Driving a rental car from London to Germany

Has anyone rented a car in London and drove to Germany (and back)? I'm flying into London to meet my daughter and take her to Germany. Unfortunately, I've already purchased my airline ticket and the cost to change it outweighs the savings I may get by flying her to Germany to meet me. Renting a car seems much cheaper than rail and/or air, even when I factor in the cost of fuel, plus we'll be traveling to a couple of out of the way places. Avis rental for a week is $191 US (no extra insurance, etc.), booking through their website. Questions: 1) Is there additional charges for driving it out of country? 2) Is it possible to rent a right hand drive in London? 3) If not, do I really need headlight adjusters for driving a left hand drive in right hand drive countries? Any other items needed? The entire trip will be withing Germany except getting to and from there. 4) Is it cheaper to take the Chunnel with a car, or a ferry?
5) My flight lands in Heathrow - should I pick up a rental there (never driven in London or on the left side), or somewhere closer to the channel crossing and pay for transportation to the rental place? Any other tips or suggestions are appreciated.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9130 posts

"Our itinerary includes Landstuhl, Weselberg, Munich, and Berlin, not necessarily in that order. I've looked at railpasses but they seem high (even with fuel factored in) for two people, and I wouldn't have the flexibility that a car affords." OK, I'll admit that you would probably want a rental car if your base is Landstuhl. The only rail access from there is a Regiobahn to Mannheim. But trust me, you're wasting money taking a car to Munich and Berlin. Railpasses are almost always a waste of money, so I'm not sure why people think that their only options are rail pass or car. If you have some long distance trips within Germany planned, you can save a significant amount of money by taking advantage of advanced purchase discounts from Deutsche Bahn.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8754 posts

OK, so you have woken me up. On vacation myself so not currently active here. 1. probably not unless you want to drop it in a foreign country, or if the rental place wants to charge extra for original documents or insurance outside the UK, which they might. Are you aware that to drive in many countries of the EU, including France which you will drive through (not very far, but nevertheless), and on the Eurotunnel train, you need the original registration and insurance documents for the car - not a copy. You must have certain equipment and papers to drive in various EU countries. I know the regs for most Western Europe countries and will paint the worst case because for a drive through France, Belgium, Germany, and, based on where you are going, maybe Luxembourg you will legally need the following which is unlikely to be provided by the British hire company so you will need to stock them yourself: One hi vis reflective vest for each person who might get out of the car at the roadside for any reason, such as a collision or breakdown. These MUST be carried in the car not the boot (trunk) because they must be on before stepping out of the car. Probable high fines otherwise. One reflective triangle to display 100 meters or 150 meters behind a stranded car. Two single use alcohol breath test kits. A green zone sticker for German city centres. A GB sticker (make sure that your car hire company is OK with you sticking one to their car) unless the number plate is to EU standard with the GB in the blue portion of the number plate. Possibly a couple of extra mirrors to cover the new blind spots of having a right hand drive car in left hand land. I did that the first few trips to Europe but am now so familiar with my car there I leave them off. For a strange car and you in a strange position you will be amazed at what you can't see. ... more

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17776 posts

Jeff, Without knowing exactly where you'll be driving, it's difficult to offer many specifics. However, a few thoughts..... > In addition to the high cost of fuel, tolls, parking, possible fines, etc., you may need an I.D.P. for some countries > You may need a Highway Tax Vignette for some countries (expensive fines if you're caught without one). > You'll have to check with the rental agency regarding whether the CDW is valid in all countries. > While Nigel and others are comfortable with driving right-hand-drive vehicles on the continent, that's rather awkward and not something that everyone is comfortable with. > Travel by car will take longer, and will use more of your holiday time. For example, travel through France to Germany via TGV is MUCH quicker than by car, as it travels at 300 kmH. Germany and other countries also have high speed trains. > You can save considerably on the EuroStar by pre-purchasing tickets. Check the excellent seat61.com for details. Good luck with your planning!

