Category Archives: Travel Advice

10 tips on how to save money on your next rental car

 1.      Shop aroundCar Hire Comparison with Car Hire Assistant

The internet can be your best friend when looking for a rental car. All of the major car rental brands have their own websites that provide instant prices. In addition, many smaller, independent operators will also have an internet presence, although the quality of the websites and ability to provide an instant quote will widely vary. In addition, there are a number of excellent car hire comparison sites, most of which will provide instant prices from a broad cross-section of rental companies including well known brands, national and local car rental companies.

2.      Book early

Yes, contrary to popular opinion, booking your car early will save your money. Rental fleets are a finite resource and when there is a shortage, prices rise quickly. The same principal applies for peak periods, if you want to save money and maximise choice, then book early. Remember, smaller vehicles tend to go first, therefore, unless you want a larger car, together with the premium that accompanies it, get in early.

3.      Vary hire dates and periods

Rental operators have a day rate, weekend rate and weekly rates. If you want to hire a car for 4 or 5 days, check also for their weekly rates, it may actually work out cheaper overall. In addition, renting your car on a weekday rather than a weekend can also alter the price in your favour. Experiment with dates, you may be pleasantly surprised at the results.

4.      Vehicle Choice

Although it may be tempting, avoid being seduced into opting for a vehicle larger than you need. The difference between smaller, compact cars and their larger counterparts can be considerable. Because smaller cars are in demand, there is always the chance that the rental company will offer to upgrade you on arrival. Although they will try and sell you the upgrade, if you refuse to budge, you can often get a premium car for no extra money.

5.      Avoid the headlines

Unless you are adept at discovering the ‘catches’ or have a lot of time on your hands, avoid being drawn in by the promise of a rental car for a few Pounds (or Dollars) per day. Few of the companies running these offers ever substantiate these bold claims. These headlines are designed to entice prospective customers to enter their lair. Once there you will quickly discover that the price quoted will not deliver you a fully insured car on the dates you want at the location you need. Any rental company or broker that makes these misleading claims are not worthy of your time or your money.

6.      Avoid airports

Airports are an expensive place to run a business and this is always reflected in the prices of rental cars. It is not unusual to see an “airport surcharge” on your rental quote. Although some companies claim that there are no surcharges, the reality is, these charges have already been factored into the rental price. Check the price of the rental car at your destination airport and then compare it with nearby locations. In return for a little inconvenience, you could save a huge amount on the rental charges.

7.      Understand insurance and waiversCar Hire Excess Insurance Waiver Policy

If you are going to get caught out on anything, it will inevitably be insurance. Whilst the vast majority of rental operators will include some form of insurance, the types offered vary widely. Be sure that, at the very least, your insurance includes Collision Damage Waiver and Theft Waiver Insurance. In some countries it may also be sensible to have some form of Loss Damage Waiver, which covers the hirer for any loss of earnings the rental company may suffer when a vehicle can’t be hired due to damage or loss. However, this is a two-part process; insurance is only half of the story.

Although rental companies love to use the term “waivers” when referring to insurance, this does not include any excess, which will be your responsibility. The excess passed on by rental companies can be huge, maybe as much as $3000 (£2000). There also appears to be some correlation between the low headline price and the amount charged for an insurance waiver to cover the entire excess. No surprise there then!

If you are going to be paying by credit card, check with your issuer because, if you are going to pay for the car by credit card, some will offer some form of cover for these eventualities. Alternatively, if you want to be certain, purchase a standalone ‘car hire excess insurance’ policy. These pay and claim policies are offered by specialist insurers and can be purchased for a fraction of the price charged by rental companies. For example, you can expect to pay anything up to $25 (£13) per day for ‘excess waiver insurance’ from your rental company, whilst a specialist insurer could offer you an annual policy for under $65 (£40). It is not unusual for hirers to claim that their rental price increased threefold after they were sold “essential” insurance policies at the rental counter. You have been warned. This is probably the most common complaint amongst disgruntled hirers.

8.      Price Premiums

With very few exceptions, most car hire comparison sites receive their income from the rental companies in the form of a commission. Although some comparison sites may charge a ‘booking fee’, those that don’t will make this very clear at the outset. Price comparison sites can only succeed if they consistently provide the best prices for the consumer and this mean the final price, not the headline price.

