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Your Guide To Booking: Car Rental

If braving the public transport system doesn't sound like your cup of tea, renting a car can be a great way to get yourself around - particularly if you're on holiday in a foreign country. As well as independence and flexibility on your travels, car rental companies also offer an affordable service, and - in most cases - plenty of cover in case things go wrong. There are a few things to bear in mind though.

Which company should I hire from?

It should go without saying, but some tourists have gotten into trouble in recent years by hiring from dodgy companies outside the traditional tourist trail. Here's why it's a bad idea: number one, you might find yourself without adequate insurance in the event that you get into a skirmish. On top of this, you may find the company themselves try to rip you off by claiming pre-existing bumps and bruises were your fault.

The best companies to book with are those which come with the seal of approval from the local tourism bodies - but it's also worth doing your own research to find out which services are rated the best by users.

As a general rule of thumb, you can't go wrong with these three companies:

Europcar - they have bases in some of Europe's biggest holiday hotspots, and are specifically tailored to tourists; this means you don't have to worry about the language barrier obscuring the terms of your deal.

Holiday Autos - this company comes highly recommended, offering free cancellation in case your holiday plans go belly up, and a round-the-clock contact centre. In terms of user satisfaction, Holiday Autos are second to none - which is very significant.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car - with bases in Asia and America in addition to continental Europe, Enterprise Rent-A-Car are well practised in the art of providing comprehensive vehicle rental service - they're well worth a look if you're headed further afield.

Which package is right for me?

Car rental companies tend to offer a basic package, onto which they pin various add-ons at extra cost: a satnav, a baby seat, premium rate insurance cover, and so forth. You can get around some of these fees if you're prepared to bring your own gadgets - this is something that may depend on, for example, how experienced a traveller you are (some people can't go without their TomTom while others are fine with just an old-fashioned road map).

Another thing to bear in mind is how to tailor your package to the type of journey you will be making. If you are driving with a lot of cargo in toe, you need to make sure you get a car with some generous utility space (with charges added on for any damage caused, you won't want to be cramming stuff in). You should also consider how many drivers you need to register - particularly if you are making a long cross country trip where you might need to take overnight naps en route (although do note this often comes with some extra cost).

Whichever package you choose, make sure you know what you're signing up for; many users have complained that they've got home only to discover hidden fees charged to their credit card. It's a rather extreme measure, but some are advising fellow travellers to take photographs of the car when they first rent it to prevent any shady behaviour ruining their trip.

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