We can’t always drive around the cities or countries that we’d like to. Whether it be for legal problems or simply because of the lack of rental car options, we have to use other forms of overland transportation: taxis, buses, and trains.
However, in case you have the chance to get to know a country by driving yourself, I recommend you don’t miss this chance.
Driving yourself during your trips has several benefits:
- If you are driving a scenic route, you can stop multiple times during the trip to take pictures, relax, and admire the view.
- When you stop somewhere, you can stay for as long as you want without worrying about what time the bus or train will leave.
- You can access hidden spots and small streets that you can only reach by car.
- In general, this is the most practical and quick form of overland transportation (after all, the train won’t bring you to your front door! )
Besides these reasons, there are the famous scenic routes where traveling by car is part of the attraction. Here’s a list of these classic journeys that need to be done by car and, if possible, with friends or partners in a typical “road trip. After all, it’s not about the destination, but the journey.
BR-101 – Brazil
This is the main Brazilian road that follows the length of the Atlantic Coast. It goes from Rio Grande do Sul State to Rio Grande do Norte State. It stretches in total more than 4,700 kilometers (2,900 miles). Obviously, you don’t have to go all the way, but since you are passing through the gorgeous expanses of the Brazilian coast, no matter what small section you do you will be impressed.
Route 66 – The United States
The famous highway that crosses the United States from the East to the West has appeared in plenty of Hollywood films. It begins in Chicago and ends in Santa Monica, California. Passing through 8 American States, its total length is nearly 4,000 km (2485 mi).
Great Ocean Road – Australia
This route is in the Southeast of Australia and is a part of the coastal road that connects Melbourne to Adelaide. It’s relatively short: only 243 km (150 mi). But there are plenty of natural beauties to stop and admire if you can spend more than a day completing the route. The highlight is the famous rock formation “The 12 Apostles.”
Highway One – California, The United States
Also called the Pacific Coast Highway, it’s a road that goes from the North to the South on the West Coast of California. It begins above San Francisco and ends after Los Angeles. It’s a beautiful drive with the coast on one side that passes through incredible cities and landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Carmel, Orange County, Santa Cruz, and many others. Driving along this road stopping and sleeping in different places along the way is a full trip in itself (and is even better if it can be done in a convertible… )
The Roads along Australia’s East Coast
This is the famous backpacker route that goes from Sydney in the South until Cairns and the entrance to the Great Barrier Reef in the North. This total journey should be done over the course of at least a month to have time to stop in the many attractions and cities of Australia. And if you’re into beaches or surfing, you certainly won’t get bored on this route. Lonely Planet even has a travel guide just for this trip with all of the points of interest along the way.
The North and South Islands of New Zealand
Driving along the coast of New Zealand is incredible. You’ll find snow-covered mountains, sparkling lakes, stunning beaches, volcanoes, and even glaciers.
An especially great choice is in the South of South Island, between Dunedin and Queenstown, where you’ll find the Southern Scenic Route. This route passes through the most beautiful part of the country, even including the fjords of Milford Sound…. incredible!
The Garden Route – South Africa
Located on the Southern coast of the African continent, it begins approximately in Cape Town and extends until Port Elizabeth. Just as with the routes in Australia mentioned above, there are an infinite number of attractions along this route from the touristic attractions in Cape Town to the highest bungee jump in the world, the city of Knysna, and places to dive with great white sharks!
La Route des Grandes Alpes – France
This route crosses along the French coast, normally beginning in Nice, passing in the middle of the Alps, and finishing at Lake Geneva. Driving through various mountains and curves for nearly 700 km (435 mi), this is one of the highest routes in Europe.
Transfăgărășan – Romania
Or “through the Făgăraș”, this is a sinuous road crossing in the middle of the Carpathian Mountain in the heart of Transylvania (yes, the place Dracula was set in)! As it cuts through the mountains, the road is curvy with an average speed of 40 km/h (24 mph). With this speed, it takes about two hours to complete its 90 km (55 mi). It’s still worth visiting, though, especially if you are able to visit the extraordinary cities nearby like Brasov and Sibiu.
The Road of the Andes – Chile/Argentina
This incredible journey goes from Santiago de Chile (the capital of Chile) to Mendoza (the second largest city in Argentina). What makes this route unique is that it’s the only road that passes through the middle of the Andes, the chain of mountains that crosses from north to south in a big chunk of South America. It’s the longest mountainous road in the world and will also give you a chance to admire Mount Aconcagua, the highest mountain outside of Asia!
Atlantic Ocean Road – Norway
This amazing route of only 8.3 km (5.2 mi) is a part of the larger County Road 64 that runs along the Atlantic Coast of Norway. This short road connects several small islets with turns and bridges that’ll take your breath away. It’s as if you are traveling in the middle of the ocean. In fact, you’ll literally feel the ocean if the weather is not nice.
Stelvio Pass – Italy
If you get motion sick easily, it’s better if you avoid this road in the north of Italy next to the Swiss Border. This spectacular pass is created by 48 hairpin turns and is part of the “Tour de France,” the most famous cycling competition in the world. Thus, it’s not just loved by drivers, but also by motorcyclists, bikers, and even skateboarders!
