When someone is a frequent traveler in various countries around the world, there is often a choice that must be made regarding whether to rent a car, hire a local driver or take some other form of local transportation such as a taxi, bus, subway or the like. Travel writers on assignment frequently have the luxury of being provided with a local guide, but in the case of group press trips, there may be as many as five journalists all sharing the same vehicle. While this is good for building friendships and networking opportunities, it does make one’s itinerary less flexible.
When I visited Florida a year or so ago, I had assignments in both Tampa Bay and Orlando, and driving a rental car turned out to be the most efficient way to get around. However, on my two press trips to India, where cars literally share the road with cows, camels and horse-drawn vehicles, this reporter would have been very uncomfortable behind the wheel of a hired car.
For business travelers who are not travel writers, the situation can be even more complex. Obviously if money is not much of an object, an executive can be more productive and efficient by hiring a driver while he or she uses a laptop computer in the back seat. When budget travel is necessary in the case of an entrepreneur, the traveler may be have to resort to the internet or a travel agent for assistance to book cheap car hire in Canada, for example.
To drive or not to drive a rental car ultimately depends upon the confidence of the potential driver. I recall being so frightened when I first started driving a hired car in the U.K. that I literally had to pull over to the (wrong) side of the road until my nerves were more steady. However, after finally escaping from the heavy London airport traffic and getting into the British countryside, things were much more relaxed. Even the process of driving a standard transmission car and shifting gears with the left hand soon felt natural.
With today’s technological aids giving drivers the extra benefits of Google maps and GPS tracking systems, driving a hired car in a foreign land is at least slightly less of a challenge than it was in times past.