One of my favourite travel blogs, Travel Rants, has this great section called “Introduce Yourself”. Scrolling through the comments I can see that there have been a fair few people who have done just this.

Remarkably this managed to get the wheels turning in my brain (they were a bit rusty) and it got me thinking about trying something similiar on this blog. It would be a great way to get to know our customers a little better and perhaps learn a thing or too about them. So I would love for you to post a comment introducing yourself and, if you like, tell us something about who you are. To add a bit more fun into the mix I would also encourage you to read the following descriptions and tell us which character best describes you (it is all in the name of research!)…

Are you a Lauren Cooper (from the Catherine Tate Show)?
You are a Lauren Cooper if to you a car is just a car. Renting a car is just a means to an end. It makes no difference what you get as long as it gets you from A to B.

So when the Avis rental agent excitedly informs you that they are handing you the keys to a nice new Fiat Bravo, your response is “Am I bovvered?”

Are you a Forrest Gump?
You are a Forrest Gump if you get excited when you pick up your hire car because you know it could be a Renault Megane, Ford Focus, Peugeot 307 or a Fiat Bravo but you do not know which. You don’t care which one because either way you get to try something different to what is currently sitting on your driveway (although you are secretly hoping it is the Fiat Bravo).

For you, “car rental is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get” (of course I am applying this analogy to finding out what specific make/model you get within a pre-selected car category!).

Are you an Andy Pipken (Little Britain)?
You are an Andy Pipken if it is really important that you get specifically what you want, that the make/model is exactly the one you booked in advance. You want to guarantee that the car you drive is a brand, style and performance of a car that you are comfortable with. For you our Select Series is the only way to go!

So when you pick out the Audi A4 on the Select Series you declare “I want that one!”.

Sorry if the characters aren’t a bit more flattering (but hey it’s just a bit of fun!). I am looking forward to hearing from you!

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It seems to be a running joke in the office about where I’ll be this week (It’s Tuesday so it must be France!!) as I’ve been off on my travels again and have just returned from a couple of days in Ireland. As I have done with my other trips, I thought I’d give you some tips and information about visiting Ireland and renting from the Avis locations in Dublin.

Dublin has always been a popular tourist destination and its status shows no sign of abating. Areas such as the Temple Bar and St Stephen’s Green contain many bars, pubs and clubs (a haven for stag and hen parties). However, there are also many sites of cultural importance and attractions like the Guinness Brewery and O’Connell Street are always popular. In fact, Dublin has always had a great reputation, which allowed it to become the European Capital of Culture in 1991 and host the Special Olympics in 2003.

However, there’s more to Ireland than Dublin. Travel for a couple of hours and you can go horse racing at the Curragh or for a walk along the beach at Wicklow. My personal recommendation, however, is to visit Kilkenny, which is a great town, set in beautiful countryside. The castle is well worth a visit, as is the brewery, where they make Smithwicks and Kilkenny beer.

Avis have two locations in Dublin, one in the city centre and one based at Dublin Airport . The airport office is based in the arrivals hall and the cars are located a short walk away in the car park. However, if you’re flying in and you want to collect your car from the city centre, onward travel is easy as a regular bus service runs from the airport to Heuston station , a short walk away from the rental office.

I haven’t got any travels planned at the moment so will have to find some new things to write about!! However, let me know where you’re travelling to and I’ll try to provide some information to make things easier for you.

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Sitting down to tuck into my stodgy sandwich I thought I’d give the Times website a quick scan to see what’s going on in the world of travel. What struck me was the number of articles about lost luggage. Fuelled by curiosity I decided to read more. It turns out that insurance claims for lost luggage has risen by 40%, according to Norwich Union. Clearly this is an area for concern.

