I was watching Best of Top Gear last night and it reminded me about a segment that I really wanted to mention on the this blog (but completely forgot about until I was reminded yesterday), where the Top Gear team went on a quest to discover the world’s best driving road. Now their approach to this was hardly scientific with all continents outside of Europe being discounted on a whim. And the cars they tested were not exactly what you’d expect your average Joe Bloggs on the street to be driving. It is Top Gear so of course they rolled out light-weight supercars including the Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera, the Porsche 911 GT3 RS and the Aston Martin V8 Vantage N24 (to say James May regretted choosing this stripped-to-the-bone supercar is understatement).

In their search for the best driving road the criteria was simple: they needed to find a road that combined beautiful scenery with a test on driving ability that provided a rush of adrenaline. Now random methodology aside, no-one can complain that the roads featured in this segment were nothing short of spectacular. The three roads featured were as follows:

1. The Col De Turini. A high mountain pass located in the Alps in the South of France. This road is the home of the Monte Carlo Rally.
2. The San Bernardino Pass. Another high mountain pass connecting Hinterrhein and the Mesolcina (Misox) valleys, this time in the Swiss region of the Alps.
3. Davos to Stelvio via Bormio (the overall winner). Heading south from Davos, Switzerland to Stelvio, Italy, this road lays deserted with miles of track that test the ability of both car and driver to backdrop of stunning scenery.

So there you have it. According to Top Gear, these are the world’s best driving roads. For more information and pictures, the Redline blog has written a pretty good summary of this segment. There are even a few comments from readers providing suggestions of their own. And if you have any roads you would like to suggest then this is the place to do it!

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As many of you will know, Avis have a long standing partnership with British Airways Executive Club. Yesterday, a select few were invited by British Airways to visit the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow, and I was lucky enough to be one of them! I have been looking forward to this day ever since I had a look at their first designs on their website.

One word summarises my first impression: WOW!

BA and BAA have radically changed the way we look at airport terminals. The building in itself is a piece of art. They have re-engineered all the critical processes to make it easier and faster for their customers to go through check in and security. Their promise is that it shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes to go through security. The fast bag drop is “fast” and you should never have more than one person in front of you in the queue. Wait till you have finally passed through security. There are 112 shops including the usual high street shops and luxury brands such as Prada, Paul Smith, etc… and 12 or so restaurants. There is also the first ever Gordon Ramsay restaurant air-side! With that many shops, you’ll probably want to hurry up to the lounges to protect your credit card!

And rightly so. The Executive Club lounges are incredible. They offer a range of great amenities: bars, wi-fi, a terrace, a spa, a “Chef’s Theatre and Food Court with a view into the kitchen”, bedrooms, boardrooms, etc… And to make it easier for their customers, they’ve located such lounges at every end of the 396m long building. We didn’t even get a chance to look at the new car parking facilities that Rob blogged about!

Everyone who visited Terminal 5 yesterday are now looking forward to its opening on the 27th March.

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For all you ski fans, I thought I’d share a bit about my recent travels to colder parts. I spent last weekend at the Chamonix valley to watch the men’s downhill (known as the Kandahar), a trip sparked off by a chance conversation over a beer 18 months ago! Having flown into Geneva airport and picked up our hire car (Avis of course!), we set off on a leisurely drive into Argentiere, a lovely little village with plenty of spectacular scenery en route. Of course, we made ourselves at home pretty quickly, making our way around a few bars on the first night (a big hello to Paul in the Slalom bar! – thanks for the cocktails!) and a spot of sightseeing.On day 2, while one of our party took himself skiing at Plan Joran, the rest of us relaxed in the sunshine on the large open air terrace to enjoy the view and a fine lunch. We spent the evening in Chamonix watching the draw for the race. A great atmosphere with a large crowd and a spectacular firework display.

On Saturday, we set off to Les Houches for the race. The slopes weave through forest scenery and the famous “Verte des Houches” on which the race is held. It has to be one of the most beautiful World Cup downhill trails. With our snow shoes on and after a long trek up the side of the piste, we enjoyed a quick beer in fine sunshine at les vielles luges, after which we settled down to watch the race. Spectacular is the word I’d use! Fast and furious action with no room for error. Watching it on Ski Sunday does not portray the real picture! These guys are super quick and on the ragged edge most of the time! With the race over, we set off for some more sightseeing of the area compagnie du mont blanc.

