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I have been able to rent cars in most countries, and have never needed an international driver's license. Your current State driver's license from the USA works fine.
Beware that your home insurance and the rental insurance provided as a credit card benefit do not apply in Ireland, Northern Ireland (just that part of the UK), Israel, and Jamaica. When we visited Ireland the rental car itself was cheap, but the insurance cost was astronomical.
Even after you buy insurance costing more than the car rental, your credit card may have a hold of 5000 Euros, pounds, or dollars, or more, to cover the deductible. It is only a hold, so if you have an ample credit limit, the hold is released when you return the car - no problem. If your credit limit is inadequate.... you know.
If you are 75 or older, beware of the fine print. Everyone knows you have to be 25 or older to rent (or pay a premium for being young) but in Ireland, we found that anyone over 75 was required to have a physical exam and certification of fitness to drive within 60 days of renting the car. That requirement (and others) were buried on page 9 of 23 in the terms and conditions attached to our rental confirmation. I was not able to find the requirement before making the reservation with Avis. Since I am over 75, I will now explicitly look for crazy requirements.
Beware of renting a Mercedes Benz in England (and perhaps elsewhere in Europe). In 2015 we decided to go upscale since we would be doing a lot of driving for the week. "C class" should be fine - that is what our dealer loans us when our "E class" car is in for service. It turned out to be far less than a C Class as imported to the USA. The manual driver seat did not go back as far as other cars. The steering wheel did not tilt (as a tall guy I had a terrible time getting in and out). There were no heated seats (it was very cold when we were there.) When we returned the car, the agent suggested getting a VW Passat or similar next time.
The European Union (EU) consists of about 28 "member states" of which 19 use the Euro as their official currency. There are minimal borders between the states, so you may have to go through immigration in a country you never planned to visit, but where you were connecting on the way to your destination EU state.
The free emergency telephone number across Europe is 112, which all EU countries are required to recognize. Some countries have additional emergency numbers based on historical traditions.
If you travel to Europe, you "must" know Rick Steves. He publishes a series of guide books for Europe, high quality but sometimes lost among the many competitors. On one trip our friends loaned us a variety of books, in addition to our own, and by comparing them, we have become Rick Steves fans. His recommendations were outstanding other than one restaurant in Rome, which strongly advertised his endorsement, and apparently was resting on their laurels.
This is a free iPhone app; once you have downloaded it from the iTunes store, select the sections (playlists) you would like to place on your iPhone. See his web site. The data files are large, so you may want to do the download at home. No communications are required while you are listening to the app, or looking at the associated maps. The playlists include general and cultural sightseeing information, historic walks, and tours of specific sights.
As we were wandering around in Venice, we bumped into a couple using the audio guide to St. Mark's. Each had their own copy, like renting two "recorded guides" from the museum.
We took the Rick Steves "Renaissance Walk" thru Florence - the first of many cities where we have used them. We found it a delightful walk, with interesting comments and pictures. We have a splitter to run two sets of earphones from one device, and a long "coil cord" extension for the second person. We enjoyed staying together and doing the tour simultaneously. Only once did someone try to cut between us, through our wire, and Jenny delighted in saying she finally was able to keep me on a leash.
This is a small guide to many less traveled cities in Northern and Eastern Europe. We stumbled on it in Riga, Latvia, and found it wonderfully helpful - it has become our favorite guide for the cities where it is available. Updated versions are published frequently - even every few weeks. Free copies are often available in airport arrival concourses or hotel lobbies (ask the concierge), or at newsstands for a fee. However, you can download PDF files from the In Your Pocket web site, with the complete contents before you leave - not as compact a size as the free booklet, but available for pre-trip study.
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