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Car Rental Netherlands/Belgium/France

Hello all,

Doing some research for future possible trips starting 2022. I have read some of the articles on here about the costs associated with dropping off cars in different countries etc. and was wondering if anyone had any person experience renting cars to drop off at a different country than original pick up?

Talking about the 3 subject countries, mostly northern France. I know taking the train is probably cheaper and about the same transit time, but I do like the idea of being able to stop whenever I want to that the car provides. Possible scenario is dropping off the car near the border and jumping on train into the next country as that seems to be cheaper than the drop off fees for a different country drop off.

Just looking for experiences that worked or didn't work for you!


Posted by
6092 posts

When we planned a trip starting in Lisbon and ending in Barcelona, we were quoted a 1000€ drop fee. Instead we dropped the car off in Porto and hired a taxi for about 100€ to take over the border to Vigo, Spain to pick up another rental car.

Posted by
4273 posts

You need to try some dummy car hire bookings. You will pay a one way drop fee even if you return the car within the same country but at a different place from where you hired the vehicle, albeit this will be less than dropping it in another country. If you need an automatic, this may limit where you can hire and drop the vehicle if using smaller car hire places. Likewise, hire offices are often closed at the weekend or on a Sunday in smaller towns.

Posted by
2967 posts

Jennifer is correct about doing dummy bookings to get firm figures on what drop-offs will cost. Go to AutoEurope to see what the various companies will charge.
She is incorrect, however, about there being a drop fee for different locations within the same country. Sometimes yes; sometimes no. We have done it many times with no fee. Again, do dummy bookings , not forgetting the costs of train tickets and inconvenience.

Posted by
6 posts

Jennifer is correct about doing dummy bookings to get firm figures on what drop-offs will cost.... not forgetting the costs of train tickets and inconvenience (your time)

Your time has value. It is irreplaceable. It is a balancing act

Is there a way to do a loop so you end where you start?

Posted by
29 posts

My husband and I went to the Netherlands, Belgium and Normandy, France in 2019. Although I can't remember the exact drop free for renting in one country and returning in another, it was prohibitive. So we flew into Amsterdam and stayed there a few days and used public transportation to travel outside of Amsterdam. We took the train to Bruges, staying there a few days and then took the train to Lille, France where we rented a car. All of the trains were frequent, with easy connections. Getting the car in France worked out well as we were able to drive to Honfleur, Bayeux, D-Day towns and sights and Mont St. Michel. We returned the car in Lille and took a train back to Amsterdam, from which we flew home the next day. When I checked, we could have returned it elsewhere in France, such as Paris, without incurring a fee.

Posted by
24559 posts

the underlying cause of the international drop charges is that the car rental company can't make any money out of the car you just brought them. They can only rent cars from their country. The car you brought them has to be made ready for the next rental and then it has to be stored until it can be returned to its country of origin by a staff member, either on a car transporter truck or train, or driven. Then the staff member has to get back.

All that costs the company money. No problem - pass it on (with a profit margin) to the customer bringing the car. Simples.

Posted by
2 posts

Thanks for the replies everyone! I will definitely do some dummy bookings when it gets closer to see some costs. I think mkailukaitis trip mentioned in the post is almost exactly what I was thinking in my head so that feedback was good to hear!

Posted by
2895 posts

I did a trial booking through the Avis site. For 6 days, pickup in Paris and drop off in Brussels the one way drop off fee was $357. When I changed the drop off location to Amsterdam, the fee was $244. The fee will vary by rental company and the pickup/drop off locations.

Posted by
17765 posts

For covering substantial distances between cities of size, trains can be a lot faster than driving, and they come with the advantage that all travelers can pack and enjoy a meal along the way.

Posted by
1535 posts

Just don't fall into the american trap of assuming that it is easy to drive anywhere and stop where you like. Europe is not built like that, especially not the Netherlands. Dutch cities and towns are not car friendly in any way, and the best way to get around them is by public transport or bike. The highways between the cities are usually in good condition, but you can't stop there. And other major roads are often narrow so limited opportunities to stop without annoying the cars behind you.

