Man with laptopWe’ve only recently started our blog so if you are new here, welcome!

I think the way the Internet has allowed people to connect to one another, whether through social networks, forums or blogs, is amazing. I am personally signed up to Facebook and LinkedIn. At Avis we see this as a real opportunity. With this blog, for example, we have the opportunity to talk to our customers in way that was not previously possible. But perhaps more importantly it allows us to interact in a way that was not previously possible.

We’ve been blogging about all kinds of things, and that will continue: tips on booking/hiring a car, announcements about new products and services, our stance on the environment and any other issues that are important to our customers. And on these posts, we want your feedback. Understanding what our customers think helps us understand how to move Avis forward. When our Managing Director, Stuart Gent, had a first look at the blog his comment was to use it “to help us design what Avis should look like”.

So start here. We really want to hear your comments on what you think about the blog and Avis, and perhaps suggestions for future blog posts. We do have to screen comments before they go live (for spam, inappropriate remarks, etc) so if your comments aren’t live straight away, that’s why.

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FlybeHere’s a tip for you… When you’re hiring from an airport it’s important to tell us your flight number when you book by phone, or put it in online if you’re booking on the Internet. It means that (a) if your flight is delayed we know that you’ll be late and will wait for you, even after closing time, and (b) at certain locations with different terminals (like Manchester) we know which side of the airport to have your car waiting.

Another tip for air travellers is to type in your flight number at the start of your booking on the Avis UK website. It saves time, as the database automatically locates your arrival airport and time and puts them into your reservation.

If you have your own car hire tips, or questions for us, then you can post them as comments here, and we’ll make sure we look at what you have to say.

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Filling up with fuelIf you look at what Gordon Brown announced in the Budget yesterday, his primary focus for motorists was on environmental impact. The highest-polluting vehicles (Band G in the new car tax banding system introduced last year) have been hit hardest, with road tax increased initially to £300 and up to £400 in April next year. There was a win for drivers of the least-polluting vehicles, with a cut on road tax of £35. Fuel duty has increased by 2p, in line with inflation.

How have these changes affected you? Do you think green taxation is a step in the right direction in tackling the environmental issue? As always your comments are most welcome!

Also, if you have not read it yet, please look at Rob’s post about how downsizing your car and then renting when you need a larger one, can save you large sums of money (as well as CO2 emissions). Given yesterday’s news it looks like we need to update our calculations with a little extra saving!

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London HeathrowI’ve been looking at the reports that show our busiest locations in Europe and thought we should run a series of posts on the ones you use most – where to find our offices there, and any other tips we can give you. In New Zealand I travelled through several airports, and noticed they all have different layouts, which means finding your way around can be difficult. So I’m starting with Heathrow, one of our most popular offices.

Picking up from Heathrow
Heathrow Airport
has four terminals, with Terminal 5 opening in 2008, and we have rental desks in each one. The main car hire centre, where you go to collect your vehicle, is based on the edge of the airport, a short courtesy bus ride away.

Your booking details are held on our central computer, so if you’ve made a reservation we’ll have everything to hand whichever terminal you come to. The staff at the terminal rental desks will process your paperwork and tell you the exact location of your car at the main car hire centre. For more about what to bring, see my post on ‘The perfect car pick-up’.

Avis at Heathrow gets very busy, as you’d expect, so if there’s a queue you can opt to go straight to the buses and our staff at the car hire centre will process your paperwork there.

The courtesy buses take between five and 10 minutes. They leave from outside the terminals and there are signs to show you where to catch them, but if in doubt, the staff at the Avis desk can point you in the right direction. We can also help wheelchair users.

Returning your car to Heathrow
All cars come back to the main car hire centre, which is well signposted – click here for map and directions. Our Rapid Return agents check over the car and give you a receipt, after which we guarantee there’ll be no further charges. The courtesy buses will then take you to the terminal you need for your flight.