9.      Avoid extras or go prepared

Want a SatNav or child seat? You can expect to be charged up to $12 (£8) per day for either of these items. It is the “Gillette Effect”, you pay a few Dollars for a razor and then get charged an exorbitant amount for the blades. However, unlike razor blades, you have a choice.

If you have your own portable SatNav, upgrade the mapping software and take it with you. Alternatively, SatNav’s with local maps can often be purchased for around $75 (£50), this is a viable alternative to a weekly rate of $80 charged by rental companies. In addition, you maybe be able to sell it on an auction site when you get home, thereby recovering at least half of your investment.

Most airlines will allow you to take a child seat free of charge. If this option is available to you, then consider this rather than paying $75 (£50) a week to the rental company. You can also consider ‘booster seats’, these can often be purchased locally for less than $20 (£13) and are a viable alternative. Another possibility is to consider hiring an MPV or people carrier, most of these have integrated child seats and, it may prove to be a cheaper option.

10.   Fuel: Know the rules

Every car hire company will have their own variation on fuel policy and knowing the rules is absolutely essential if you don’t want to get hit with a surcharge or penalty. If the rental company provides you with a full tank, then you must return it with a full tank and that means full tank. Don’t be tempted to short-change the rental company, this is a false economy and you could be hit with a fixed charge as well as having to pay a premium for the fuel added. If you are provided with a car which has a full tank of petrol, you can expect to be charged for this in the form or a deposit or a pre-authorisation on your credit card.

If you are given the option of having the car provided with a full tank, you can expect to be charged a premium for the service and, if you don’t expect to use all of the fuel, it can be a very expensive option.

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The most important advice that can be given to any prospective hirer is to be fully cognisant of the terms and conditions of the hire. Terms vary between operators and you can’t assume that because you are hiring through a well known brand that there terms and conditions will be less onerous or more upfront. The main areas to look at are; insurance, mileage, fuel policies and penalty fees, for example if a vehicle is returned a few minutes later than agreed. You also need to understand if you are expected to pay some form of deposit and/or if your credit card is pre-authorised for any amount because this could have a bearing on your available money whilst away from home.

Many rental companies, car hire comparison sites and brokers offer a cancellation policy. In most cases, as long as it is not within a few days of the hire, there is no penalty. If you have read the terms and you are not happy, don’t be afraid to vote with your feet!

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Foreign and Commonwealth Office launches guide for young travellers

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has launched Plan.Pack.Explore, a new travel guide for those planning a trip abroad.

Khalida Cox from the Know Before You Go team at the FCO said: “Now that exam results are out and people start considering a gap year, preparation can be daunting for young people and their parents – particularly if it is a trip away without family for the first time.

“Plan.Pack.Explore. helps travellers understand exactly what they need to do before they go away and provides essential information for parents in the run up to the big trip.

“The guide will also be invaluable for those who book last minute travel and need essential travel preparation advice quickly.”

The FCO is urging those planning a gap year to pick up a copy of Plan.Pack.Explore. to help avoid running into preventable problems overseas.

The guide contains a wealth of information from travel health advice to explaining exactly what the FCO can and cannot do if you get into trouble abroad.

It also includes guidance on getting the right visa and keeping your money safe, along with case studies and handy maps.

“Gap years should be all about having fun, exploring the world and hopefully enhancing your CV but if you are not prepared before you go away, things can go horribly wrong.

“Statistics show that over the last six months, one in four of 16-24 year olds travelled without insurance and only a quarter made health related preparations before going overseas.

“This leaves them at risk of facing really high bills for medical care or repatriation.”

Plan.Pack.Explore. is available in print, online and as an app available for iPad, iPhone (iOS5 and above) and Android devices.


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Car Hire Insurance Excess – How Necessary is it?

All too often consumers are confused by the terminology used by car rental operators relating to “Insurance Waivers”. Terms such as ‘Collision Damage Waiver’ (CDW) and ‘Theft Waiver’ (TW) are commonplace on car rental sites and those of car hire comparison sites. But what does it all mean?

Most, but not all car hire companies, brokers and agents include CDW and TW as part of their rental price. Those that don’t include these policies are typically organisations that advertise an unbelievably low daily rental price to lure unsuspecting consumers, with a view to escalating the price during the booking process. Is this legal? Yes, but whether it is morally right, highly questionable!