There was no chance to experience the famous Aiguille Du Midi this time, but if you’re out there and get the chance, you have to visit! Be warned though – you’ll need a head for heights! 3,842 metres high and a 20 minute cable car journey, at times the car feels almost vertical, so don’t look down. But the view at the top is breathtaking. The earth seems to meet the sky and as you look at Mont Blanc in the distance, the sheer scale of the scenery has to be seen to be really appreciated.

It was an early start on Sunday back to Geneva for the 0945 flight back home. A great weekend and we’re already planning our next trip, probably in the summer this time for some serious walking. We’re open to other suggestions however, so if you have any ideas on how to combine an energetic yet relaxing long weekend, answers on a postcard to the blog please!

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We all know how disorientating arriving in a new place can be. Now imagine arriving in London, one of the biggest and busiest cities in the world!! The last thing you want to think about is dragging your luggage around and worrying about public transport, trying to find out where to pick up the hire car!!

Avis already has locations at the five airports around London and several more based within the centre of London, including Mayfair, Waterloo, Earls Court, Tower Bridge and Euston. However, we now offer locations at major railway stations such as St Pancras, Marylebone, Charing Cross, Paddington and Liverpool Street.

But this time, we’re doing things slightly differently as these locations are “virtual”. This means that you won’t see the red sign, Avis staff or an Avis office when you arrive. You just have to jump in a taxi to the nearest Avis location, where the staff will refund your taxi fare, get your car and send you on your way. At the end of your hire, you return the car to the location you collected it and our staff will drop you back off at the railway station, ready for your onward journey.

So far, this service has been popular with the customers who have used it. We hope it provides them with a little more convenience. If you’ve rented from one of these locations, why not tell us how the experience worked for you? Or let us know where you would like to see our next “virtual” location.

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Driven by some really passionate people, Avis has been working hard to reduce it’s impact on the environment for many years now. So we were all disappointed when we did not come out on top in the car rental category in the “Green Travel: Winners and Losers” review in the Telegraph. However, our disappointment was soon gone when we learned that the Telegraph had made a typo. So with the mistake now rectified we are proud they appointed us the joint most green car hire company!

We’re clearly not the outright leader yet and if I’m honest there is still a lot of work to be done but it is work we are progressing with. Our most recent initiative includes the introduction of electric bikes which are now used by our delivery and collection agents who deliver cars to our corporate customers in the London area.

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BMW 3 SeriesWhen we asked for feedback on the Select Series one new car that people were really asking for was the BMW 3 Series. Well I’m not writing to tell that we’ve got the 3 Series on our Select Series (yet!) but I am delighted to announce that we’ve got some on our standard fleet. Personally I think this is great news. The only drawback is that there are only a handful (which is why we couldn’t put them on Select Series)! So let us know if you are lucky enough to rent this great car. And perhaps you might even want to mention it on our blog post “The best cars you ever rented”!

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I read with interest on the BBC website about a company in India who are producing a car costing only £1,290.

The people’s car, produced by Tata is designed to attract the growing Indian middle classes and is being marketed as a safer way of travelling for those who until now have had to transport their families balanced on the back of their motorbikes.

However, don’t expect to see the car in the showrooms of the UK any time soon. The article states that “if the cars were to meet Western regulations, its price tag would most probably shoot up”. However, who knows what effect this car will have on the prices of cars all over the world? Where will this leave the car rental industry? What are the effects on the environment?

Let us know what you think.

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Liverpool Docks and the Liver BuildingAs you may have gathered from my previous posts, I like to travel. So, now we’ve moved into 2008, I’m already planning the destinations I’d like to visit this year. The current favourites at the moment are Thailand, Italy and Germany. But, for those short breaks in the UK where somewhere closer is needed, I’ve been looking at Liverpool.