Posted by
335 posts

I have never rented a car in any of my travels in Europe because the train and public transit systems are so good- and especially because there are systems in place in Countrys like Italy and Citys like London where if you drive in certain areas even accidently its a very expensive ticket! Thousands of euros and they have years to bill you for it- to me its not worth the hassle!

Posted by
4555 posts

I lived in Germany for four years and drove in several W. European countries. Taking a rental car into a large city like Amsterdam or Paris is a bad idea. If you plan to visit cities like that, turn in the car and pickup another or take the train to your next destination.

Research, research, research.

First, map out WHERE you want to visit and WHAT you want to see. Find out key sites of interest. Use TripAdvisor and key in things to do in each city that you want to visit. Pickup a guidebook for ideas as well.

Second, your lodging is key. If you have a vehicle, find lodging that provides parking or nearby access to reasonably priced parking.

Third, map your route. Say you fly into Paris, what is next?

Here are some places that I strongly recommend in those three countries (the northern part of France).
Paris of course, Verdun is great if you are interested in WWI history. Brugges and Ghent in W. Belgium. Also, a night in Brussels, just to see the Grand Plaza. There is much WWII history in E. Belgium, such as Bastogne. Luxembourg City and Vianden Lux are nice.
Netherlands, Amsterdam of course, don't miss the amazing Rijksmuseum with plethora of Dutch Masters art and the Anne Frank House. Also, take a canal cruise and a day trip into the Zider zee (sp) for some quaint villages. There is lots more in Netherlands, but Arnheim has a British Museum where The Bridge to Far (Market Garden) took place in WWII.

Posted by
63 posts

Whatever you think the final price will be, double it in your budget.

There seems to a fee for everything--asphalt usage, tire rubber usage, using the air fee, people having to look at you fee, looking at other people fee, you being alive fee, just because fee.

Posted by
2895 posts

While driving in larger cities anyplace is a pain, depending on what you plan to see, a car is a must. They are not needed in large cities. There are some pretty small, out of the way places that are not well served by public transportation. I almost always rent a car in Europe and driving (and rental cost) isn’t as bad some people have portrayed it. As geovagriffith said, plan ahead, get lodging with parking or nearby parking, and save public lot locations for the towns you plan on visiting to Google maps. That will make finding them easier. For insurance, get the coverages you’re comfortable with. Since liability is included in the rental price for European rentals, CDW can be purchased from companies like Allianz for $9 per day. The only extra costs are generally for windshields or full coverage, no deductible. Visited my son twice while he was stationed in the Netherlands, had a rental car both times, and never had a problem. To avoid getting a ticket, don’t drive in pedestrian only zones, don’t drive over the speed limit, and ensure you’ve paid for parking since most of the time it isn’t free.

Edited. I stand corrected about Kinderdijk. I was last there in 2000 and access to it must have improved.

Posted by
4729 posts

Also, I suggest resolving to try an extra flight segment on one end of the trip, if necessary. I have the luxury of many direct flights offered, but the several two-segment trips we’ve tried were slightly cheaper and also efficient for covering a secondary major city.

Posted by
24559 posts

(e.g., Kinderdijk) that are not well served by public transportation.

Actually Kinderdijk is easy to reach by public transportation. There is a very scenic waterbus service which serves it, from Dordrecht and Rotterdam. Not only do you get the windmills at Kinderdijk you also get a scenic boat ride.

Remember that the Dutch are the inventors of the speed camera, and they are everywhere in the country. Exceed the speed limit (quite low in certain places, and the motorways are very busy) and you will be smiling for the camera and looking forward expectantly for the envelope to arrive. Most of the old cameras have visible flashes when they go off, many of the new ones use an invisible flash that works better in the dark but you can't tell when it has gone off.

Posted by
1483 posts

Like most say here using a car in the Netherlands and Belgium makes no sence if you visit the larger places and nearby country side (like Kinderdijk) like most forum members do. But for visiting the off the beaten track countryside of the Dutch provinces of Friesland and Drenthe a car is to prefer, the same if the Delta Works (Eastern Scheldt Storm Surge Barrier) are of interest in the province of Zeeland. If planned well you can visit the Maeslant Barrier west of Rotterdam the same day, but only doable having a car.