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7976 posts

1. No, but some agencies proscribe cross-channel movement. 2. Probably not, never have seen one. 3. I've worked it both ways and never seem to notice it, nor has anybody ever blinked at me. 4. I've never priced a car train. Ferry scoop is at direct.ferries.co.uk You might want to price as foot pax or with a car. Dunkerque is closer to Germany but no foot pax on that ferry. Calais is either way. Dover-Dunkerque is a half hour longer than to Calais. Early morning or late evening fares are much cheaper. The Eurotunnel website will have the train scoop. 5. Cars hop the eurotunnel train at Folkstone, Kent. You don't have to go anywhere near central London to get there from Heathrow. Unsolicited Idea #1: Go from Heathrow to London St Pancras, hop the Eurostar to Brussels, rent a car. Do the same in reverse. Unsolicited Idea #2: Jump on a BA flight from Heathrow to Brussels for a hundred bucks one-way. Similar deals exist into Germany, but we don't have a target.

Posted by Jeff
Richomond, Ky, USA
5 posts

Thanks for the reply. I appreciate the ideas, but the plane seems overly expensive compared to just renting a car. $100 one way, per person, for the plane adds $400 to the trip and then I'll still have to get around Germany. Eurostar looks to be around $260 with the same issue of getting transportation after arriving in Brussels. On the other hand, it seems I'll be paying $130 for the ferry, so it would be about $130 more to go by rail to Brussels and get a right hand drive vehicle (rentals seem to about the same on Avis' website). So I guess the question is whether it's worth $130, and the extra tickets, transfers, etc., for a right hand drive car? Seems simpler and cheaper to just rent the car in London and drive from the 'wrong' side of the car. Am I missing anything?

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7976 posts

Maybe. I'll repeat what I said about checking real carefully about taking a car cross-channel. Some agencies won't allow it. There's nobody to check what you do, but if you mess it up, the insurance is void so you have to fix it and get it back. I've found the prohibition more prevalent headed south rather than north. Did you factor in the gas cost? For rough numbers, figure eight or nine bucks a gallon and forty miles per in a small car. Did you factor in possible extra food costs, and maybe a hotel cost? A large chunk of the world drives on the left. I've driven left on right, left on left, right on left and right on right so much that I don't even notice it. My observation on the comfort level would be worthless. You won't find many people here who've done what you're proposing - - the resposes would be oriented to the clusterfabulation of driving on the left with a right hand drive vehicle. That won't apply since you'd be driving on your normal side but from a different seat position. If Nigel stumbles along, he'll have ideas. He does it all the time and also favors the eurotunnel. He might be still taking his Sunday nap. Search him out and drop him a PM.

Posted by Jeff
Richomond, Ky, USA
5 posts

Thanks, again. I'll check with the rental agency about the car, and read the fine print carefully. I'll also factor in the fuel and insurance; but as stated, I think we'll want a car once we get to Germany. Our itinerary includes Landstuhl, Weselberg, Munich, and Berlin, not necessarily in that order. I've looked at railpasses but they seem high (even with fuel factored in) for two people, and I wouldn't have the flexibility that a car affords. We'll likely take public transportation while in Munich and Berlin, but time spent traveling there seems like it would be quicker with a car (if we don't stop), and gives us the opportunity to stop and look around if and wherever we want. I think hotels and food would be a wash either way. We're spending one night in Landstuhl, two in Munich and three in Berlin, so regardless of transportation, we'll have to eat and sleep :) I don't think it'll be a problem driving from the passenger seat, but I've never done that and I've never had to drive on the left side. It doesn't seem to be a big deal, though. Thanks again for the advise!

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7827 posts

Jeff when are you going, I have never paid more then 50-60 euros for the Eurostar, how are you getting 260 dollars ouch.. must be travelling soon? I would take the eurostar to paris, rent car there.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1961 posts

Jeff: I've taken an English rental car over to the continent, and the right hand drive was a little difficult to manage. Of course that was before gasoline was $8.00 per U.S. gallon. You didn't mention where you were going in Germany. I would suggest flying one of the budget air carriers over to Germany, and picking up a rental car there.
Another option would be to take the Eurostar train to Brussels and pickup a rental car there. Or transfer to a train going out of Brussels to your Germany destination(s).