However, even those rental companies that offer Collision Damage Waiver and Theft Waiver as ‘standard’ have a sting in the tail. All of these policies have a mandatory excess. And the amount of the excess is not always made clear. In fact, many consumers believe that the term ‘waiver’ used to describe standard inclusive insurance products means that there is no liability. This is simply not so. Don’t be surprised to see mention of 3, 4 or even 5 different types of “insurance” in the terms and conditions of your car rental contract.

Of course, we are all familiar with an insurance excess, on our own car insurance policies, household policies and even mobile phone insurance. The difference is the level of the insurance excess imposed by the rental operators. This invariably equates to a minimum of £750 and often much higher, perhaps as much as £2000. In a competitive marketplace, insurance companies have started to pass on some of the burden of risk to their customers in order that they can reduce the premiums they pay to their own insurers.

In turn, forever looking out for the interests of the hirer, the rental operators will offer consumers an insurance product often referred to as Car Hire Excess Insurance, Car Hire Excess Waiver or Super Collision damage Waiver, or some such name designed to offer comfort! The rental operators will argue that they separate these options because some consumers are prepared to accept the risk of an excess in return for a lower rental cost. Perhaps so, but how many holidaymakers would be prepared to accept a “risk” of £750 or more?

The problem with the insurance excess waivers is the cost, especially for those that only opt to take it out at the rental counter. Instead of the insurance excess waiver being used as a ‘comfort insurance’ for the hirer, it has increasingly become an important income stream for the rental company. In fact, those rental operators that offer the cheap headline prices invariably rely on the sale of the insurance excess policy to provide all of their profit margin on the rental. So, expect a hard sell if you haven’t taken out this type of insurance during the booking process.

Think of all the major retailers that used to sell electronic products at low prices. No self-respecting salesman would allow you to leave the store without taking out an extended warranty. This often amounted to between 35% and 60% of the product you were purchasing. The same principle applies to many rental companies, except, and this is not unusual, the addition of the various insurance policies can double or triple the headline price of the rental.

The problem with renting a car is that it is an occasional purchase, as such; few people understand the confusing terminology and even fewer, the risks or burden they are potentially taking on. Even if the hirer has taken out most of the insurance policies offered by the rental operator, they can still find themselves held responsible for the costs of damage to tyres, windows, the underside and the roof of the hire car, even if this is done through third party vandalism.

Knowing and understanding the terminology, risks and available options is an important part of the process renting a car. It is possible, for example to benefit from a low car rental price, without shouldering the burden of a huge insurance excess or accepting other exclusions.

The first advice is to ensure that the rental company offers as a minimum, Collision Damage Waiver and Theft waiver. Most do, but some don’t and this can depend on local laws as well as rental company policy. Nonetheless, it is essential that the consumer always ensures these policies are included to avoid substantial risk.
The important thing for hirers to be aware of is the fact that Car Hire Excess Insurance is optional, yes; consumers are likely to be subjected to a sustained sales pitch, which will likely include a few scare stories to add to the mix of fear. But the bottom line is you can refuse.

Compare Car HireInstead, it is now possible to buy Car Hire Excess Waiver Insurance from a specialist, third party insurer, such as the one provided by Car Hire Assistant, in association with Odyssey Insurance. These policies are typically a “pay and claim”. In other words, you pay the excess, and then submit the claim to the insurer. This can often be done online. These policies are considerably cheaper than the waiver insurance offered by rental companies. In some cases, it is possible to take out independent cover for 2 weeks, for the same price as a rental company may charge for 2 days!

Be aware, that some rental companies may tell you that your ‘independent insurance excess waiver’ is not valid for their rental car. This is utter rubbish. Provided you adhere to the terms of the insurance cover and that it is valid for the area you are travelling to (North America, Europe, World-wide etc), then these ‘pay and claim’ policies allow you recover your excess.

Another benefit of taking out an independent excess waiver insurance policy is that they typically, but not always, include cover for damage to the tyres, windows, roof and undercarriage of the car, as well as covering the excess in respect of damage and theft. Policy terms will vary, but in most cases, the excess cover amounts to £2000 per claim.

In the same way that no two rental contracts will be the identical, the same rule applies to policies offered by car hire excess insurance policy providers. However, these insurers realise the importance of being upfront, therefore inclusions and exclusions are generally made clear in the headlines, albeit reading the full terms and conditions is essential.

Whilst most car rentals will proceed without incident, “Murphy’s Law” can become a factor, especially if you are in an unfamiliar country.

