Last week we had a comment posted by John Foster whose plight was that, as a Canadian resident, he was not permitted to drive a US rented vehicle into Canada. US residents driving a US rental vehicle into Canada? Fine. Canadian residents driving a US rental vehicle into Canada? That’s not fine! Barmy, but then hey who am I to comment on Canadian law?!

This got me thinking about what other strange or unusual laws exist that might affect our customers renting and driving a car around world. Having conducted some quick research I found out that it is illegal for a driver to be blindfolded while driving a vehicle in Alabama, USA (I must remember to take off my blindfold the next time I’m driving there). In a state nearby, it is illegal in Arkansas for a person to honk the horn on a vehicle at any place where cold drinks or sandwiches are served after 9pm.

So to help our customers avoid any inadvertent misdemeanours when driving a car in a foreign country, I thought we could use this blog post as a central resource for collecting information on any strange or unusual or simply less obvious driving laws in various countries. They don’t all have to be funny, some may be quite genuine. For example, in the US you are allowed to turn right at a junction even if the there is a red light (of course it applies only if the road is clear and you need to come to a stop first). In the UK however, a red light means that you simply cannot go and there is no grey area around this.

So if you know of any such laws then please post it as a comment here. I look forward to reading any responses we may get! And if you fancy a bit of a laugh then check out the Times website which has a listed the top 25 most ridiculous laws in the world. Some of them are hilarious!

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Avis ConnectSo what do you think about this? In the US we offer a product called Avis Connect, a Wi-Fi unit that you can rent from selected locations for $10.95 a day. Now I am not trying to encourage mindless drivers to surf the net while driving at high speeds on one of America’s many, many freeways. That would be, well, not clever. And it is not the point. What it does do is give you the flexibility to pull over and check your emails at your convenience. Plus it has the added bonus of being portable so you can take the unit into your hotel room and browse the internet to your heart’s content.

It is not something we currently offer in the UK so I would be really interested in your feedback on this product. Is this something that would interest you or is it not worth our time taking a look at? If no-one posts a comment then I’ll take that as a no!

On the subject of Wi-Fi you may be interested to know that our location at Heathrow has a Wi-Fi hotspot. So if you happen to be renting from there sometime soon then please feel free to grab a chair and surf away!

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By now, everyone must have seen the fanfare and numerous news items about the opening of the new St Pancras Eurostar station and Ebbsfleet International in Kent. St Pancras station, built over 100 years ago, has been refurbished to the tune of £800M and the new High Speed 1 line has cut the time to Paris to only 2hr 15min. The trains reach an amazing 186mph which means you can leave London in the morning and be on the Champs Elysees for lunch.

Ebbsfleet International, which opened yesterday, is located just off Junction 2 of the M25 in Kent. It’s a modern, beautifully designed station which will soon become the fastest way to Europe. As well as servicing the Eurostar trains, high-speed domestic services will begin in 2009, taking travellers to St Pancras in 17 minutes, at speeds of up to 140mph.

And if you need a car, we’re pleased to say that we can be found in or near both locations. Avis has the exclusive contract to supply car hire at Ebbsfleet International and our office can be found on the station concourse. However, if London is your destination and you’re arriving at St Pancras, you can either take a short walk or if you prefer to take a taxi because you are laden with bags, children or are just too plain tired, our staff will refund the full cost of your taxi journey from St Pancras to our Euston rental station.

Personally, I’m looking forward to trying out the new Eurostar service to France. This means I can take back my crown from Rob as the blog team travel guru!!

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I seem to have some budding writers in my team as, in addition to myself and Rob writing on the blog, I now have Simon Wickson who has written a couple of articles to inform and advise customers with business car hire requirements. The first article he wrote entitled “Green Policy – Could your company generate more sales by having a green policy?” is an interesting one. As the title suggests, Simon’s argument for green policy is not so much focused on the “good deeds” you could be doing for the environment, but on the impact this investment could have on your bottom line.