But all is not lost! The Times also offers some helpful tips to help prevent baggage loss. I have listed these tips below…

  • “Use durable luggage labels showing your name, flight number, destination address and telephone number.”
  • “Mark the inside of your bag with your name and mobile-phone number: if your labels are torn off, handlers will open the bag to find identifiers.”
  • “Luggage checked in late may not even make it onto the flight and will follow on later, increasing the chances of it going astray.”
  • “Customise your bag using ribbons or a coloured luggage strap to prevent anyone else from accidentally taking it from the carousel.” – Personally I stick blue tape on my luggage handles to identify it as mine.
  • “If your bag goes missing, fill in the forms before leaving the airport and do not leave without the telephone number of the handling desk, a claim number and the name of a supervisor.”
  • “List the items packed before leaving home and take a copy with you (but not in your checked luggage). It makes the compensation process much easier.” In addition to this, someone added a comment to this article suggesting taking a photo of what is in the suitcase before.

It is also worth checking out the Trading Standards Institute website which provides information about consumer rights in relation to lost, delayed or damaged luggage.

Of course, lost luggage may soon be a thing of the past (according to the same Times article – hey I don’t get enough time to read anything else!). The Find-It system uses GPS to triangulate the location of your suitcase and send this information back to your PDA. This could become affordable enough for the general market in just 5 years time!

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It is my pleasure to share with you the second edition of my monthly contribution to the Avis blog. In my last contribution I highlighted how the main task of the fleet team is to match the requirements of customers in terms of size, quality and cost of cars with the opportunities presented by the manufacturers in terms of supply of the right cars. We are committed to supplying the safest, most reliable and most efficient cars available, but need to recognise that the exact mix (model and derivative) of the cars we supply is dependent on the cars that manufacturers wish to make available to rental.

I reiterate this point, because I recently had the pleasure of driving the new Ford Mondeo. The last version of the Mondeo was a very good car and set new standards when it was introduced. It went on to become a key part of the fleet for the rental industry right up to today. The latest version of the Mondeo has moved Ford on again. Based on my experience (and all the other rave reviews it has been getting) the new Mondeo is again setting new standards. We would love to make it available on our rental fleet. Ford though has very publicly chosen not to make it available for the rental industry at the moment. We hope that this will change in 2008.

However, we do have a range of great new vehicles which have either come on fleet over the last few months or we can expect to see in the next few months. In May and June, we welcomed the Peugeot 207 Coupe Cabriolet onto our Select Series. Clearly the car is especially nice if the sun ever does come out and the roof comes down. But even in the rain it is a great little car to drive as a small coupe. As a Select Series car the booking for a specific model can also be guaranteed. In July, Citroen’s award winning C4 Grand Picasso came on fleet. With two small children, I really like the medium-sized MPVs with the extra row of seats for children in the back. They are very useful for trips out with the grandparents and the C4 Grand Picasso is probably the best of the breed. We are also just introducing the new Fiat Bravo (another big step forward for Fiat – now being followed by the iconic new Fiat 500) in August and the SEAT Leon in September.

On the green front, we were able to introduce the hybrid Toyota Prius on fleet during the summer. For the moment we are focusing these cars on Central London on our Prestige Fleet. These cars remain quite expensive for the manufacturers to make and we are seeing a limited number of customers who are prepared to pay the extra cost for them. However, we are making great strides in improving the overall efficiency of our fleet as we bring on new vehicles as shown by the 4% fall in our average fleet emissions to 157g/km per car between 2005 and 2007.

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Some areas of the travel industry have gotten a bad name in the media predominantly due to the contentious issue of hidden costs (only last Sunday did the BBC Breakfast programme run a segment on this). I appreciate that the prospect of hidden charges can create anxiety for our customers. To put your mind at ease I thought I’d write a post to answer some of the most common concerns and talk about some of the processes we have in place so you can be confident that you won’t receive any nasty surprises.

1. Car hire companies often quote prices without all the mandatory charges in order to seem competitive

When you make a booking with us on, the price you book will include EVERYTHING you need to get in the car and go. This includes vehicle damage cover and vehicle theft cover which, when thinking about in terms of private car insurance, is kind of like fully comprehensive insurance with an excess. There are no additional ‘surcharges’ or ‘taxes’ that need to added. One thing your quote might not include is some of our optional extras. You can pre-book satellite navigation and child seats on our website but unfortunately you cannot yet book additional driver or Premier Cover (the product that allows you to reduce the excess) and these can only be purchased at the rental counter when picking up your car. It is worth bearing in mind that these will need to be added to your final price if you intend to take them. We are of course working towards making all optional extras available to book in advance.