For more tips on returning your car, see Eibhlin’s post on the subject.

If you have any insights of your own on renting at Heathrow or finding your way around, please share them with other travellers by posting a comment. And if there are any locations you’d like us to cover in future, tell us about them here too.

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PaddingtonI knew that rail prices had gone up, but I didn’t realise the difference compared with renting a car until I looked into buying train tickets to Cardiff the other day. I’m going to see Doncaster Rovers play Bristol Rovers in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at the Millennium Stadium on 1 April with my girlfriend, my brother and his girlfriend. (I was born in Doncaster, so that’s the reason!)

We thought we’d look at train prices on the Internet as an alternative to driving, so we could avoid the hassle of parking and so people could have a drink.

The cheapest rail ticket from Paddington to Cardiff that suited us was £94.20 each. Out of interest, I thought I’d look at how that compared with hiring a medium-sized car, such as a Ford Focus, for a day from Avis.

If you look at the sums for all four of us there’s a huge difference:

4 return train tickets from London Paddington to Cardiff = £376.80 + travel from home to the station + travel from Cardiff station to the Millennium Stadium (both ways)

1 medium-sized car for four passengers on avis.co.uk = £49.40 + petrol + travel to Avis office and back + parking (and minus beers for the drivers!)

I know you can get cheap deals if you book early on the trains, and at particular times, but that’s not always convenient. With a car there’s the issue of parking, but with the train you still have to get between the station and your destination – and back again – which is likely to be a lot further than the car park.

We’ve decided to take my car, and my girlfriend and I will share the driving. But what if you don’t have a car, or it’s too small to take everyone? For families and groups I do think that renting for a day or two for a trip like mine can make financial sense. Avis often has special offers, and you can sign up to our e-newsletter to have details sent direct.

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DaffodilsWith Easter just over a month away, I know a lot of you will probably be thinking about hiring a car either for the first time, or for the once every couple of years that you need one. Like returning a vehicle, picking up your hire car is one of those ‘easy when you know how’ things that can be frustrating if you don’t know what you need!

These are my tips on what you can do in advance and what to bring.

1. Look at insurance and
fuel options in advance

All our cars are ready to drive away for the price quoted to you, and in most cases this includes Vehicle Damage Cover and Theft Damage Cover as well as Third Party (your quote will tell you what is included). But when you collect you may want to take out additional cover to reduce your excess if you do have a problem or to add personal insurance. We also have different options for how to pay for your fuel, as you don’t necessarily need to bring the car back full. To give yourself more time to decide what’s best for you, take a look at the information online before you come to pick up your hire car.

2. Bring both parts of your driver’s licence
We need the photocard to check your identity, and the paper counterpart to check for endorsements. If you turn up with only the photocard we can find out from the DVLA about endorsements, but we do charge a small admin fee for this.

3. Make sure you have a valid credit or Visa debit card
We are not able to accept debit cards such as Switch or Maestro. This is because the rules that apply to (most) debit cards make it more difficult to process the payments in a way that makes sense for car hire. In a nutshell, restricting payment to credit and Visa debit cards makes the transactions simpler.

4. Bring your reservation number
It’s always useful to take a copy of your reservation number, although our staff should be able to find the details of advance bookings in the computer anyway. If you book online a confirmation email will be sent, or if you book by phone the agent will provide you with this number.

Lastly, please allow enough time for collection, because however much we streamline our service there are still important checks and paperwork to go through with you. If you need to make things quicker, you could try signing up for Avis Preferred.

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VW TouranI was reading David James’s column in The Observer at the weekend. It’s mainly about issues in football (as you’d expect, with him being Portsmouth’s goalkeeper) but at the bottom he talked about how he’s getting his car converted to run on rapeseed oil, which is a carbon-neutral fuel.

