If you have read about my food experiences in my other Argentina related posts then you probably have noticed one thing in common: the portions are always huge. Exactly the same could be said about the distances between most cities and villages of Argentina. Yes, if you are short of time the most reasonable is to take a direct flight or a bus ride. But to get the real feel of the country there isn’t much better option than renting a car in Argentina.
Just imagine all these roads with the amazing views of the mountains or the pampas and a possibility to go wherever you want…
Driving a car in Argentina requires the same skill set as in any other country, of course. Still I think it would be useful having some advice before renting a car in Argentina. Here are some tips I’d point out (based on my road trip):
1. Car rental company reputation
This actually applies to all the countries not only Argentina. To have a trouble free vacation it’s best to use the service providers whose name is familiar to you and you know it is trustworthy. Usually it means some big corporation’s franchise. It’s just that the world famous companies can’t afford to have a bad feedback, so they are more likely to keep the customer satisfied. Plus there is a lower (if any) risk of having some credit card problems later.
For example, when renting a car in Argentina we used Avis and everything went smoothly. But in Chile after using a local company called Econorent we had to spend lots of time afterwards to get our money back. They had charged us more than we agreed at first and weren’t willing to refund.
I’m not saying you should avoid all the local businesses (I’m more about supporting them) but it’s just something to keep in mind.
2. Plan your route
Before renting a car in Argentina you should have some kind of a plan or an idea of the places you’d like to visit. And don’t be afraid to share it with the car rental company. They can give you the correct price in that way:
- If you are planning a road trip not only in Argentina but in some nearby countries as well then there’s a different price (or a special fee) for crossing the border with a rental car.
- You should also pay attention if the mileage is limited or not. Argentina is a vast country and it’s easy to go over the limit.
- If a rental company has agencies in other cities as well then sometimes it is also possible to rent a car in one city and leave it to another. Usually it is for a (not so) small fee but it’s still good to know.
3. Go to the office and negotiate
Nowadays it is easy to rent a car online. You just book a car, pay for it and go pick it up. But sometimes you’d get a whole lot of better deal if you go down the office and ask for a more personal offer. Specially if you are visiting Argentina off season. This rule applies for most of the places around the world.
As you are getting offers (don’t forget about the insurance!) from different spots then it’s a good idea to write down (i.e. on the company’s leaflet) the prices every time. It gives you a better overview and you can point out the agreed price if you should go back to some agency and the guy who you were haggling with has gone home.
Also, according to my experience of renting a car in Argentina it’s good to know that all the companies are trying to rent you the bigger and more expensive car than you actually might need. So think twice before making a final decision.
4. Keep the documents close
While you do not need an international driving license to drive in Argentina (at least we didn’t) it is wise to have your home country’s license in reach. Same goes with the vehicle documents that you get from the car rental company. The reason is that Argentina is divided into provinces and there are border crossing points where the officers could want to see them. Plus the police might stop you for a random check.
5. The accessories’ know-how
Many car models in South America cannot be seen in Europe or there are slightly different versions available. They are different not only outside but also inside. So even using the elementary accessories like air conditioning can turn out to be quite tricky.
Sounds like not a big deal? Well, we drove about few hundred kilometers cursing Avis guys for not giving us the car with A/C (which we specially asked for) because we were almost melting in the car. And it wasn’t even a summer there. Luckily they answered our e-mail next day with the instructions of how to turn on the A/C and the following trip was way cooler.
6. Know the law
If you are not sure about the driving regulations in Argentina then feel free to ask the car rental companies or tourist information points. Or do some research on the web yourself. Google usually gives the best information.
We would have saved 50 bucks if we had known what position the vehicle’s headlight switch has to be in. That said, it’s best to keep the headlights always on when driving, even though in larger cities like Buenos Aires it didn’t seem to be mandatory.
7. “Speed limits are for fools”
… seemed to be the motto for local drivers. At least nobody seemed to care about the speed limit signs. And no wonder why. I mean setting a 20 km/h speed limit for a straight road that is in a very good condition in the middle of a desert is more than confusing. So probably you’ll slow down the first few times on this kind of sections but when you see how the locals drive then you eventually do the same.
We heard that the reason why nobody cares about speed limits is that the Argentinian police is short of speed radars. So the chances someone detects your over speeding are pretty low. Still I encourage you to follow the regulations and don’t overestimate your driving skills!
8. No right-of-way system
Argentina has a right-hand traffic. So it should make sense they use the priority to the right (meaning at intersections giving way to the vehicles approaching from the right) rule? Wrong. Or maybe they are required to do so by the regulations but in real life it never was like that. It seemed to be that the one who got to the intersection first had the right to go. And if there were many vehicles coming from one direction (didn’t matter if it was left or right) then you had to wait until all of them have crossed.
I’m not sure if the same applies also in Buenos Aires because already the smaller cities traffic were hectic and we didn’t want to test B.A. Matter of fact most of the travel guides suggest to avoid driving a car in Buenos Aires if you’re not local.
9. Check gas level frequently
Did I tell you Argentina is a large country? If you paid attention then you know the distances in Argentina can be enormous. Sometimes you’ll drive on a straight road hundreds of kilometers or miles without seeing a single car. Not to mention seeing a gas station.
The word of advice is to plan your routes carefully and pay attention to the possible locations of gas stations. In case your vehicle’s gas level is less than a half then it is a wise idea to fill the tank as soon as possible. And of course it’s good to check oil level and other elementary stuff from time to time.
10. Park inside
Traveling time is usually limited and you wouldn’t want to spend it on solving some issues about the car damages when renting a car in Argentina. Or even worse, you don’t want to get your belongings stolen.
Since some areas in Argentina are economically in not so good situation then your nice and clean rental car might attract thieves. To avoid the problems you should try and park you car in a safe spot. If the place you are staying has an enclosed area then ask them to let you move your car there. If they don’t have one then try to park your car in a well lit spot. And of course, hide the things you must leave in the car.
One extra tip is not to wash the car. Even when it’s really dirty after driving on some muddy road. With a car like this you will not get so much attention. Of course you should wash it before returning to the rental company.
What do you think? Did I miss something about renting a car in Argentina?