In the last article, we talked about direct flights from New York or Los Angeles to Alpine airports. Today, we will discuss how to get from the airport to the resort. By the way, I would say that flights to distant European airports, followed by trains or cars, dog sleds or reindeer, and flights with connections are not considered. These are the choices of experienced travelers who can plan their own trips and make it an exciting journey and are not afraid of adventure. We look at options that are ‘fast, convenient, and affordable. In this article from lcnoutdoors.com, we will look at how to get from the Alpine airport to the resort with car rental-related issues.
One of the easiest and most obvious options for getting to a resort on your own is to rent a car. However, there are many nuances to consider here as well. Let’s start by choosing a car rental company.
Car Rental Options
Booking directly with a global brand (Sixt, Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz) only makes sense if you are traveling at someone else’s expense or if you are the Crown Prince (heir to the throne of the monarchy). Even with a 20-30% discount, the price will be higher than when ordering a car from the same supplier through an integrator company, of which there are many today. They have a huge turnover, get huge discounts from rental companies, and offer the best prices to their customers.
Don’t be intimidated by lesser-known rental companies such as Global Rent and Interrent. They are usually subsidiaries of big brands and cannot afford to engage in dumping wars with self-branded low-cost carriers. Often, even cars are given away at the counter of a well-known brand.
Be carefully prepared for the trip itself and for car rental issues. If you’re traveling to a mountain resort during a snowfall, you shouldn’t be surprised by the possibility of roads and passes closing to snowdrifts. It is surprising how unprepared many people are for the fact that there is a lot of snow in the mountains in winter and it is much harder to remove than in the valleys and towns.
Also, it’s best to plan ahead for traffic jams – experienced travelers look at their routes on Google Maps a week in advance to see “how messy” it is. On Saturday, traffic jammers on Alpine roads looked down (literally and figuratively) on their New York “counterparts. Research all the nuances of renting a car ahead of time so you don’t have to pay more on the spot for something that could be cheaper when you book a car.
Choice of Vehicles
For winter vacation, an SUV like a Ford Kuga or Nissan Qashqai is the way to go. The cost of renting such a car for a week ranges from 200-300 euros, which is not much more expensive than a regular golf-class hatchback and about the same as a station wagon. It can hold up to three people’s luggage and ski equipment cases at the same time. If you’re carrying skis or a snowboard, four people would be cramped.
In the mountains, a manual car is much cheaper than an automatic, but it is not lady-friendly. However, there is a chance to get a free upgrade when you book an automatic – there are not many such cars in the rental fleet. Keep in mind, however, that the deposit on such a car will be much higher and any scratches will cost more. Upgrades are also often offered for mechanics, sometimes for a small fee or, if you’re lucky, for free.
In addition to the cost of the lease itself, insurance and deductibles are important price components. The deductible is the amount you must pay for any damage and the insurance company will cover the excess. Typically, deductibles are around several thousand euros and are best minimized when going to the mountains. If you choose “no deductible” or “deductible refund” when you rent, it’s a bargain – about $30-50 a week. If you purchase a full insurance policy, the cost will increase several times. The difference is that if you take out a refundable deductible on your insurance case, you must pay the fee upfront, and then the retaining company reimburses you for it. The procedure is a bit tricky but usually works.
When you pick up your car, you should double-check that if the receipt does not indicate scratches, chips, or other minor defects, they should be filled in there. But that’s not enough; when handing over your car, it’s best to make sure no new faults have occurred if you don’t want someone else’s problems to be blamed on you. We recommend that you take a photo of your car from all sides if you hand it over outside of working hours – we’ve seen cars damaged in parking lots before, and it’s hard to prove you’re innocent in these situations.
When you pick up your car, a deposit will be charged to your card, which can vary greatly depending on the car brand and car rental company. It may be as high as 300 or up to 1000 Euros for medium and economy cars and 3000 to 5000 Euros for higher car classes. If you don’t have enough credit on your card, you may run into problems. This is usually refunded within a week or two of returning the car. If you don’t have the money within 3 weeks, you should start looking. The reason for the delay is usually not the car rental company, but the sluggishness of the card issuer.
Rental car companies usually write off credit cards as a requirement because the amount on a debit card is not large enough to cover you in the event of an accident. If you have a debit card, you may be required to purchase comprehensive insurance, which may cost as much as the rental car.
Visa Electron cards are definitely not acceptable, and some providers do not accept American Express, UnionPay, or Diners Club cards. The card must be issued to the primary driver. A rule of thumb here is to check the terms and conditions of the car carefully before booking.
For safety reasons, you should apply for an international driver’s license. Now you can do this not only at the traffic police, where drivers are reluctant to look but also at the office of “My Documents”. However, even a regular license with English/French text will be accepted without too many problems.
