UK Driving Licence changes on 8th June could affect your holiday car hire

The abolition of the paper counterpart to the UK driving licence is threatening to cause travel headaches for holidaymakers planning on hiring a car abroad during their holidays – but there are solutions to hand.

From 8th June 2015, only the photocard licence will be valid in the DVLA’s shake-up of driving licences, which will mean all points and endorsements will now be recorded centrally on a computer database. Police, insurance companies and car rental agencies in the UK will be able to access driver data via an online service, by telephone or by post.

However, concerns exist that vehicle rental companies in foreign locations such as airports and hotels, which are extremely popular with British holidaymakers, are unaware of the changes and will still require customers to produce their paper counterparts before releasing hire cars.

Important steps to take before leaving the UK

If you plan on renting a hire car during your holiday abroad, there are some important steps you should take before departing for the airport:

• Log onto the DVLA website (www.dvla.gov.uk) with your driving licence number to obtain a code which you should give to the car rental agency when you arrive to collect your vehicle. However, this code is only valid for 72 hours, which is fine if you are scheduled to collect your hire car on your arrival at the airport or hotel.

• If you aren’t collecting your car until later in your holiday, you’ll need to log onto the DVLA website while abroad to obtain your code. Watch out for roaming charges: use an internet café, if available, or check with your mobile phone provider if a bundle can be added to your account so that you can browse the internet at a competitive rate.

• Retain your paper counterpart and take it with you on holiday, even though it has no validity in the UK. If the car rental agency insists on seeing it, you can produce it, irrespective of whether it is needed at home.

• Log onto the DVLA website and access your driving licence record, which will summarise any convictions, points or endorsements held against you. Print it out and take it with you abroad, so that you have more evidence of your right to drive if needed.

By taking these simple steps, you can depart for your holiday reassured that you have all the necessary paperwork to be able to rent a car, without worrying whether news of the driving licence changes has filtered through to your destination country.

You might also want to consider Car Hire Excess Waiver Insurance. Get a quote at our sister site CHEW Insurance and get great value cover today.

Tuscany: Beaches, wineries, and unmissable cities

The natural beauty of Tuscany, a region in central Italy, is every bit as mesmerising and varied as the picture postcards suggest, from the cypress-lined olive groves, to the wineries, to the long, untainted golden sands and beaches along the coast. This is a land where a gentle drive or peaceful saunter through the undulating countryside is an absolute joy, as you look down on an isolated farmhouse sitting amid swathes of lush green fields or over a sea of golden sunflowers beneath the rich blue sky. Yet a visit to Tuscany is far from complete without exploring some of the region’s magnificent cities, where you can witness the birth of Renaissance art or the splendour of Italian architecture – and every city is as individual and unique as the last.

Volterra

Sitting dramatically on a hilltop, the ancient city of Volterra is arguably one of the most impressive day trip destinations in the world. Hidden behind a cinnamon-brown wall of sienna stone, Volterra is – in literature at least – a city of vampires, a reputation you’ll appreciate as you wander with your partner through the eerily silent streets, bathed in the dark shadows of traditional Italian houses. From the grand Piazza dei Priori, encircled by medieval buildings, to the breath-taking Roman amphitheatre, Volterra reflects two thousand years of history yet is so small that it can be easily navigated on foot in a day. In truth, though, no guidebook can do this city justice or enable the tourist to soak up the remarkable atmosphere; a personal visit is absolutely essential.

Pisa

Famous for Torre pendente di Pisa, Pisa is an eternally popular university city. Arrive early and you can appreciate Earth’s most famous leaning tower without the hordes and take a more leisurely climb to the top for a view over the Piazza dei Miracoli and the surrounding buildings. Beyond the Square of Miracles, you’ll adore exploring the narrow streets with their smattering of traditional craft shops or the Piazza dei Cavaleiri, once the headquarters of the Knights of St Stephen. The city museums – the Opera del Duomo and Museo delle Sinopie – are also well worth a visit.

Florence

It was here that the Renaissance was born, but Florence is not a city only for die-hard art enthusiasts. With a fine collection of museums, churches and palaces housing some of the world’s most prized artistic works, art and architecture blend seamlessly. Among the must-see sites are the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, whose white-edged terracotta dome dominates the skyline, the library of San Lorenzo, with its exhibition of Michelangelo’s works, and the Ponte Vecchio which spans the River Arno. An afternoon appreciating the Giardini di Boboli is a great outdoor activity, with its statue of Andromeda and other fine sculptures.

So… when do you want to go?
These are only three of Tuscany’s finest cities and with others – Siena, San Gimignano, Lucca and Arezzo – to explore, you’ll be spoilt for choice on your visit to Italy’s most beautiful region.