The bottom line is you can play the rental companies at their own game. Take out the essential insurance cover such as CDW and TW, and then insure your excess through an independent company. This way you can benefit from a relatively low rental price without burdening the risk of a high excess. Most major car rental operators, brokers and agents will include CDW and TW, but make sure that this is so, if the day rate looks too cheap, it probably doesn’t include these policies. Car Hire Assistant, The Car Rental Comparison Site, offers inclusive rentals with CDW and TW as standard. They also offers an option to purchase car excess waiver insurance during the booking process, or a less expensive independent pay and claim policy.


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Taking action to help prevent balcony incidents in popular overseas resorts

Compare Car HireThere have been 13 incidents of young people falling from balconies so far this year. Three of these cases resulted in death while others have been seriously injured. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office and ABTA – The Travel Association, have joined forces on a campaign to help prevent balcony incidents among young people in popular holiday resorts.

In Majorca and Ibiza, for instance,  two of UK’s top tourist destinations, there have been 9 cases – already matching figures for 2011, despite only being half way through the season. Most incidents involve young people between the ages of 18 and 35 and whilst not always the case, alcohol often plays a part.

Paul Abrey, Consul in the Balearics, said: “We’ve already seen some tragic cases this summer which have had devastating consequences for the individuals and families concerned.  This year there’s been a particular spike early on in the holiday season with figures already matching last year’s. Some people have fallen whilst climbing to a friend’s apartment, others have simply lost their footing after a few too many drinks and a few have deliberately jumped off aiming for the pool below. It should go without saying these practices are extremely dangerous and can cost them their life or leave them permanently disabled. Many young people also arrive without travel insurance. The FCO can’t pay medical bills and holidaymakers may end up paying out thousands for medical bills and flights back to the UK.”

ABTA predicts around 3 million young holidaymakers will head overseas this summer with Spain, Greece and Turkey favourite destinations. Young people travelling out to resorts will be handed leaflets which include the story of Jake Evans, 18, from Liverpool, who narrowly survived a fall from a 7th floor balcony last year after a few too many drinks. Jake also tells his story in a video, which can be viewed on the FCO’s website and on YouTube, in an attempt to get young people to think twice before they engage in risky behaviours. The video accompanies a short radio feature which will go out today across radio stations in the UK and on buses which transfer holiday-makers to resorts. To see Jake’s story go to

Nikki White ABTA Head of Destinations and Sustainability said “Each year too many young people are permanently injured or worse because they’ve tried to climb over or dive off their hotel balcony. ABTA, the Foreign Office and tourist authorities are all working together to help raise awareness of the dangers and prevent these incidents. The after-effects are often made even worse through holidaymakers travelling uninsured and parents having to raise large amounts of money to get their children home. Our advice aims to help holidaymakers to use their balconies safely and prevent more of these tragic and avoidable incidents.”

Travel InsuranceThis summer, the FCO and ABTA are urging young people:
• Understand the risks – climbing over or jumping off balconies can have serious consequences
• Know your limit – alcohol can impair your judgement and hotter climates can often increase the effect of drinking
• Get comprehensive travel insurance – be prepared for if something does go wrong. Figures released in July this year showed that Spain is the country where most Britons require consular assistance, including 1105 hospitalisations.

Car Hire Assistant, The Car Rental Comparison Site for Malawi, offers a price compare service of rental operators in all European countries, in fact, a total of 175 countries throughout the world. In addition, Car Hire Assistant provides Travel Insurance.

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Posted by on 18/08/2012 in Travel Advice


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European holidaymakers at unnecessary risk using cash abroad

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Many Europeans will put themselves at risk of losing money they cannot replace when holidaying abroad this summer by continuing to carry significant amounts of cash with them while away. According to MasterCard Europe, despite spending the equivalent of a full working day planning for their holiday in an effort to ensure maximum peace-of-mind and control of both time and money, holidaymakers are failing to see the benefit of opting for cards over cash.

The YouGov research commissioned by MasterCard Europe in France, Germany, Italy and the UK, revealed that one in five (20%) of adults from these countries who’ve been on holiday abroad state they now spend record amounts of time planning in advance for their holiday. According to the research, the average traveller spends a staggering 8 hours and 22 minutes preparing for trips out, sightseeing and group activities, as well as standard logistics such as flights and accommodation.  The time spent being the equivalent of a full day in the office or even a long haul flight from London to New York.