2. I will be pressurised into taking out all the ‘extras’ with a hard sell at the rental counter

Firstly, arm yourself with the knowledge that there is NOTHING that you NEED to take out when you pick up your car so don’t ever feel pressured. Secondly, our staff at the rental desk simply aren’t trained to do this. Instead they are trained to understand from you how you intend to use your rental car and offer the appropriate products for your rental needs. They will not hard sell or railroad you into taking any of our products.

3. I will check my bank statement and expect to find that I’ve paid a lot more than I was quoted

We have a couple of things in place that will not only protect you, they will act as a clear reassurance to yourself that this won’t happen. Firstly, when you get to the rental desk to pick up your car you will receive your rental agreement. Unless you have taken any of our additional extras or upgraded to a larger car the price on the rental agreement will match the price quoted when you booked. Any extras you do decide to take will be itemised out separately. As long as you return the car with a full tank of fuel and without damage the price on the rental agreement will represent the price on the final bill.

When you return the car you will usually be met by one of our Rapid Return agents. They will inspect the car for damage and they will check the fuel gauge. Providing everything is ok they will give you the final receipt. The price quoted on this bill is the absolute final price you will pay. Many customers fear that they will be stung for extra charges retrospectively. This receipt is a guarantee that this will not happen.

I hope this dispels some of the concerns you may have. Obviously if you have any other scenarios you would like us to answer then please feel free to ask!

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The Travel supplement of The Sunday Times had some great stuff in it last weekend. One article that I picked out as particularly relevant for our blog was Mark Hodson’s “10 top travel websites to make life simple again”.

Of his top 10, the website that really caught my eye was An acronym for “Where are you now?”, is a social networking site for travellers, connecting 8 million members around the world. Admittedly I am new to this website but a quick look at it tells me that it has much greater potential than to simply “flirt with other travellers” or to keep your friends up to date on your whereabouts. To me it is a potential goldmine for inside tips, opinions and information supplied by “real” people who have either recently visited the location or even reside there. The messaging service and the facility to log your trip makes this information sharing simple and accessible. No more need for that Lonely Planet!

I guess the only problem with this site is that it may be soon superseded by Facebook, whom I’m surprised did not get a mention. While I have never quite understood the appeal of being bitten by zombies or having to rate the attractiveness of my friends, Sidestep’s Trip application, like, is a great way to plan your trip by identifying other travellers who have been to your chosen destination to share local tips and information. I’m sure we can expect other travel related applications on Facebook soon. Oh the beauty of social networking!

Other sites worth mentioning are for general travel reviews and articles (yes they are blowing their own trumpet but I am a fan), Tripadvisor (we’ve never hidden our approval of this hotel and destination review site) and the World Weather Information Service website. It may not be the prettiest site around but I’ve found it to be a great resource for unbiased weather information to help you plan your holiday.

One site I would disagree with, and this is my personal opinion, is Multimap. While I am yet to really give the revamped version a chance I prefer the enhanced functionality of Google Maps for general maps and local information while I have found directions on the AA website much more reliable. I’ve got lost many times following Multimap’s fallible directions!

Of course one website Mark did fail to mention was this blog. We’ll forgive him for this minor oversight!

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We’ve been getting comments on the blog recently about renting across country borders: do we allow it, how much does it cost, can I rent one way? Well in the UK we do allow our rental cars to be taken over to continental Europe. However, if you are planning to take the car there you will be required to take out our Continental Cover. This costs from £88.12 on top of the rental price although it does increase with the length of rental. Unfortunately, you cannot book this type of cover online so, if you are planning to take the car abroad you will need to notify the rental office at least 48 hours in advance so they can prepare the paperwork for you. The telephone number for the rental office will be on your email confirmation.

One thing I would discourage is picking up the car in the UK and leaving it abroad. Each individual country ‘owns’ their own fleet and for accounting reasons our cars need to be back in the country they are picked up in. One way rentals from the UK to Europe mean that not only do we have to pay for them to be transported back but there is also extra admin involved and it can result in a lot of lost revenue. This makes them very expensive for us and for this reason we have very expensive charges in place for these kind of rentals!