The average high temperature in June is a pleasant 27C (81F), rising to 30C (86F) in July and August. However, July and August are peak times, so visit either in June if you can, or September, when the temperature high is still 27C (81F) and the queues are a little shorter.

Vienna: The city of music, cake, and so much more!

A couple of members of our team have just come back from a wonderful few days in Vienna. Here, they tell us all about it, and share the best places to go.

Without doubt, Vienna, the capital of Austria, is one of the most charming cities in Europe, if not the world.

Often described as the “City of Music”, it unsurprisingly has a wealth of entertainment for music lovers, and has been synonymous with classical music for centuries. MozartBeethoven and Strauss all lived here and in fact, the former homes of both Mozart and Beethoven are open to the public – both are highly recommend places to visit whilst in the city (although maybe not so much if you have trouble with stairs, because Beethoven’s apartment is a somewhat challenging climb up four flights of a spiral stone staircase!). However, your reward is to see one of Beethoven’s own pianos, complete with five pedals!

There are also several venues where you can watch a live classical music concert. If you are familiar with the world famous New Year’s Day concert from Vienna, it takes place at the Musikverein in central Vienna. The “Golden Hall” of the Musikverein is absolutely spectacular, with its ornate chandeliers and architecture, and many don’t consider a visit to Vienna complete without watching a concert performed here. The “Mozart in Historical Costumes” concert is especially good and even includes some light-hearted opera! Vienna also has a beautiful opera house where tickets to performances are readily available on most days, and in the evenings you can watch a live video feed from the opera house, free of charge, on a big screen outside.

Of course, Vienna has much more to offer than just music.

Lovers of paintings will appreciate the Museum of Art History, where you can see the works of famous artists such as Raphael and Rubens, or you can head on over the road to the Albertina to see original paintings by Monet and Picasso.

Architecturally, Vienna is stunning, reflecting its imperial past, and almost every road in the city centre has beautiful buildings for you to admire. The Ringstrasse, which is the main road encircling the city centre, is lined with numerous awe-inspiring palaces, and many of the city’s biggest hotels are also converted palaces! There are lots of beautiful parks too, and the old town doesn’t get too crowded, making this a relaxed city break. The temperature is pleasant to walk around, without being too hot: the average high through the summer is around 27C (81F).

At the centre of the city is Stephansdom, the beautiful St. Stephen’s Cathedral, from which you can grab a stunning view of the city from its steeple. This is a particularly good landmark to use as a reference point when searching for potential places to stay: because it is at the heart of Vienna, any hotel within the vicinity is in an ideal location – particularly if you wish to discover Vienna by foot (which is widely considered to be the best way, despite there being an excellent transportation system, including an easily accessible tram).

Foodies will be in their element in Vienna because the cuisine is exceptional. First, there’s the famous Weiner Schnitzel (head to Figlmüller if you want to experience the real deal – a massive schnitzel that overhangs the plate – but you’ll have to book ahead, because it understandably gets very busy). Then there’s the delicious and world-famous Sachertorte, a chocolate cake with apricot jam created in 1832 for Prince Wenzel von Metternich; if you want to experience the truly authentic version, then the Hotel Sacher is the only place to go!

If cake is something you like – and let’s face it who doesn’t! – then you will be in heaven once you see the selection of freshly prepared cakes on offer in the cafes all over the city.  There are so many to choose from, but if you like history then you can visit Café Centralwhere Sigmund Freud, Trotsky, Lenin used to visit, or Café Mozart which serves not only the most delicious cakes, but also a wonderful breakfast. The hot chocolate there is probably the best in the world, and the delicious brioche croissant will set you up nicely for the day.

The cafes in Vienna are coffee houses above all else though, so make sure you know what you want to drink before you enter one, as these specialist coffee connoisseurs will stare at you blankly if you simply order a coffee! The true traditional way to drink coffee in Vienna, and still the most popular way today, is the “Melange” (oddly pronounced in a French way). It is milky, and similar to a cappuccino. At the best coffee houses it is served in a quaint cup and saucer, usually with a small chocolate or nougat on the side and always with a glass of water as well, so you definitely won’t leave the café thirsty…unless you eat too much cake that is!

Car Hire Excess Waiver Insurance

Most car rental companies charge an excess if you have an accident. This means that you will be responsible for the first part of the claim.

The part you are responsible for is called the “excess” and it varies from one car hire company to another. However, it’s usually between £500 and £2,000 depending on the vehicle type you rent – but it can be substantially more on high-value cars.

You can protect yourself against these charges by purchasing an excess waiver, sometimes known as a Super Collision Damage Waiver (SCDW). Some companies will try to sell you a waiver when you book the hire car, often with hard-sell tactics, but it can cost over £20 a day! It’s better to buy your policy in the UK before you travel: you’ll save money and get more comprehensive cover too.

So if you’re hiring a car when you travel, go to CHEW Insurance and get great value cover today.