Posted by Jim
Bern, Switzerland
341 posts

In addition to what others have said you, don't forget to factor in any tolls etc you are going to have to pay along the way. Another question to as is will the car you get be allowed to travel in "green zones" in Germany? A few observations for you: - The Brits are not known for wasting money and if this option is really so much cheaper as you are calculating, then why are so few Brits doing it? I really think you must have left something big out.... - In the Germanic part of Europe we tend to only use cars when necessary and use public transport at all other times. This is because it is often not very easy to use cars - narrow streets, lack of parking spaces. So you may well even end up having to pay the car rental, parking and still use public transport. - With so many cheap rail offers I find it very hard to imagine that driving to Germany is cheaper...

Posted by Jim
Bern, Switzerland
341 posts

Hi Jeff, Out of interest I did a quick look at a few prices in July, where possible: Flights: - London to Berlin one way 42 Euros - Munich to London one way 46 Euros So at total of 176 Euros to get to Germany and back Eurostar: - Return ticket in June (July not yet possible) combined ticket for two adults is 68 pounds or about 34 pounds each - You'd still have to get to Berlin, but cheap tickets are not on sale for July yet. Ferry: - The best price I'm seeing for the ferry alone is 70 pounds return. And of course you would still have to drive the rest of the way and back... Berlin to Munich
- I'm seeing cheap tickets right now for under 40 Euros by train and I would expect there will be similar offers for July later.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8754 posts

... more ... 1. continued.
There are probably more things I've forgotten but it is getting late here and my mind is tired, and I'm on vacation. 2. probably not. Very few people rent cars to take across the Channel. Boneheads like Ed excepted. Those of us who own British cars do do it but we often are regular cross-Channelers who have developed coping mechanisms. And we don't have to hire the car. Not many French do either, and because the drop charges are astronomical to drop a European car in Britain, they take them back with them if they do. 3. Yes. That's something else I forgot to list in answer 1 above. And put them on as you cross the Channel. The French will do you for a big fine if they find you. On the spot. It helps to put the headlights on to soften the adhesive. They are a royal pain in the butt. And take them off when you come back across. And clean the headlights before you return the car or they will charge you like it had a dent. Don't use petroleum to try to get the black goop off. Voice of experience. That only works on glass not plastic. The headlights hide behind plastic now. Trust me on this one. You also need a fire extinguisher. The fire extinguisher isn't for the fuel you are using to clean the headlights, it is because the French, Belgians, Luxembourgers and probably the Germans require it. Oh, just remembered, you are also required to have a spare light bulb set. I'm sure there's more. Oh yes, my wife's car still has the black goop on her headlights and I think the last time that car went to Europe was 2005. 4. There is no Chunnel. That is an archaic term not in general use, many Brits and certainly Europeans will not recognize it. Some here will disagree - I only speak from the experience of using Eurostar (people carrying trains) and Eurotunnel (vehicle carrying trains) several times a year. ... more

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8754 posts

... still more ... 4. continued. Ferries tend to be somewhat less expensive than Eurotunnel in money terms. Always buy ahead as far as you can. I think time is often more valuable than money so never use a ferry. With Eurotunnel you can count on turning up and driving on just about 30 minutes prior (there is a 30 minute minimum) to departure, getting your car through security, British Immigration (both ways), French Immigration, the dog check, the swab check, the papers check (see, I told you that you would need original papers back in question 1) and rolling onto the train. Sit back, rest, read a paper, have a snack, and 35 minutes or so after departure they open the doors and out you drive, remembering to keep right, straight onto the A26. Boat is get there way earlier, papers, immigration can be either side, and the interminable queues to disembark. Ed and others do it all the time but its not for me. No French strikes on the Eurotunnel and the journey is not so long as on the boat so it doesn't need a movie theatre and several restaurants. There's not the time. For me that certainty and speed, and the fact that there are frequent Eurotunnel trains and if you just miss one they will put you on the next available probably in 30 minutes if they can for NO extra dosh. For me time is money. 5. Is your daughter going to Heathrow to meet you and taking her luggage? If so go from there, if you insist on this plan. Here's an idea - can you use her car? All you have to do is go the very short distance on the M4 connector to the M4 to the M25 southbound (***>>> don't do this at rush hour, or anywhere near rush hour. If your flight is one of the many which arrive around 6 am have breakfast, rest think twice, before getting on the M25 after 10am. You aren't doing this drive right after you land an are a zombie right? Daughter driving?) ... more

