Rental Cars and Beer Travel

Drinking and driving, a big taboo subject among the beer drinker / traveler community. If you bring the subject up on a travel board, the most common response you see is Finger-Wagging Responsible Fatherly Advice; suggestions of total sobriety or a hired driver. The first suggestion isn’t practical or fun, and either designates a trip-goer with the title of DD (no fun) or requires a hired driver, which is expensive, and brings an unknown personality into a close social dynamic of an ongoing trip. I suggest moderation, responsible driving, and knowledge of the law.

I am by no means an expert at this, but I do feel like I’ve figured out enough to be of some help to other travelers. I’ve rented and driven in Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Czech Republic, Slovenia and Costa Rica.

Blood Alcohol Content Laws by Country

country maximum legal level in mg/L
Belgium 0.05 BAC. Lowered from 0.08 in 1994.
UK 0.08 BAC
Germany 0.05 BAC
Czech Republic 0.00 BAC. This zero-tolerance policy for the biggest beer-drinking country in the world keeps most people in local pubs and off the roads. A BAC below 0.08 carries a fine and penalties. Over 0.08 gets you a criminal charge.
Denmark 0.05 BAC
France 0.05 BAC
Italy 0.05 BAC
Canada 0.08 Federal limit. 0.05 in some provinces.
Hungary 0.00 BAC. Zero-tolerance.
Japan 0.03 BAC
Lithuania 0.04 BAC
Netherlands 0.05 BAC. 0.02 for new drivers.
Sweden 0.02 BAC
United States 0.08 BAC. Over 0.08 is considered legally intoxicated for most states. Less than 0.05 is considered not impaired in most states but some states can still charge a driver for DUI if their BAC is less than 0.08 based on if the driver is safely operating the vehicle.

More information at

The standard limit across most European Union countries is 0.05 BAC, but be sure to know the limit in whatever country or state you are in. Sweden, for example, is much lower than most of Europe. Ignorance is not an excuse.

That said, drunk driving accidents and deaths are not as big of a problem in European Union countries compared to the United States.


Rental Cars in Europe

  • SixT

    • is who I rent from most often. Numerous locations throughout Germany and prices sometimes 40% less than their competitors. Many vehicle classes are unavailable for international border crossing, especially into the Czech Republic and back. Rental car companies do not let you rent a BMW to take into Czech Republic for risk of it being stolen. Their rental policy for Germany reads

      “Cross Border Rentals are allowed to the following countries – inclusive islands: Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Gibraltar, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Vatikan City.

      Cross Border Rentals are allowed to the following countries but not with Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, VW, Porsche, Aston Martin and all Jeeps/Offroader: Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia.”


  • Europcar

    • is my second recommendation for rentals in Europe. Generally more expensive than SixT, but easier to arrange in some countries in Central Europe such as Czech Republic, where the daily rate is still reasonably affordable.

How to Safely Drink and Drive


  • Rent from, weekly or daily rate.
  • Drive to breweries and/or zoiglstuben and enjoy slow consumption of low-gravity lagers (typically 4-5% ABV).
  • Order “ein kleines Bier“, a small or half serving of 250 mL, if available.
  • Ordering a “schnitt” will get you roughly 3/4 of a 500 mL serving in some parts of Franconia, while elsewhere the term is used to describe a smaller (<200 mL) serving of beer, on the house, for a last taste to see you out the door and safely home.
  • Share large servings with your non-driving friend(s), typically anything above 500 mL if you have already had a bit to drink already.
  • Be taste-sensitive. I admit that about 60% of the beers I try in Bavaria are not something I want a full serving of; pickiness helps.

Finally, drive to where you can walk/bike. Places like Hallerndorf or Memmelsdorf in Franconia, are difficult or time-consuming to reach by public transit. Easily reached by car and surrounded with interesting drinking destinations, you can leave the car at your hotel and explore the region by bicycle, allowing you to imbibe a little more.

Take pictures when you receive the car

Camera phone or DSLR, take pictures of the front, back and sides, and any obvious dents or scratches that were on the vehicle before you received it. Protect yourself from being asked to reimburse the company for damage you didn’t cause. Better yet, add a full damage waiver if it’s affordable. If not, drive carefully.

BJCP-certified beer judge, photographer, and software developer from Boulder, Colorado. I use this site to chronicle my worldwide beer adventures shared through photography and stories, with a focus on traditional old world brewing practices.

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