Icefields Parkway – Canada
This lovely route passes through the middle of the Canadian Rockies. Just as with the routes above, this route is a trip in itself and you shouldn’t miss the chance to spend a few nights in Banff, Lake Louis, and Jasper. The number of snowy peaks, glaciers, and turquoise lakes that you’ll find along this 232 km (144 mi) is impressive.
The best and the cheapest sites to rent cars around the world
Well, if you don’t live in any of the countries above or have your own car in said country, you’ll have to rent a car to do these trips. Independent of the model that you’ll choose (economy, van, 4×4, convertible), there are many options of car rental companies. The ones that usually come to mind first are Avis, Europcar, Hertz, Budget, Alamo, Enterprise, etc.
But if you don’t want to spend the time searching on each one of these individual websites, I’ll give you some other options that’ll make your life easier when you need to rent a car.
Priceline – http://www.priceline.com/
This website is my first choice to rent cars anywhere around the world because the site basically lets me say how much I want to pay to rent my car. They call this the “Name Your Own Price” tool.
It works this way:
You search for a normal car rental quote such as, for example, a pick-up from the Miami airport to use for 2 days.
Imagine that the lowest option given was 30 dollars per day. Instead of paying those 30 dollars, you decide you just want to pay 25 dollars.
You type in your 25 dollars and the website will “test” your offer, seeing if it is either accepted or rejected. If your offer is too low and thus rejected, you’ll have to wait 24 hours before you can try again with a slightly higher price.
The only problem with being able to make an offer for the lowest price is that you can’t choose the company that you’ll rent from. You can just choose the type of vehicle (economy, sedan, medium, van, etc….)
An important thing to know is that in order to give an offer, you’ll have to put in your credit card information. If your offer is accepted, your card will be debited instantly. In other words, there won’t be a way to change or cancel or reservation without losing money. I still think it’s worth using, though, because you’ll definitely find the cheapest prices by doing this!
I’ve used this method many times because, at least for me, the rental car companies are all the same as long as they have the type of vehicle I chose. But rest assured, if you put in a “mid-size sedan,” you’ll get a “mid-size sedan,” you just won’t know the company or the specific model. And then you’ll just pick the car up from the designated place as usual.
I’ve been able to rent cars for as low as 12 dollars per day in a place like Nashville! It’s much cheaper than the rates normal companies will give you. You can also go through the same “Name Your Own Price” process on Priceline with hotels and plane tickets. You can read more about this on our pages about finding the best accommodation for your trip and 16 tips to find cheap flights.
And don’t forget you can also use Priceline to rent cars normally without using the “Name Your Own Price” tool.
Expedia – www.expedia.com
In case you don’t feel comfortable renting cards from companies that you don’t know, you can choose to search for and rent cars from Expedia. It’s one of the largest travel companies in the world and focuses on car rentals, hotels, plane tickets, cruises, and trip packages.
General tips to make your road trip the best it can be
- Bring a water bottle
You never know when you’ll be driving in the middle of nowhere without a shop in sight. Staying hydrated is good for your health and sipping on the water will help keep you awake while you driving.
- Have food at hand
Just as with water, it’s always good to have food at hand to give your body energy and keep those eyes open. Give preference to something healthy with a low glycemic index because, if you eat something like sweets while driving, you’ll be left with a heavy sleepiness after a short spike in energy.
To know more about how you can save on food and drink while traveling, take a look at this article.
- Prepare some good entertainment
There’s nothing better than driving with some good music. So, prepare your collection, charge your phone or iPod, and combine that perfect blend of music and roadside scenery.
Also consider looking into Audiobooks. Whether you are a fan of fiction, politics, or history, listening to an audiobook is a great way to pass those long hours on the road.
- Have good conversations
In case you don’t have music or an audiobook, a good conversation with the other passengers will really help on a long trip. You can also play little guessing games and joke around.
- Know the rules of the road
All countries have different rules for driving on the road. At the very least, know the speed limit and especially what side of the road you’ll need to drive on (I’m talking to you, UK, Australia, New Zealand, etc.). So, do your research before so you can respect these local laws, stay safe, and avoid a ticket.
- Have a paper map alongside your GPS
I know that these days basically everyone has a GPS or that you can rent one along with the car. But you never know when it’ll stop working or bring you to the “end of the world!” So, I recommend you also have a paper map or guide as a backup in case you need it. As an alternative, you can check your trip itinerary on Google Maps before your trip and then print it.
- See if you’ll need an International Driver’s License
For many countries, you can rent a car with your license from back home. For others, however, you will not be allowed to rent without an International Driver’s License. Make sure you know this beforehand so you’re not met with an unpleasant surprise when you try to pick your car up.
- Have a number to call in case anything happens
Make sure you’ve written down the local emergency numbers as well as the number of your rental agency in case there are any problems.
- Don’t forget travel insurance
I’m knocking on wood as I say this, but we always hope that no accidents happen. In case they do, it’s good to have travel insurance that’ll cover your costs. Take a look at my article about the 3 best and cheapest travel insurances on the market to learn more.
Well, that’s it. I hope that the photos and tips above have motivated you to rent a car and discover this big world by car.
Have you done any of the trips above? Do you have one that you think should be included above? Use the comments area below to leave your thoughts and opinions.
And happy driving!
To learn about my favorite travel companies and resources that let me travel so much for such a low cost, take a look at my special page of “81 Travel Apps & Resources.”
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