The countryside of these provinces are beautiful and well worth seeing / considering to my opinion.

In case you hire a car in Lille for travelling through France, you can cross the Belgian border for a visit to Ypres in case you want to see it on your own. The same for visiting Bastogne. For Ypres there are guided tours starting in Bruges.

Posted by
1901 posts

As mentioned, public transportation in Netherlands & Belgium is great. Before COVID, we often trained to Antwerp just for a lunch break. In northern France, we found we needed a car more often... and then we were punished by the highway tolls. (We don't have those here).

In the Netherlands, you can buy an OV-chipkaart at the airport or train it up.. and use it to travel by train around the country. We have personalized cards and two "anonymous" cards for visitors staying with us. In our region, they are also good on the buses, trams, and metro. Simply swipe in and out. Trains are primarily Intercity (fewer stops) and Sprinter class. (The Sprinters literally "sprint" from town to town - so LOTS of stops!). Thus, plenty of options for your pace of travel and areas of interest. The NS website and Mobile App can be viewed in English for schedules & costs.

As mentioned, I'd agree not to drive into many of the larger towns - like Brussels, Amsterdam, etc. Traffic patterns and routes can be challenging and parking is so expensive. We went to see a friend visiting in Amsterdam and the garage parking was 32€ for just a few hours - OUCH! (Should have jumped on the train!!!)

My wife celebrated her new Dutch license a few years ago by promptly getting a speeding ticket. She was tagged via a speed camera for going four KM over the speed limit. A couple of weeks later she received a parking ticket (which actually cost twice as much as the speeding ticket). Now, she has the Yellowbrick Parking App so she can simply start it as she gets out of the car. (ParkMobile is also good in BE and NL). These Apps can be set up in English and I have a USA credit card attached to each. As we own a car now, we travel more by car and thus we research the parking Apps available in countries we're visiting. They are SO MUCH easier to use than the various parking machines!

As Wil mentions, there are so many great off-the-beaten-path locales in the Netherlands. A car is perhaps the easiest option, but you can also go by bike! Rental bikes are available everywhere. A cafe down the street from us rents city bikes, racing bikes, and even electric bikes. We've biked to Kindedijk a few times - which is great as there's no charge to simply ride your bike on the path through the windmills.

Last year the law changed and the daytime speed limit on the superhighway dropped to 100 km/hr (It used to be 130 km/hr in many spots). So if driving, do give yourself more time when traveling across the Netherlands. We rue that we now have the lowest national speed limit in Europe. Coupled with the speed cameras, it's been an expensive adjustment for a few of our friends.

Not sure what advice I'd offer on a route. Each of these areas (northern France, Belgium, and the Netherlands) could easily fill your available time individually. I like focusing on just BE and NL, flying into Brussels, and then exploring Bruges, Ghent, and Antwerp (by car or train). Then I'd train from Antwerp to Amsterdam... eventually getting a car if I wanted to explore the countryside. if you want a little exercise, you could rent a bike and take it ON THE TRAIN to those out-of-way locations. Eventually, I'd fly home from Amsterdam.

From the NL, we've been to northern France a few times. Each time, we felt like we barely scratched the surface. When we go to northern France (despite the tolls) we drive - so we can more easily hop from village to village. And we get lost (on purpose) often!

The good news is there are many transport options - so do whatever you're comfortable with and what works for you! For a little variety and a more localized feel, I suggest a little of each: Car, train, bus, tram, metro, boat, or bike. Good Luck!

Posted by
6553 posts

I've run into the same thing renting in one country and wanting to travel out of another.

My big issue is now I'm 70 years of age, even though I look and act like I'm 45.
Many European car rental companies won't rent to me any longer. What a bummer?

My wife is having mobility issues, and she's going to be down for a few months after this week's surgery. But with an electric wheelchair and a rental car, we still have some trips left in us. I'll just have to pay close attention to the terms and policies of individual car rental firms.