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8754 posts

... yet still more ... 5. Continued. From the M25 connect onto the M20 via the M26. Off the M20 just before Folkestone for the Eurotunnel, another 20 miles or so for Dover and most of the boats. Ramsgate is another story and I have no experience with that port. Figure 2 hours from Heathrow to Folkestone on a good day - rush hour add additional unknown time, anything from half an hour to a couple more. So how long do you have in London before going over to Europe? At least 24 hours I hope. --- === --- Summary. I strongly believe that your plan is not a good one. Its your plan and do it if you like. Just be prepared for it to be much more expensive and much harder than you think it will be. Extra costs:
time is money. How much of your vacation and your daughter's will you eat up driving. No car can go at 186 mph which is how fast the Eurostar and TGV (French), Thalys (French and Belgian and Dutch trains to Koeln in Germany) and ICE (German) high speed trains go. And you can rest, eat, use the toilet and avoid speeding tickets, parking tickets, congestion charges, and all the additional equipment while doing that 186 mph, worry free. Plan ahead and save money on the trains, or hop over on Air Berlin or Easyjet. It costs me around £80 in the UK to fill my car. In round figures that's $120 every time I go to the filling station. French fuel costs a bit less. German much more than France. Lecture over. If you still want to drive, keep asking questions and we will do all we can to help. If you have decided to fly or take the train, keep asking questions and we will do all we can to help you save money - and time. ((sorry Webmaster - yes I know about the 2 post limit but his questions are so needing in-depth answers))

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8754 posts

Rereading I see nobody mentioned parking. Figure €20 or more a night, and more for a day with the car parked, in Munich and Berlin. And don't make light of those extra hotel nights. Will you be bringing a GPS? Don't forget you will be shifting the gear stick with your left hand. That tales a bit of practice, and all your blind spots will be in the wrong place, especially in Europe. Don't expect an automatic even if the website says you'll get one. You probably won't, and you will suck up even more fuel if you do. <EDIT> Just also remembered that unless you have a digital dashboard UK cars are in MPH on the speedo, European speed limits are in KPH. European cars have KPH on the speedo. British cars usually have a vague small ring in KPH inside the MPH ring on the speedo but it is very vague and difficult to read when you are driving and trying to get the car down to 50 kph as you enter a village. You need to know all the unsigned but applicable speed laws which vary from country to country and will quickly earn you a photo-ticket if you don't obey them.

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

It seems you have overestimated the cost of flying ( see that 42 euros to Berlin that Jim mentioned) and underestimated the extra costs of driving like gas, etc., plus all the extras Nigel mentioned. And I don't think you have adequately considered the difficulty of driving a right-hand drive car on the right side of the road ( while shifting with the left hand, to boot). While I haven't driven a right - hand drive car, I have driven horses, both in the US and Canada. Horse-drawn carts and carriages are right-hand drive, and I can tell you that it is not all that easy to figure out your place on the road. just about everyone I have talked to about this agrees. It is difficult to get a sense of where the left side of the vehicle is ( and the center line is no help as it would be when you are sitting closer to it). So we err on the right side and run the wheels off the road if necessary, but you can't do that in city traffic. I'm sure Nigel is an old hand at it, but Maybe he can recall the first time he drove his UK car on the Continent, and report back to the group.

Posted by Jeff
Richomond, Ky, USA
5 posts

Thanks for all the great posts, everyone, especially Nigel - and webmaster, please blame me for asking such general questions and putting forth an apparently bad plan. I've lived in Germany and drove into and through Belgium, Luxumberg, and France, but that was a lifetime ago and we didn't need all the extras, so I thought it may be easier; sounds like it may not be. I'll keep researching the tickets. To those who asked, I'll be traveling at the end of May into July. The Eurostar tickets I found where $65, but that's per person, per leg (London-Frankfurt/Frankfurt-London), and don't give us the option of getting to Landstuhl/Weselberg. Unfortunately, my daughter doesn't have a vehicle, so that's not an option. Jim, I would love to know where to find tickets for the prices you mentioned. I've been to Eurostar, and bahn.de, and to a few of the no frills airlines such as JetBlue, but I'm not coming up with tickets anywhere near those prices. Maybe due to the specific dates? Most of the hotels I've looked at have free parking, so that doesn't seem to be an issue. I'm not discounting hotel prices, either, but the overnight trains seem exorbitant for a cabin, so we're paying that cost for a hotel, anyway. Still, Nigel makes a great point about time being money - we only have six days. Thanks again all - awesome information!

