Europe

Car rental in Montenegro and our stressful car return

One of the most essential things for a roadtrip is of course a car. Since we were flying from Brussels to Podgorica a rental car was one of the first things that had to be arranged.

For a trip through Montenegro, I wouldn’t opt for any other way then by car. It gets your very quickly from point A to B and wasn’t that expensive, especially if you’re with a few people. We didn’t exactly try to figure out other options, but during our trip I didn’t see many options for public transportation. So if it’s available, it might not be that easy to get around.

I have rented many cars before and I’m always relying on AutoEurope for getting me the best service for the best price. Up until now, I’ve got nothing but love for this company. It works a bit like booking.com; they show you the prices of all available car rental companies with their prices per type of vehicle. You can filter on certain extra services to find exactly what you’re looking for.

The most amazing part is that they cover the exemption on your rental in certain cases. In 2015 in Italy they broke into our car, stole the luggage, and left it damaged. We went to the police to file a report, sent that over to AutoEurope and they made sure we didn’t have to pay any of the damage. If we’d rented directly from the rental company we might have gotten a fixed amount of the damage that we would have to cover. So always opt for the “Refundable Excess with Super Cover“. This way you also insure damage to the tires or undercarriage of your car.

As for the type of car you should get? Before departure I’d heard stories of bad roads in the Balkans so it would be a bad idea to go for anything less than a SUV. When we noticed the prices for those types of vehicles, we immediately decided to risk taking a small car anyway. And that ended up being the best idea. I guess the bad road stories are a bit dated. The main roads were all in perfect condition and only when we were on our way to the – still – less touristic area of the Prokletije Mountains did we have a few bad roads with potholes and some unpaved ones. But nothing too bad that we had to worry for our car. So save yourself the money if you can and go for the budget car.

We ended up choosing for a small car – a Skoda Citygo – from Hertz. Our inbound flight was supposed to arrive at 7:45pm, but hopeful as I am, I arranged our car pick up for 7:30pm. Another very good idea for a reason I hadn’t foreseen while booking. Our flight was a little late and customs took a bit longer than expected so we ended up in the arrivals hall – where the rental car offices are – a bit after 8pm. The people in front of us had booked their car starting from 8pm. And suddenly they had to pay an extra fee of 25 (!) euros because they were picking it up outside of their 8am – 8pm office hours. I feared we would have the same issue, even though it wasn’t our fault, but no need to worry. No extra fee for us! So if you can, make sure to pick up and return your car between the office hours of the rental companies to avoid extra fees.

And then the stressful return of the car. Oh boy! Because it would be a rush in the morning we had decided to return our car the evening before our morning flight back home instead of right before departure. We initially wanted to do so after dinner, but that would mean we’d have to pay that 25 euros extra because it would be after office hours. Not in my book! So we chose to return our car sooner, around 5pm. We were insured that wouldn’t be a problem. So we arrived at the airport around five pm after dropping our luggage in our hotel near the airport and getting it thoroughly cleaned at the carwash nearby. We had some issues finding the right entrance, but a car pulled up behind us, the driver informed us he worked for Hertz and showed us the way. Easy peasy.

We had just gotten the car parked and the Hertz employee that showed us the way came up to us, inspected the car and asked for the documents of the car. And that’s where it started to go wrong. I have the tendency to not leave the documents in the car while traveling, but in my backpack. The backpack that I had left in the hotel room. Not good. The car had already been parked and we didn’t dare – or didn’t think about it – to ask if we could just drive back to get the papers. We had planned to walk back to our hotel, which was about two kilometers, but suddenly we faced another two kilometer trip back to the airport and then back again to the hotel. Great way to end a holiday. But those documents were necessary of course, so we left in a hurry on foot.

Pretty soon, my boyfriend decided to run instead of walking, speeding up the process. I was left following, not sure what my whole part in this would be then, but I didn’t exactly feel like waiting on the side of that road either. I was only about 500 meters from the airport when a car pulled up next to me. It was the Hertz employee, telling me to hop in his car so he could bring me to our hotel to get the documents. Hero!

We quickly got the documents, and my boyfriend – begrudgingly cause he was pretty sweaty from the run – got back in the Hertz guy’s car. He started driving and asked us what our plans were after we were back at the airport. We told him we’d just walk back to the hotel, which led to him stopping and telling us that we didn’t need to go back there with him. I questioned if they didn’t need our signature or anything, so he rang the office – talked in Montenegrin – and told us we were good to go. The car was okay and they now had the documents, so they had everything they needed. Too happy with this turn of events, we thanked him profusely, and got out of the car. Happy it was all done and over with and we didn’t have to do all that walking along that boring road.

We had a lovely dinner and returned back to our hotel afterwards. And then panic hit me. Did that Hertz guy wear anything that indicated that he actually worked for Hertz? Was there a badge or wasn’t there? How could we be sure? What if we’d just gotten that car stolen right from under our noses in the most stupid way. The license plate of the car had a icon of Hertz on it, so if a random person was following us, they could easily pretend to work for Hertz. Why go the extra mile to drive us to our hotel to get the documents? Suddenly it all seemed a bit too good to be true, so I started to find ways to contact Hertz. But after office hours, so no one picked up. Our car wasn’t due to be back by 10pm according to the contract, so we knew they would probably only raise alarm the day after. I sent an email asking for confirmation of an undamaged return, just to have a little bit of peace.

The next morning we had to be in the airport before office hours as well, so once again we couldn’t get any confirmation that all had gone according to plan. We had hoped to find the car in the parking lot, but no such luck. We boarded our flight not knowing if all was well. Part of me had a feeling I shouldn’t worry, but another part felt like we’d been the most stupid people on the entire planet. The day passed, and Hertz or AutoEurope didn’t call. Phew. And then a day later I got an email from AutoEurope informing me that there was no damage to the car – so hence that it had been returned as it should be. THANK GOD!

So another very big thank you to the staff of Hertz at Podgorica Airport for helping us the way they did, even though it made us feel very stressed for a while. My guess is that the guy arrived at the office with the keys and without the documents and with his colleagues they realized that if they had the documents sooner, they’d still be able to rent out that car that same day to someone else and make some extra money. All in all it ended well, but even now I still can’t believe how stupid we were to just trust that man. But now, it makes for a pretty good travel story. Not that I plan to recreate any of this ever again. But I would definitely rent a car again from Hertz in Podgorica, only this time I’d make sure of its safe return. 😉

♡ Ellen

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