At Avis, we have a wide range of customers. We rent to companies, individuals, holidaymakers, business travellers and many others in between. And occasionally, we deal with people you may have heard of.

In my time with Avis, I’ve dealt with Lords, Ladies, Members of Parliament, actors, TV stars, comedians, musicians and even a sportsman or two. In fact, a few years ago, Avis provided cars to several Formula One teams. Every season, you could follow the races around the world by where these guys were renting. However, despite the fact that these guys liked to drive fast round the track, they always took impeccable care of their Avis cars and returned them in pristine condition.

But, we love it when our staff tell us of their latest “star spot”. One that’s been brought to our attention is from the staff at our Manchester Piccadilly location. A recent multi award winning Film Director dropped in the other day to pick up a car, only days before he jetted off to the Oscars. He brought in some of his awards to show the staff and we only hope he pops in again to show us his latest one.

It seems that award winning Film Directors love award winning Car Rental companies!

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Recently, the Irish Government introduced a new barrier free tolling system on the M50 motorway which circles Dublin. The new system relies on camera recognition to identify drivers who should be charged. It’s very easy not to be aware of this charge so if you’re taking an Avis car to the Republic of Ireland from the North or the UK, remember to pay.

As a frequent traveller and someone who drives a fair bit in foreign countries, I always check local traffic laws before I travel. Some other notable differences I’ve experienced are:

French Toll Roads

All autoroutes in France are privately owned and most charge you for the priviledge of travelling on them. Costs vary by distance and location so make sure you check before you travel. Luckily, you can pay by cash or credit card. There are several sites, including autoroutes.fr which give you a travel planner that not only provides directions, but also gives toll costs for your journey.

London Congestion Charge

I live in London so am well aware of the boundaries and costs for this charge. However, many visitors do not know about or understand the Congestion Charge and end up getting penalised. If you are renting a car from an Avis location in the zone, the first day’s charge is automatically added onto the rental, so you don’t have to worry about it. However, all other day’s charges are the responsibility of the renter.

To help you further, Avis also have information at all London locations, the major airports around London and on our website. But, if you are visiting London and aim to drive, please check out the information on the Congestion Charge website before you travel.

German Autobahns

We’ve all heard of the mythical roads where speed limits don’t exist and where drivers can test their cars to the limit. However, only two-thirds of the Autobahn network has no speed permanent limit, although there is always an advisory limit of 130 km/h (81 mph). Many sections do have permanent or dynamic speed limits ranging from 80 to 130 km/h (50-80 mph), some sections feature night time and wet-weather speed restrictions and trucks are always regulated.

Which unusual traffic laws have you experienced while driving in another country? Why leave a comment and let us and other readers know?

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According to an article in the Daily Telegraph, “Staycation” is one of the words set for possible inclusion in the dictionary in 2009. Around since 2003 but only widely used from last year, a staycation is defined as “a holiday spent at home, especially due to straitened financial circumstances.” Designed to save money, your holiday is spent visiting nearby attractions and enjoying what your local area has to offer, without any travel or accomodation costs.

Personally, I’ve ‘downsized’ my holiday this year from the United States to Europe to save money and I’ve heard lots of stories of people doing similar things.

So, where are you going on holiday this year? Has the state of the economy affected your destination? Are you taking a ‘staycation’ or ‘downsizing’ your holiday? Let us know by voting in our poll.

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Welsh Millennium CentreWith St David’s Day coming up on the 1st March, I thought I would provide you with information on some of the great places to visit in Wales.

If you are heading to South Wales, make sure you visit Cardiff and take a tour of the Millennium stadium, the home of the Welsh Rugby team. In Cardiff bay, you can take a tour or see a show at the Welsh Millennium Centre. There are also loads of great bars and restaurants to choose from, including the Norwegian Sailors Church, the café and art gallery famous for being the church where Roald Dahl was christened.

If you want great nightlife and restaurants to suit all tastes, Swansea is for you. However, there is more to this town than just partying, shopping or spending a day on the beach. It’s the birth place of Dylan Thomas and was the muse for many of his poems. Also, make sure you take a short drive to Gower, take in the beautiful views and beaches and see the home of King Arthur’s Stone, Giants Grave burial chamber and Pennard Castle.

For the ramblers among you, South Wales offers the beautiful Pembrokeshire Coast. So pack your car up with your hiking gear and don’t forget a camera to capture the stunning views.

If you are visiting the North or Central Wales, head to Snowdonia or the Brecon Beacons National Park.

Snowdonia is heaven for those that love the outdoors. Take the challenge of climbing the mountain, feel the adrenaline from mountain biking, whitewater rafting and horse riding, or slow the pace a bit with walking, fishing and golf. Whatever you fancy, it is here.

There is more to the Brecon Beacons than just stunning views and a great place to walk. Make sure you visit the traditional market towns and historic sites it has to offer, such as Carreg Cennen, where you can see the remains of a medieval castle. There are also plenty of activities and attractions for all the family to take part in.

If you need to hire a car, Avis has four offices in Wales: Cardiff, Cardiff Airport, Swansea and Llandudno.

