because roads, parking and so forth are usually smaller in Europe for example, compare to the US and can be restricted.
Driving one of those big RV, can feel like being an elephant in a porcelain shop. If you have never driven one, start by something smaller.
Various other restrictions / considerations
In many countries, roads other than highways have weight and height restrictions. This is kind of obviously linked to bridges and tunnels. I’m mentioning this because it is not always easy to understand road signs and you may end up in tricky situations if you take a road that you are not supposed to.
Usually, highway tolls get more and more expensive as the size of your vehicle increases. Speed limits can also be more stringent for bigger vehicles than for cars.
Spaces in campsites are more expensive for bigger RVs and can be limited. You may end up being cramped in between other RVs.
Some campsites seems to have endless spaces for tents, but some others are fully booked in advance.
I’m sure this list could be longer, but I don’t want to put you off either!
A list of cool campers in Europe
To end this article, I wanted to give you a few links of companies which rent cool campers in Europe, as examples. It isn’t always easy to find them but this list should give you some ideas and maybe even the road trip bug!
France: www.blacksheep-van.com Simple, efficient, discreet and available in various locations.
Iceland: lagooncarrental.is All equipped for a perfect stay.
Netherlands: steel-brothers-experience.nl For Defenders’ lovers!
In the UK: http://www.explorecampers.com Defenders again!! – coolcamping.com/campervan-hire includes recommendations, information on campsites and various rental companies including oconnorscampers.co.uk/our-vw-campervans-for-hire because they have the most gorgeous VW campers!
Scotland: scotlandoverland.com Yeah! Defenders again!! 😉
Now I wouldn’t necessarily recommend you to rent a car or camper in the UK to go explore other European countries. Getting used to driving on the left is a challenge on its own!! But I admit there seems to be more options in the UK than in other countries!
1 – This is not a sponsored post! I’ve listed those companies to show you there are many options out there. I have looked into them carefully because I am just as interested as you are into renting a super cool VW van for example, but I have not yet used their services. For many of these companies, this seems to be as much as a passion as it is a business, maybe even more. You can really tell by the quality of the offer and all the perfect details.
2- I know very little about cars and there are only a handful that I really like. Defenders are on top of the list. Refer to my logo if needed!! 😉 They are not the most eco-friendly cars, but I can’t help it! So I will keep on listing all Defender rentals I will find!