A comprehensive green policy will undoubtedly grow sales with increasing political, social and economic on buyers to purchase green products. But the interesting thing that Simon points out is that customers are buying green because they are switching on to the fact that it is not neccessarily more expensive (as you might expect), but cheaper. In the case of Avis, by driving cars that are well maintained, less than 8 months old and increasingly diesel, you are not only driving cars that are better for the environment but, due to increased fuel economy, you are saving yourself money on your fuel bill. Car manufacturers are continuously improving the efficiency of their cars so expect the CO2 output and fuel economy to continue to improve in hire cars.

Of course, as Simon writes at the end of his article, we should not forget that investing in a green policy is responsibility we all have in helping to create a more sustainable future. You can read his article and more on the Avis Business Solution section of our website.

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SouthamptonAfter a short break, I thought it was time to give you the next in the series from my Region – I spent today in Southampton with our Manager Andy Pearcy who looks after Southampton Airport and Downtown (well really, it’s at the Port) – he’s ably assisted by designate manager Gill Smith and the teams of Naz, Rich, Claire, Michelle, Andy M, Justin and Marcin…

Hi, I’m Andy, and not wanting to be outdone by Portsmouth and Bournemouth, I thought I’d tell you a bit about Southampton where we have two locations. Gill Smith and I run both locations and we are known affectionately by our teams as Ross and Monica Gellar, after the FRIENDS brother and sister combo. Why anyone would think that we’re competitive and have OCD I have no idea :o)

Southampton has something for everyone, contrasting the medieval Bargate and the historical Roman seaport with the colourful, modern style of the city itself. Oxford Street is a good place for restaurants, particularly as it is right next to the marina while Leisure World, on West Quay Road, is your safest bet for a night out with an assortment of restaurants, bars, a casino, a bowling alley and several night clubs. If shopping is your thing then I’d suggest heading to West Quay Shopping Centre although you might be interested in the German Christmas market that is currently pitched up for a limited period at Above Bar Precinct. For more information The Southampton City Council provides great tips for days out in the city.

Our inner-city location is right by the Port and we often have passengers from the ships stopping by to rent cars while they’re in port. You can also get the ferry to the Isle of Wight right next-door. Alternatively, Southampton is only a short drive away from the New Forest – the destination for unspoilt views of the countryside and wildlife.

At the airport, we have lots of regular customers, many of whom fly in on Flybe our partner, and we’ve just had a very busy time at both locations due to the Southampton Boat show. The airport has some ambitious expansion plans and it’s a very exciting place to be.

Not being a footie fan, I wasn’t going to talk about Southampton FC, but I’ll probably be lynched by the Saints crowd if I don’t mention their existence and their dedicated fans. And we won’t enter the tea and coffee debate; too easy a win for us. Our favourite customers buy us coffees from the nice coffee shop at Southampton Airport and I love my lattes!

Andy Pearcy – Station Manager, Southampton Airport and Downtown

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I’m not usually a Mail on Sunday reader but I came across this interesting article while browsing the paper at my mums house yesterday. According to the newspaper, 32 inch 3-D interactive maps are being installed in the car parks at the new, highly publicized Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport. They have been designed to help you identify where you have parked your car simply by scanning your parking ticket into the kiosk. That’s great if you’ve just come back from a week in the Carribbean to “forget it all” only to forget where you parked the darn car as well!

But perhaps even smarter is that when you receive your ticket at the entry barrier to the car park, a central computer will identify the nearest parking space and automatically assign this to you. It will then illuminate arrows to guide you there. If you’ve tried to park in any of the car parks I’ve been to then you’ll appreciate what a dream this could be. Kudos to Siemens for developing the system. Now if only all car parks did the same….

PS – while we are on the topic (and I wasn’t leading to this I promise), you might want to consider saving yourself the hassle of finding a parking space altogether by trying our Holiday Transfer product. You can rent a car both legs – to the airport from your local town/city and vice versa – at a great price, if you book both legs at the same time. You can find out more by calling our Reservation Centre on 08455 81 81 81 (this product is not yet available to book on our website).