Last week Liverpool kicked off a special year for the city with its new title as the European Capital of Culture. Being a music fan, who wouldn’t want to go and see the Cavern club, where the Beatles started? Although, Rob, being more of a sports fan, would probably want to go to Anfield, where Liverpool FC play (although, he is from Kent so how he can claim to be a Liverpool fan, I don’t know!). The city has announced a full programme of events for 2008 including the end of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 07-08 and the MTV Europe Music Awards at the newly opened Echo Arena. I’m sure most people could find something that takes their fancy!

It’s easy to get to Liverpool as it’s serviced by major motorways and John Lennon airport. Avis has an office at the airport, located in the airport terminal and one in the city. Richard, the manager of both locations, says that they are all thrilled to be working in the Capital of Culture for 2008 and are really excited about this years events. He’s also looking forward to seeing visitors renting from Avis and giving them the opportunity to see how all the staff at Avis in Liverpool live up to the ‘We Try Harder’ culture.

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the new Ford MondeoMy dad visited from the States last weekend and while he was driving my uncle and I out to dinner Friday night (in an Avis car of course!), the conversation turned to a critique of the various cars they had both rented (these conversations tend to happen when you put two frequent renters with an employee of Avis!).

It seems that this time, my dad struck gold with his rental. He got the new Ford Mondeo, the car that was declared Car of the Year for 2007 by Auto Express. Meanwhile, my uncle was telling us how pleasantly surprised he was with the SEAT Leon he recently rented (he also lives in California so I’m not sure he really knew what to expect!).

This got me thinking. Unless you book one of our Select Series cars, you never really know what you are going to get. While I’d argue that all of the cars on our fleet are of a high standard, there will always be some cars that you would be particularly excited (and hopeful) about getting. So I’d love to hear about your favourites. Which cars made you rub your hands in glee when the rental agent handed over the keys? Which cars were you pleasantly surprised with having taken it for a spin on the road? This is your chance to give our suppliers any praise they deserve… plus I think it would be a bit of fun!

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With all the sales going on at the moment, January is seen as a bit of peak period for customers booking their holidays. With this in mind I thought I’d give a few tips about what to look for when researching and booking car hire:

1. Book in advance. This is particularly the case if you are wanting to rent a car in the summer because most companies are likely to sell out. And of course as companies begin to sell out prices will go up. So book as far in advance as possible to get the best price. Our blog post “Tips for getting the best price” provides further advice on this.
2. Check your eligibility to hire a car. There are three things to check: age, credit card and driver’s licence. Some car hire companies have a maximum age and, of course, all companies have a minimum age, which can differ by country. It is also worth noting that it is sometimes possible to rent at a younger age if you pay a young driver’s surcharge. Additionally, be sure to check the validity of your driver’s licence. The standard is to have a full, clean driver’s licence which has been held for at least a year. If your licence is in a non-roman alphabet you will also need an International Driver’s Permit. Finally, check that you have the appropriate credit card to rent a car. Avis accepts MasterCard, Visa (credit and debit cards), Diners Card and American Express. For further information we have posts dedicated to these topic including “Don’t forget your driver’s licence”, “Our young driver’s policy” and “Information on accepted credit cards”.
3. Check the inclusions. The most important thing you need to check for is the level of cover your quote includes. Most companies will include Vehicle Damage Cover and Vehicle Theft Cover is included in your quote (also referred to as Collision Damage Waiver and Theft Protection). If I was to describe this using the terminology of private car insurance then this would be like having Fully Comprehensive with an excess (so be sure to check what this is). If, however, your quote does not include this level of cover then you could be liable for the full cost of repair or replacement if your rental car was to be damaged or stolen. This is not a position I would like to be in! For further information on this try our blog post “What’s included in your quote”.
4. Check on the cost of extras. Not all the extras are available at point of booking so remember to take this cost into account when calculating the total cost of your car hire. Products designed to reduce/remove your level of excess and pre-pay fuel products are usually the most popular products that are generally only available at the counter.
5. Book the right car size. This may seem simple enough but you would be surprised how many customers try to book a smaller car at a cheaper price only to find they can’t fit in all their luggage. The problem is that, at this point, all of the larger cars may no longer be available!

These are the top things I can think of but please feel free to post your own tips or ask any questions if there is something I may have missed.

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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.

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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.