Search This Blog


Getting around without renting a vehicle while traveling with small children
Photo taken from the front passenger seat of a
car driving on the left in Krabi, Thailand

"Rent a car!" is what everyone and their uncle is going to tell you, the moment they hear that your big family is taking a trip out of the country. But do you really want to do that? We don't think so. We avoid renting a car in other countries for several good reasons. Here are 6 reasons why you might want to skip the car rental too...


Of course when I say "other countries," I just mean - any country but your own! I'm from the U.S., so I don't drive when I'm outside the U.S.  If I was from Bolivia, I'd only drive in Bolivia.

I have never rented a car while traveling with our family of 6 outside of our home country. By that I mean, I don't rent cars that I would have to drive myself. Hiring a car with a driver is okay, and sometimes even essential (more on that in this prior post), but renting a car without a driver is not the best solution for us, for these 6 reasons:

#1:  Experiencing a New Way to Get Around
It’s fun to take tuk-tuks!  Part of the joy of traveling is experiencing alternative means of transpo:  the double-decker buses in London, the long-tail boats in Thailand, the micros in Bolivia, the trains in Italy, the funiculars in Tennessee, the gondolas in the Swiss Alps! We love it!

Why you don't need to rent a car in Thailand
Our big family getting out of a Tuk-Tuk at an Elephant Sanctuary
 in Ayutthaya, Thailand

#2:  Driving on the Other Side
I also don't want to drive anywhere that I might have to drive on the other side of the road. I think this would be very confusing, especially while answering kids' questions and requests, and trying to enjoy the scenery, all while trying to find our way to an apartment or museum or beach or grocery store.

#3:  Wrecks
Then there's the scariest reason: wrecks. I don't like to focus on the negative when thinking about traveling, but it's an inescapable fact that traffic accident rates are very high on certain roads in some countries. I'm much more comfortable putting my family's safety into the hands of a local resident who has driven that road thousands of times, than into my own hands, considering I would be driving that car and that road for the very first time! Sure, sometimes your driver will speed, or pass cars when oncoming traffic is clearly visible, or drive through a roundabout without slowing down for other drivers who had the right-of-way. Still, I'd sooner let a local drive in that situation, than try to do it myself.

#4:  Burglary
I think it's not at all convenient to have to worry about where to find safe parking, and whether the car (or its contents) might be stolen, or have a window broken, or get vandalized. I will happily pay an extra 10 percent on the overall cost of ground transportation, to have someone else do the driving (and navigating, and parking, and thinking about whether the car is being parked in a safe place).  When you don't drive a car, you never have a single conversation with a car rental agent about damage, scratches, smashed windows, or other problems.

#5:  Fueling Up...Under the Hood?
In Bolivia, we've been in a 5-passenger taxi carrying 3 adults and 4 children, and had the chance to observe the fueling-up process:  the driver pulls into a fuel station, and helpers come out and lift the hood of the car. Several female helpers stand around helpfully, but not really doing anything, just modeling in tiny shorts and tight, half-closed blouses with a racing theme, like little black & white flag patches. They are dressed like the models you  might see standing around an arena where a professional speedway race is happening in the U.S., and apparently these gas station ladies serve the same purpose.

A team of male attendants puts a skinny rubber hose under the hood. After a few minutes, the driver pays cash through the window, and we drive away! What was that all about? What exactly were they putting under the hood? And where were they putting it? I don't know! I don't really want to have to find out! That's one reason I don't drive in other countries: I'd have no idea how the car worked, or how to fuel it up.

Why it's better not to rent a car when you travel with your family
Hmm, let's see here, I guess I'll take a few...liters...of...Gasohol?  Uh yeah, E20 should be fine. Or not.
#6:  Avoiding Scams
Unfortunately, in certain destinations frequented by beach-going tourists, there are also scammers at work in the vehicle rental business. This scam is usually for recreational/sports rentals but could easily work for a car rental too. A common scam is to rent you a motorcycle, or jet-ski, while demanding your passport as collateral. Then when you return it, a small amount of damage, such as a minor scratch, is "discovered," and the rental agent quickly becomes loud and hostile.

The agency demands immediate cash restitution for this damage you supposedly caused. They may show you a $50 scratch (that was there when you rented the car) and demand $700. They may call in several friends who instantly appear and form a circle around you. They all start yelling angrily, making you feel physically intimidated, while you pull out your wallet. No thanks! I don't need to rent anything that badly.

More Soon!
We hope this blog helps make your family's next trip a great success! Could you help us?
1. Please share a link to our blog.
2. Stay tuned! Please sign up for free email updates so you'll be notified of future posts.
Thank you for reading!

If you're new here, you may want to start with our first post.

Or, check out our List of All Posts.

What About You?
Have you driven in other countries, or do you prefer to be a passenger?  Had any bad experiences behind the wheel while traveling?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Ideas? Suggestions? Tips? Let us know! Thanks for reading! (If you'd like a reply by email, please include an email address, or use the Contact Form at the bottom of this page - thanks!)