Rental Cars and Beer Travel

The Lager Lists

Drinking and driving, a big taboo subject among the beer drinker / traveler community. If you bring the subject up on a travel board, the most common response you see is Finger-Wagging Responsible Fatherly Advice; suggestions of total sobriety or a hired driver. The first suggestion isn’t practical or fun, and either designates a trip-goer with the title of DD (no fun) or requires a hired driver, which is expensive, and brings an unknown personality into a close social dynamic of an ongoing trip. I suggest moderation, responsible driving, and knowledge of the law.

I am by no means an expert at this, but I do feel like I’ve figured out enough to be of some help to other travelers. I’ve rented and driven in Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Czech Republic, Slovenia and Costa Rica.

Blood Alcohol Content Laws by Country

country maximum legal level in mg/L
Belgium 0.05 BAC. Lowered from 0.08 in 1994.
UK 0.08 BAC
Germany 0.05 BAC
Czech Republic 0.00 BAC. This zero-tolerance policy for the biggest beer-drinking country in the world keeps most people in local pubs and off the roads. A BAC below 0.08 carries a fine and penalties. Over 0.08 gets you a criminal charge.
Denmark 0.05 BAC
France 0.05 BAC
Italy 0.05 BAC
Canada 0.08 Federal limit. 0.05 in some provinces.
Hungary 0.00 BAC. Zero-tolerance.
Japan 0.03 BAC
Lithuania 0.04 BAC
Netherlands 0.05 BAC. 0.02 for new drivers.
Sweden 0.02 BAC
United States 0.08 BAC. Over 0.08 is considered legally intoxicated for most states. Less than 0.05 is considered not impaired in most states but some states can still charge a driver for DUI if their BAC is less than 0.08 based on if the driver is safely operating the vehicle.

More information at http://www.icap.org/table/BACLimitsWorldwide

The standard limit across most European Union countries is 0.05 BAC, but be sure to know the limit in whatever country or state you are in. Sweden, for example, is much lower than most of Europe. Ignorance is not an excuse.

That said, drunk driving accidents and deaths are not as big of a problem in European Union countries compared to the United States.

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Rental Cars in Europe

  • SixT

    • SixT.com is who I rent from most often. Numerous locations throughout Germany and prices sometimes 40% less than their competitors. Many vehicle classes are unavailable for international border crossing, especially into the Czech Republic and back. Rental car companies do not let you rent a BMW to take into Czech Republic for risk of it being stolen. Their rental policy for Germany reads

      “Cross Border Rentals are allowed to the following countries – inclusive islands: Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Gibraltar, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Vatikan City.

      Cross Border Rentals are allowed to the following countries but not with Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, VW, Porsche, Aston Martin and all Jeeps/Offroader: Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia.”

      From: http://www.sixt.com/rental-services/rental-information/

  • Europcar

    • Europcar.com is my second recommendation for rentals in Europe. Generally more expensive than SixT, but easier to arrange in some countries in Central Europe such as Czech Republic, where the daily rate is still reasonably affordable.

How to Safely Drink and Drive

Germany

  • Rent from SixT.com, weekly or daily rate.
  • Drive to breweries and/or zoiglstuben and enjoy slow consumption of low-gravity lagers (typically 4-5% ABV).
  • Order “ein kleines Bier“, a small or half serving of 250 mL, if available.
  • Ordering a “schnitt” will get you roughly 3/4 of a 500 mL serving in some parts of Franconia, while elsewhere the term is used to describe a smaller (<200 mL) serving of beer, on the house, for a last taste to see you out the door and safely home.
  • Don’t fucking drink too much.
  • Save the steinkrug sessions for places that are walkable, it helps to stay in a town of a favorite brewery so you have a place to eat and drink a GOOD beer at the end of the day without having to drive anywhere.

Finally, drive to where you can walk/bike. Places like Hallerndorf or Memmelsdorf in Franconia, are difficult or time-consuming to reach by public transit, if you’re staying in Bamberg. Memmelsdorf has TWO brewery-hotel-restaurants, both of them (as of 2016) making beer worthy of drinking.

Take pictures when you receive the car

Camera phone or DSLR, take pictures of the front, back and sides, and any obvious dents or scratches that were on the vehicle before you received it. Protect yourself from being asked to reimburse the company for damage you didn’t cause. Better yet, add a full damage waiver if it’s affordable. If not, drive carefully.

4 thoughts on “Rental Cars and Beer Travel

  1. Yes, I know Americans love to drive. But in Europe that is a big mistake. Americans do not know European driving laws or practices (no, they are not explained on signs), they do not know that city names can be different in other languages, which they probably do not speak, and finally, they do not know that public transport is frequently excellent and will bring you to your destination at a fraction of the cost of a rental car.

    Americans would be wise to learn about public transport and how to use it. Then lists of permissible alcohol levels would not be necessary.

    1. Lots of generalizations in your comment, Robert. Not everyone who travels to Europe is unaware of the laws, or driving conditions, or cost. It is up to the individual to manage such things. For first time exploration of an area I recommend using public transit, but to get off the tourist track and visit smaller, more remote villages, a car is certainly the best combination of cost and convenience.

  2. Generalisations sometimes are more useful than full explanations, especially when writing comments on a web page. Such as, for example, “to get off the tourist track and visit smaller, more remote villages, a car is certainly the best combination of cost and convenience.”

    Driving practices and laws may be written in English in the UK, but only in local languages in other countries. How many languages can you read? I fully expect there are some Americans who can read more than one, but how many bother?

    Public transport varies by country. Ironically, it is the one English-speaking country in Europe that has suffered the most in terms of public transport. Have you ever heard of Dr. Beeching? (By “heard of”, I don’t mean using google afterwards.)

    Fortunately, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, much of Scandinavia, Switzerland and Austria, among other countries have exceptionally good public transport systems. There is not a single “small, remote” village in Bavaria that I have been unable to visit because of a lack of public transport. Also in Belgium and the Netherlands (where I live).

    Last summer, my wife and I rented a house in a small ancient village in the south of France. We spend the week travelling to other small remote villages by bus and/or rail. We paid €1 each per bus ride. How much would that cost with an auto?

  3. Rather than just criticise you, I’d like to offer you some help in travelling in Bavaria without an auto. If you go here (http://www.vgn.de/landkreise/) you can download bus network maps for the Franconia area, which is where most of the breweries are located. Once you have found the bus number going to the village you want to visit, you can go to this page (http://www.vgn.de/komfortauskunft/linien/) and download the schedule for that particular bus.

    For train travel, you can download the train network map for all of Bavaria here: http://www.bahn.de/p/view/mdb/pv/planen_buchen/liniennetzkarten/2013/mdb_128673_streckenkarte_bayern_2013.pdf

    Sometimes, you can find more options here: http://www.bayern-fahrplan.de/auskunft/fahrplanauskunft

    And here is a site made by a German that offers public transport links to all of Europe: http://www.nahverkehr.info/

    Most of these sites can be switched to English, however, in some cases, the amount of information offered is then more limited.

    Personally, I also like walking and bike riding in Bavaria. If you go here: (http://www.bettundbike.de/) you will find a database of hotels (in other European countries as well) that offer guests use of bikes for free or a small fee.

    And beer drinking and walking are quite popular among many Germans. Here is a page (http://www.bierwandern.de/inhalt/orte.html) that lists breweries in Franconia and walking guides between them.

    If you’d like more information, I’ll be happy to help.

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