Ask Joan: Car hire without a credit card, best price for Vancouver and New York

Unlimited mileage on car hire in France, ESTA and eTA for USA and Canada

 

We are a family of six (two adults, four children - aged seven to 14) and we’ve booked (an extremely cheap) flight to Paris Beauvais, arriving on a Saturday June at 10pm. We’ve been very kindly offered the use of a house in the Poitou Charentes region and have worked out that it would be a 570km drive one way, 1,140 round trip. The problem is any of the car hire companies we’ve looked at have a 1,750km limit and it gets quite expensive after that, on average 45c per km above the limit. We were hoping to travel to Puy du Fou for a day and this would add a further 550km, round trip.

We really don’t want to spend the holiday looking at our mileage and worrying about a bill facing us when we return the car, as our budget is quite limited. We’ve trawled through countless car hire websites, putting in the key words “unlimited mileage”, but then when you get into the drop-down menus of terms and conditions they all mention a 1,750km limit.

At this stage, we’re wondering if we’d be better off to turn down the offer of the house for a week and look for accommodation a bit further north. We’ve also looked into the option of hiring the car at Beauvais, dropping off at another airport perhaps La Rochelle or Bordeaux and travelling back up by TGV to Paris and bus to Beauvais. However, it seems to be much more expensive to hire at one location and drop at another.

We also have a second query, potentially more important, we’re getting conflicting information regarding the necessity of a credit card (something we don’t have). Some of the websites say that you can book and pay for your car with a Visa Debit, but again when you get into the drop-down menu it tells you that you must present a credit card in the name of the main driver when collecting the car, although you might have already paid with your Visa Debit.

We’d be ok with them putting a “hold” over a certain amount on the debit card for the duration of the hire, do you know of any company that might do that? Because we’re arriving into Beauvais at 10pm on Saturday night with four children, we want to be sure that picking up the car will go smoothly, so we can face into our five hour drive with great calmness. PQ.

The second query is more important to your holiday plans - it is virtually impossible to rent a car without a credit card, particularly from a small airport at 10pm on a Saturday night. If possible apply for a credit card now and you would have it in time for your trip.

If you do not want to have a credit card there is a company in the UK that can arrange car hire on Visa Debit cards. The numbers must be embossed and you will need two forms of identification. You can contact indigocarhire.co.uk and on (0044) 113 2899279. It is better to call them. They cannot take bookings online for debit card car hire.

As you are six people, you will need a seven-seater vehicle. A Renault Grand Scenic or similar with unlimited mileage will cost around €430 for the week. With a credit card and using Arguscarhire.com it would be under €300 for the week with a range of 2,000 kms.

I would like to visit a friend in Vancouver this June for 10 days. Then we plan to travel to New York or another US city for a long weekend, before travelling home from NY (or other city).

I would like to book this without a travel agency, as I have a specific budget. I am wondering how I will get holiday visas for both Canada, US and for the border between the two? Are these complicated/costly to get or will I just be directed to visa websites when I am booking flights?

Alternatively, would it be better for me to book return flights from Ireland to Vancouver, then return internal flights from Vancouver to NY, even though it would probably cost a bit more? PR.

Booking through a travel agent will not necessarily cost you more and you may get a better fare through their computer reservations systems. Find a local travel agent on itaa.ie. Trying to book this trip online is quite complicated and you may end up paying more. Vancouver to New York is over five hours flying time and will cost quite a lot.

The Air Canada service from Dublin via Toronto to Vancouver return will cost around €900 in June adding in a stopover in New York might not be too expensive if it is booked on one ticket. Once you start breaking up a journey that is when it gets expensive. Gohop.ie could give you quote for your flights, (01) 241 2389.

As for the holiday visas - you will need one for each country and beware fake websites there are a lot of them on the internet. The Electronic System for Travel Authorisation ESTA by the United States costs around €14 and can be done online easily. Only use this website for buying it, http://www.cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/esta.

Canada only introduced an authorisation/visa system in March and it is called the electronic Travel Authorisation or eTA. It costs $7 Canadian dollars, (€4.70) only book it here, http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta-start.asp. These are the only visas/authorisations you will need for your trip.

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