Posted by Keith
United Kingdom
683 posts

I haven't read every word above, so apologies if this has been mentioned already, but remember that those hire companies that allow you to take the car to Europe will generally have a "continental supplement" you need to pay in order to get the documents you need. In the case of Hertz it is about £100 (US$150?) for 6 days. Also, only some of their range can be taken abroad. Avis are the same, I believe. I suspect Jim's arifares are for flying from a different London airport than Heathrow. You could look at prices for Stanstead, Gatwick and Luton with companies like easyJet or Air Berlin. But don't forget the hassle of getting to/from Heathrow and those other airports.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8754 posts

You are probably bumping up against the Late May Bank Holiday, in which case everybody will be on the road and in the airports. Six days to accomplish all this? From one corner of Germany to another, including transit from and to England. My hat is off to you.

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2176 posts

My suggestion is that you pick your car in Lille and go to Lille by Eurostar. It will save you a lot of money but, more importantly, the hassles of driving a RHD in continental Europe.

Posted by Sasha
Bainbridge Island
1590 posts

Six days to drive to Germany, visit several places there, and drive back. ( Actually you said traveling late May into July, but assume you meant June). Have you mapped out how far you would drive each day to accomplish this, and where you would stay? If you fly to Berlin you could still pick up a car there and get a weekly rate. easy Jet prices for a flight May 29, London ( Luton) to Berlin: 39.99£ for an early morning flight, 45.99£ for one later that would probably go better with you inbound flight from the US.

Posted by steven
white plains, ny, usa
649 posts

....Unfortunately, I've already purchased my airline ticket and the cost to change it outweighs the savings I may get by flying her to Germany to meet me. .... I'm sorry , but this is really faulty logic . Even if you are only breaking even on that transaction or even spending somewhat more , the level of inconvenience and wasted time that you will eliminate ( as Nigel points out ) more than makes up for that.

Posted by Jim
Bern, Switzerland
341 posts

"Jim, I would love to know where to find tickets for the prices you mentioned. I've been to Eurostar, and bahn.de, and to a few of the no frills airlines such as JetBlue, but I'm not coming up with tickets anywhere near those prices. Maybe due to the specific dates?" Sorry guys I'm on the road all this week and don't have access to by home computer to check the browser history - The flights came of a German site but that is all I remember. The Eurostar dates I used were something like the 9th of July.... If I get a spare hour here, I'll try and dig it up again. Jim.

Posted by Lo
Tucson
648 posts

Before you make any final decisions on this plan, be sure to check with Andy Bestor at Gemut.com about the car rental. He's an expert on this stuff, and it seems like he always can find a cheaper price than I can online. You are talking about a VERY short time to do the driving you listed. Another recommendation is to at least find the distances and estimated times for driving to your destinations. I did a quick check and found that just within Germany, from Landstuhl/Weselberg to Berlin is 676 km (about 6 hours), to Munich is about 435 km (4 hours) and between Munich and Berlin is about 586 km (5.5 hours). Use the Google Maps Get Directions search to get a better idea of the routes you might take and how long that would take you. The same is true for the train. I tried the DB Bahn search for those same options and found that even with the ICE trains, the times are about the same as driving, but of course, you don't have to drive. We've taken both slow and fast trains, cheap European airlines and driven. All can have their places in a trip plan. We love to drive, even it costs more money sometimes, but I can't imagine renting a car for this trip until you arrive on the continent.

Posted by Barry
San Diego, CA
587 posts

In regards to inexpensive airlines in Europe don't use American carriers or websites. Go to the European airline sites, a couple are EasyJet and Ryan Air. I'm sure there are others that people can recommend. The one caveat is these two airlines fly out of Stansted and Gatwick, but it will still be cheaper than renting a car. http://www.easyjet.com/en http://www.ryanair.com/en

Posted by Jeff
Richomond, Ky, USA
5 posts

Thanks, all. I've decided to get the flights into Berlin and stay the majority of our trip. We'll rent a car for a couple of days to drive through to Landstuhl, then fly out from Cologne back to London. We'll just have to go back to Munich another time :)