Across Europe, the research found that Brits were the most cautious with their spending, French were the most judicious with their forward planning, Germans were the worst offenders in exceeding their budgets while the Italians carried the most physical cash abroad with them.

Interestingly, the growing desire for detailed cautious planning seems to have no impact on overspending once travellers arrived on holiday. The French spent record amounts of time planning and budgeting for their holidays (8 hours 56 minutes) but were also prone to overspending when on holiday (40%). This compares to the Germans who were just as likely to overspend despite spending the least amount of time planning for their holidays (2 hours 1 minute).

MasterCard’s research reveals that Italians were the most likely to splash their cash and overspend on holiday (41%), also carrying the most cash abroad (185.28 local currency equivalent) while at the same time fearing the most about becoming a victim of crime (20%). This compares to British holidaymakers who were the most cautious and one of the least likely to overspend when abroad (29%) and also carrying the least amounts of cash with them (101.68 local currency equivalent).

Marion King, President of MasterCard UK and Ireland, comments:  “Carrying significant amounts of cash gives travelers across Europe a sense of security, but this is definitely a false sensation. Keeping notes and coins on your person not only leaves you more vulnerable to becoming a target for theft, but also increases the headache in the event the money is lost or stolen.

She continues “We’re urging travellers to make use of the benefit of using cards abroad, one of which is our zero liability rules. Zero liability is really simple to understand. It means that in the event someone’s card is being taken from them, or simply lost, they face no liability for unauthorised purchases made using their card. This brings additional peace of mind, which is evidently something that consumers really value.”

During the detailed holiday planning process, the research further showed how nearly a third (31%) of all respondents are now planning their breaks virtually. The research shows that across Europe holidaymakers were making use of online services available via a computer, smartphone or tablet device to aid their preparation, with Italians (38%) and Brits (35%) being most likely to do this. Older consumers were also using this technology with over a quarter (28%) of all respondents aged 55 and over planning this way, just nine per cent less than those in the 25-34 age group (37%).

Marion King, President of MasterCard UK and Ireland, explains: “Our research clearly reflects how we’re living in an age of ‘structured spontaneity’ across Europe. What we mean by this is that we are leading busy lives and we want to make the most of our precious holiday time and guard against any threats to personal or mental well-being when trying to switch off from their daily routines.”

“Technology is a great ally in achieving this, and as the numbers of review sites, interactive forums, and downloadable apps continues to soar, it feels almost as if the time will come when we can have a full holiday experience without leaving home! But this need for planning, structure and peace of mind before setting off on a holiday adventure isn’t always being reflected in how we pay for things and that is why we want to encourage people to continue this behavior and start choosing payment by card over cash while abroad.”


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British nationals require a visa to enter Turkey

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office have issued the following advice for British Nationals intending to travel to Turkey.

British nationals require a visa to enter Turkey, except cruise ship passengers entering the country for a day trip and returning to the ship the same day. British citizens may obtain a multiple entry visitor’s visa, valid for 90 days, at the port of entry on payment of £10 in cash (Scottish currency is not accepted). Visas can also be obtained in advance from the Turkish Consulate in London.

Turkish visit visas issued at arrival ports state that they are valid for multiple stays up to a maximum of 90 days in a 180 day period.

Up to 31 January 2012, the Turkish immigration authorities operated a flexible interpretation of this requirement whereby visitors could leave after 90 days, and immediately re-enter for a further 90 day period. However, from 1 February 2012 the rules will be fully enforced, and you will only be able to stay in Turkey for a total of 90 days in any period of 180 days.

If you plan to remain in Turkey for a period of more than 90 days, you should either apply for a longer stay visa from the Turkish Embassy in your country of residence before departure, or regularise your stay by obtaining a residence permit from the local authorities in Turkey before 90 days has elapsed. Those who exceed the 90 day limit may be fined, deported and banned from re-entry.

If you are entering Turkey via the Bulgarian border crossing, make sure that your passport has a dated entry stamp before you leave the border crossing area. Some British nationals have obtained a visa but not had their passport stamped. In some cases, this has resulted in detention and later deportation for illegal entry.

British Nationals: For more information on this subject visit the FCO website:

For Car Hire in Turkey, visit the Car Hire Assistant Price Comparison Site and Save!

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Posted by on 27/06/2012 in Travel Advice


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