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Barry BondsI know that Stephen is our usual location expert (the man is well travelled) but I have just spent the last week in San Francisco visiting some of my family so I thought I’d give the low-down on the Bay Area.

The obvious place to visit is the Golden Gate Bridge. The huge, red suspension bridge is a San Franciscan icon that spans the opening into the San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean. Pedestrians are allowed to cross the bridge on the East side which is open between 5am and 9pm (definitely recommended). Look carefully into the bay below and you may spot a few rogue seal lions popping their head out of the water. Also close by is the beautiful Golden Gate Park.

If you want to get up close to this cute marine mammal then check out Pier 39 on Fisherman’s Wharf, where the K Dock can only be described as a giant sun-lounger for layabout sea lions. Pier 39 is a marketplace full of speciality shops and restaurants and it provides a great viewpoint for the various landmarks doted around the San Francisco Bay. Also worth visiting is the inescapable (or is it?) Alcatraz prison island, Angel Island – the “jewel of the San Francisco Bay”, and of course no trip to San Francisco would be complete without a ride on one of the cable cars (another San Franciscan icon).

If shopping is your thing (and with such a good exchange rate why wouldn’t it be) then Union Square is the place to be and it is home to a ridiculously big Macy’s. The area also doubles as a good place for bars at night. If you’re into your sport then the AT&T Park, widely regarded as the nations most impressive baseball stadium, is home to the San Francisco Giants, while the nearby Candlestick Park is home to the San Francisco 49ers American Football team. I was lucky enough to watch a Giants game on my last visit where I witnessed Giants star Barry Bonds (see picture above) attempt to equal the all-time home run record (he has just broken it today)!

And here are some personal recommendations from my step mum on places to eat: Aqua on California Street, Firefly on 24th Street and Myth on Pacific Avenue. Watch your wallet though, knowing my step mum they are probably expensive!

If you want to explore outside of the city then head south for the Great America theme park. With the chance to meet your favourite Nickelodeon characters such as Spongebob Squarepants and Dora the Explorer, it is a great place to take the kids. Alternatively, Santa Cruz is a nice beach town with the famous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (also good for the kids) or you can travel North to wine country and indulge in some premium wine tasting at Napa Valley.

San Francisco International Airport itself has a fantastic new International terminal. Our rental office is located in the central Rental Car Centre, accessible by the Air Tran Blue Line (we also have four more locations in the city). Departures from the airport will seem like bliss compared to Heathrow airport but beware, you are currently only permitted to take on board 3 ounce or less liquid containers so, if you don’t want to lose your expensive aftershave, pack it in the luggage you check-in, not with your carry-on. I learnt that the hard way!

I have listed what I believe are the priority attractions for anyone visiting San Francisco but I would love to hear from anyone with recommendations of their own!

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I’ve just returned from the South of France where the temperatures in the mid to high 30’s, and looking out of my window, it looks like I’ve brought some of the weather back with me!! While I was there, I collected a car at the Avis office at Marseille Provence Airport, so I thought I would give you some information to help you if you’re visiting the area. 

The French Riviera and Provence have always been popular with British tourists and with more airlines announcing routes, it’s even more affordable to visit. Marseille is the third largest city in France and has six Avis locations, including the one at Marseille Provence Airport, where several airlines from the UK fly. The rental office is just outside the main terminal building and is open weekdays from 6h30 to 23h30 and weekends from 7h00 to 23h30. If you’re a member of Avis Preferred, the staff have a promise that they will serve you within three minutes. If they are unable to fulfil that promise, they will give you some vouchers for money off your next Avis car hire!!  

My colleague Sophie Grimoin who gave me some great recommendations in Nice has also sent me some information about Marseille. She says not to miss the Prado beach, the Mazargue and Plaine districts, the cathedral Notre Dame de la Garde, the Vielle Major chuch and the St Jean fortress. I would also recommend visiting Aix en Provence. It’s only half an hour away and definitely worth a visit to wander around the old town. 

I’m not sure where I’m off to next, but let me know if you want any information about Avis locations you’re planning to visit.

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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.