Winter Tires and Chains on Wheels
Austria, Switzerland, and Germany will equip your car with winter tires, which is mandatory in these countries in winter. On the other hand, in France, and especially Italy, there is a problem: it is likely that in all seasons you will have to have chains. Usually, they are included in the price of the rental, which is not a luxury. It’s not only to keep you safe in case of snow flurries, but it’s also mandatory for traffic police – in difficult weather conditions, you also can’t pass on mountain roads or highways without chains. If you have winter tires, they also help.
Usually, the card issued to you is full of fuel, and you must return it full of fuel, or you will be charged unreasonably high fuel prices. Here’s a tip: If you fill up 30-50 miles (50-80 km) before the airport, your tank will be almost full when you arrive at the drop-off point. This will save you a cup of coffee and a croissant. On the other hand, if you fill up at an airport gas station, you may be surprised at how much you pay for fuel.
Diesel will save a lot of fuel costs, but in cold weather, you may have problems starting your engine if you take your car to Italy or France: the local diesel is not designed for a hard frost.
It’s worth noting that in Europe, traffic rules are much more strictly enforced and fines for violations are much higher than in Los Angeles. There are not as many cameras on the roads as there are police – you can’t even see them, but they appear at the most unexpected times.
Instead of speed limits ranging from 35-55 mph (56-88.5km), like some small-town roads in the US, the speed limit allowed is only 5% of the allowed speed. If you don’t manage to drop your brakes from 55 miles (90km) to 30 miles (50km) when entering a built-up area, you may be charged a considerable amount of money. In Switzerland, for example, if you are photographed by the police in such a situation, you may have to pay around 1000+ francs on the spot!
Talking on the phone on the highway can also be quite expensive. Parking fines are not as scary as Los Angeles motorists are used to, and controls are not as comprehensive as in the Washington capital, but you still have to pay for parking. Incidentally, they’re not too expensive compared to downtown Los Angeles. But residents of other cities won’t find the prices and fines below.
In the past, Washington drivers could skip paying fines at the post office, but now if you don’t want to get in trouble, it’s best not to do so. Also, the sooner you pay, the lower the amount will be, and the fines for late payment can be high. Some rental car companies will pay the fine themselves and charge a service fee to your card.
Driving on the Highway
With the exception of Germany, all freeways in the Alpine countries are tolled. If you have a car in Austria or Switzerland and don’t plan to cross any borders, you’re in luck – just don’t bother. When moving to these countries from Germany, France, or Italy, don’t forget to buy and put a Vignette – a toll sticker – on your windshield. This is especially important for those who rent a car in the French section of Geneva airport and drive to France – a voucher is also required for the short stretch along the Swiss freeway to the French border. They rarely check, but a 200-300 franc fine won’t make you happy. However, 50 francs for 30 minutes on the freeway is not very cost-effective either, but diversions on free roads are quite tricky.
Rental costs are much higher on the Swiss side, so it’s up to everyone to decide. In Italy and France, there are toll booths on the freeways that can add up to more than 100 euros for even a small trip. Tunnels and bridges may be subject to additional charges. Toll roads inevitably duplicate free roads, but the travel time is considerably longer and the main thing is to obey the speed limit, especially in densely populated areas!
The rental car comes with a reflective undershirt, which must be worn in case of emergency stops. But no snow brush is included, just a dull little scraper. If you’re traveling in a snowstorm, you may want to keep a snow brush in your luggage – it’s not heavy and can’t hurt!
Blood alcohol is allowed in small amounts – a few glasses of wine, or a beer. But in the event of an accident, it is an aggravating factor. There are patrols watching out for drinkers, and the police are especially picky about young people. Better not get caught! I don’t think it’s necessary to remind you to be safe.
Navigating in the mountains can be very tricky. But paying extra for a navigator doesn’t always make sense. Most cars are equipped with them, although you may be asked to pay extra at the counter – refuse. If you don’t have one, a navigator on your phone will work, especially if you remember to download a map of the area.
Child safety seats are strictly mandatory and don’t even think about it without one. Again, safety is not an issue, but in case the police pull you over, you’ll be in trouble. Seat belts must be fastened at all times. It costs a few dozen euros a day at a car rental company, which is not a small amount compared to the cost of the rental itself. With such low prices for basic services, you have to make some money for renting a seat. Some people bring this seat, especially if it is a “seat” for children aged 8-12.
There are two ways to save money if you rent a car without including chains. The first is to purchase wristbands in your hometown. They don’t weigh much, can be thrown in your bag with your ski equipment, and are fairly inexpensive. The second way, if snow is not expected, you can buy chains at a gas station on the way to the resort and if you don’t need them, turn them in for an invoice on the way back.
If you don’t want to bother renting a car or are afraid to drive on unfamiliar terrain, your options are train, shuttle, or bus. Much depends here on the country and the airport, as well as the resort you’re going to. We’ll tell you more about them in the next article.