It goes to show that all kinds of people are becoming interested in reducing their vehicle’s ‘carbon footprint’ (or ‘carbon tyreprint’?!) and making their driving greener. Our offices in Germany, Sweden and Portugal are really leading the way here – take a look at these articles on AutoblogGreen and Easier.com.

In Germany, they’ve just added VW Tourans powered by natural gas to the fleet (see picture above) and Portugal has Honda Civic petrol-electric hybrids. At Avis Sweden they now run nearly 500 eco vehicles – mainly ethanol-fueled Saab 9-5 BioPower models, but also some Ford Focus Flexi-Fuel Vehicles and the Toyota Prius. There are reviews of most of these in the Green Car Guide Top 10.

You can opt to make your Avis car rental CarbonNeutral® through our partnership with The CarbonNeutral Company. When you book online, simply click on the link at the end of your booking to add £1 (€1.50) towards the cost of planting enough trees to offset the CO2 from your rental.

We’re interested to know how many of you out there would like more environmentally friendly cars available for hire – so do post your comments.

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Avis in MéribelSome of my colleagues here at Avis UK have been on a skiing trip to Méribel. From what I’ve been hearing – and what you can see in the photo – they really enjoyed themselves!

I thought it would make a good opportunity to point out that when you rent an Avis car in a country with ski resorts, all the relevant equipment (ski racks, snow chains, snow tyres) is available either inclusive or for hire when you place your booking. Each country has a slightly different process and price, so it’s best to check the cost and details.

Until 31 March 2007, snow chains and snow tyres are included in the rental price in Switzerland. France offers hire of a Snow Equipped Vehicle Package, with ski racks for four pairs of skis, four snow tyres and snow chains in the boot of the car.

If you still need to book your ski car hire we have some great promotions in France, USA and Canada. And if you fancy Méribel, Guy Bailey, who’s on our graduate scheme (he’s the second from the left), came back with a whole list of reasons why it’s a fantastic place to ski – as well as enjoy the buzzing nightlife!

Here are just a few:

1. Easy access: You can reach Méribel from several airports (Geneva, Chambéry and Lyon, all of which have Avis offices), and via the Snow Train that pulls into Moutiers at the bottom of the valley.

2. Location: It’s at the heart of the Three Valleys ski area (the biggest in the world), and you can get to Val Thorens, which goes right up to 3,200m at the peak.

3. Great away days (particularly if you’ve got your Avis car!): Including to the Espace Killy, with Val d’Isère and Tignes resorts, and La Plagne, with its Olympic bobsleigh track.

Wherever you choose, to help keep safe during your trip check out Rob’s post on driving in snow.

And I know it seems a long way off, but if you’re looking ahead to summer holiday rental then now’s the time to find our best prices!

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Please note:

The details of all blog posts are correct at the time of publication. Information and offers are subject to change without prior notice. Please check www.avis.co.uk for the most up-to-date information.

All comments will be moderated so there may be a delay in your comment going live. We will filter out anything that is confidential, inappropriate, abusive, defamatory, profane, or anything considered as spam or an advertising link. We promise not to cut something just because it's not favourable to Avis.

We ask that if your feedback is regarding a past rental, you include your reservation details (which will be removed from the live post). If your comment is a customer service issue, you can email customer.service@avis.co.uk .
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Why we love to blog

At Avis, we really do try harder. We pioneered blogging in the car rental world and we aim to make our blog much more than just an information source. You can use our blog to ask questions or tell us what’s important to you when you hire a car. We try harder because we care what you think, so we really do value your feedback.

New to car rentals? Our blog gives you tips and advice on getting the most out of your Avis car hire experience. You can find information about booking and hiring your car, safety tips, and eco driving. We also provide driving advice and the latest news about our fleet.

We understand that hiring a car is just one part of your trip, so our blog covers other aspects of holiday and business travel too. Whether you want to know more about business travel hire conditions, access to location and city guides or ideas for families travelling with children, it’s all here.

But that’s just a taster – find out more about the Avis blog.