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Did you know that from January 12th this year, UK travellers to the United States need to register on line with the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before departure? All nationals and citizens of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries – including the UK – will be required by law to get travel authorization prior to boarding the airplane.

Travelers can now register online. The information provided is the same as what was completed on the forms aboard the plane, the same data that most countries already collect at their borders. ESTA will eventually replace those forms.

In fact, our very own world traveller, Robert White, nearly got caught out by this change in procedure on his round the world trip. Luckily, his Mum told him before he flew or he might not have made the last leg of his tour!!

Rob told us “It’s pretty straightforward. It pretty much asks the same questions as the Visa Waiver form i.e. personal info and passport info, where you’re staying in the US, and all those questions about whether you’re a no-gooder!! It only takes a few minutes and I got authorization straight away.”

According to the US Embassy website, almost 14,000 travelers are registering with ESTA each day and all UK citizens planning to travel to the United States in the future are encouraged to apply now. Travelers don’t need to have specific travel plans in order to register. Registration is valid for two years or the life of the traveler’s passport, whichever is shorter. So far, 99.6% of those registering have been approved – most within four seconds.

So, if you’re travelling to the US this year, or know someone who is, make sure you’re registered. Otherwise, they might not let you on the plane!!

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Following on from our post on this topic last year, Avis now have close to 500 locations, spanning 10 different countries across Europe, offering the 3 Minute Promise speed of service guarantee. A list of our top European locations can now be found on our website.

The Avis 3 Minute Promise is quite simple – if you are an Avis Preferred member with an up to date profile, a reservation and renting at a participating Avis location, we guarantee to have your car keys in your hand within 3 minutes. Why not test us by taking a stopwatch or time ticket next time? This allows us to measure the time it takes to get you on your way.

And if we don’t deliver, we’ll send you a voucher to be spent on the high street! The type of voucher depends on where you live. For example all UK residents, regardless of whether you rent here or in Europe, would receive a £20 John Lewis voucher.

We know offering customers a speedy and 1st class service is important. The 3 Minute Promise doesn’t mean you’ll lose human contact with us all together. It just means we are challenging ourselves to meet your expectations. And if we don’t, you get some extra spending money!

To find out more or to sign up for free to become an Avis Preferred member, visit our website.

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RosesWhat will you be doing on Valentine’s Day? Instead of the usual meal out, or a weekend in a hotel, why not hire a car with Avis and do something different?

If you’re in London, explore London Zoo or take a stroll in Regents Park Rose Garden? You could also re-enact your favourite film clips at the places where romantic films like Love Actually and Bridget Jones’ Diary were filmed. Why not take a drive out to Hampton Court Palace where you can uncover the romances of Henry VIII and his many wives, some of whom are said to still haunt the palace. Play hide-and-seek in the maze and stroll through tranquil gardens down to the River Thames.

Romantic drives are a great way to explore the countryside – who knows what adventures you might have? Why not take a route through the Cotswolds taking you back in time through sleepy village scenery and spend a cosy night at The Amberley Inn near Minchinhampton.

If you’re out and about, why not have a picnic? You can take a hamper with all your favourite treats along on your very own treasure hunt. These trails are available up and down the country, cost just £5 and it’s a really fun way to spice up a walk in the country!

If laid-back love isn’t your thing, there are some adrenaline-fuelled activities designed especially for couples. You can take the big leap together in every sense of the word with a tandem bungee jump. Put your faith in that rope (and each other) by taking the plunge!

Why not share with us what you have got planned this Valentine’s day??

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And finally, #1 in Tripadvisor’s hot spots for 2009 is Budoni in Sardinia…

What’s the deal?
All you need to do is read this article in the Telegraph to get an inkling of this has topped Tripadvisor’s list. The article tells the tale of the need to check-in to the apartment by 1pm otherwise the caretaker will be on lunch. And of the pizzerias that only serve in the evening because they need to the wood-burning ovens time to fire up. This is Sardinia. As the journalist describes, it is “Italy with a twist – more relaxed and more traditional”. Summing it up, he ponders how a destination whose white sand beaches and turquoise sea betters many found in the Caribbean, a destination were you wake up everyday to the sight of olive groves and where the road is traffic free, could possibly stay so quiet and removed from the real world?

What are other traveller’s saying?
The Telegraph article was written in 2001 so I was little concerned that Budoni may have lost it’s local Sardinian charm. The fact that one very recent traveller recommended you don’t go to Budoni without a phrase book put my mind at ease! “Peaceful” and “tranquility” are the buzzwords being used to describe Budoni and they also suggest it is a good base to explore other areas of the island with one traveller recommended San Teodoro (a little north) and calm bays of Posada (a little south). Another piece of advise I read was to avoid June – August so you can miss any tourist crowds that build up in the peak season.

How do I get there?
Costa Smeralda Airport is just 35km from Budoni and most travellers recommend hiring a car in order to get the most out of exploring beyond the town.

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With the wintry weather hitting the UK hard this morning, here’s a quick reminder of some of the advice we’ve previously posted for driving in adverse conditions.

Click on the following links for:

Tips on Driving in Winter Weather
Tips on Driving Safely in Snow
Tips from the Highway Agency for driving safely this winter

Please check your route before you travel, take care and, as always, have a safe journey.

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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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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.

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