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We always get questions from our customers asking about renting a vehicle for more than a month. If you have tried making a reservation on www.avis.co.uk for this length of time, you will probably have noticed that it will only let you book for a maximum of 28 days. However, this does not mean we do not offer rentals for longer than 28 days. In fact, you can rent with us for as long as you want, whether it’s 1 day or 100 days!

If you require a car for longer than 28 days, simply book the car for 28 days on our website and notify the rental agent when you pick up the car on how long you require it for. When the first 28 days are close to completion, the rental location will call you to check that you wish to extend the rental. If the answer is yes, the rental will be extended until the required time. Alternatively, you can call our reservations centre on 08445 81 81 81 and one of our agents will be able to help you book the car for the length you need it for.

If you’re a business customer, it might be worth taking a look at Avis Business Solutions. This could get you an even better price on your longer-term rental as well as giving you the option of a delivery and collection service.

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For avid blog readers, you might remember the post we did about Portugal back in May, where we mentioned Baby on Board a great baby seat fitting service that works in partnership with Avis in Portugal. Well we are trying it here in the UK now.

We have just started a 3 month trial at our Heathrow location, where specialist staff will provide the Chicco baby seats, show parents how to fit them, clean and service them in between rentals and generally answer any questions you might have about baby seats. You simply pay the Avis staff as usual, who will give you a voucher to present to the staff in the car park. In the first instance, this service will only be available for rentals leaving and returning to heathrow, but if the trial proves to be successful then we will look at a further rollout.

So, please let me know what you think about it, or even better try it out and tell me how you found it.

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The Partheneon in the Acropolis, AthensI seem to be challenging Stephen’s title as the blog team’s international traveller at the moment having spent the start of my week spent in Athens. But unlike last week’s trip to Berlin, I flew in early Sunday so I actually got to see some of this great city!

However, my time was still limited so it needed to be used wisely. My first port of call was of course the Acropolis (pictured left, courtesy of Lisa). The structures of the Acropolis, including the iconic Partheneon, were built in the 5th century BC and is a glorious tribute to the achievements of Ancient Athens. I spent a good hour wandering the site in marvel. But as breathtaking as the site itself are the views, were you can take in the seemingly endless reach of the city, as well as the theatre of Herod Atticus (which sits on the hill of the Acropolis) and the nearby Temple of Olympian Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch.

At the foot of the Acropolis is Plaka, a charming and vibrant area full of cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops. By accident we managed to wander to the nearby Panathenaic Stadium which played host to the Panathenaic games for the Goddess Athena and, a little more recently, was refurbished for the revivial of the Olympic games in the late 19th Century.

Walk a little further north and you’ll hit Syntagma Square (where the Greek constitution was voted). Local to this area is the Greek Parliament, the Old Presidential Residence and the National Gardens. I am told by Vassiliki, my Greek colleague and host for our stay, that the nearby Ermou Street and Kolonaki Square are the hot spots for shopping – the former being the location of your “high street” retail and the latter hosting your more pricey shops and boutiques.

I must pay tribute to Vassiliki who, for the time we were in Athens, arranged two absolutely fantastic nights out. The first night was spent at a restaurant called Monastiri, located at 5, Ventiri street. Having people get up on the tables and dance to Greek music when you have barely polished off your food was a new experience for me and, unsurprisingly, the conservative English amongst us were the last to take the plunge into this frivolous form of entertainment. But after being practically man-handled into dancing it was really great fun.

The second, and equally entertaining, night was spent at a restaurant called Methistanes, located at Lepeniotou 26 & Ogigou, Psirri. Seduced by the live Greek music, the Avis crowd enthusiastically took hold of the mic and nearly reduced the restaurant to a karaoke bar (although a very classy one at that). The band were good sports and indulged us with our very “un-Greek” song requests.

While the Acropolis is a tribute to the Greece of old, the recently built Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport is a tribute to modern Greece. Whether you’re departing from or arriving at the airport it is a straight forward and stress-free experience – a luxury for many UK travellers! Of course Avis is there to help service your car rental needs and the desk is located between Exits 3 and 4 of the Arrivals hall.

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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.

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