Most people likely prefer to do anything besides rent a car when they travel in a foreign country. There are many good reasons for that! In my case, there are a few places that I do like to get cars because I will be visiting friends or have a short time and do not want to deal with public transportation schedules.
Pain & Penalty with Foreign Parking Laws
When you drive in a foreign country, you do run the risk of getting tickets if you do not understand the parking laws! It has happened to me a few times and here are my experiences with it.
I have been in Israel probably 15 – 17 times. Many times I go, I rent a car. Several years ago, we had rented a car and we parked it near our hotel in Jerusalem. Now, if you have been to Jerusalem, you know parking on the streets or even finding space in lots can be a problem! Well, we asked a store owner if the spot we were parking in was ok to park. He said it was fine and we left it and went to our hotel.
The next morning, we found a parking ticket on our car. Turns out, it was not ok! So, we went to the post office and paid the ticket (I cannot remember now how much it was for). The next night, we asked a police officer near the street we were wanting to park on if we could park there overnight. He assured us it was no problem and we left the car.
Where Is My Car?!
The next morning, the problem was not a parking ticket – the problem was no car whatsoever! We couldn’t believe it but our car was gone. We asked a nearby officer where we could report our car missing and he said he would take the report. We told him where we left it and he started chuckling. He said it was not stolen but had been towed by the police.
It turns out that where we had parked was fine but the car had to be moved by 8AM. The officer the night before had neglected to tell us about that. :(. The problem was that the officer did not know what lot it had been towed to but gave us a few locations. We drove around on a bus checking and finally located it, paid the impound fee, and then drove away.
Taking Care of Ticket #2
We still had a ticket to take care of but we were told that since we were Americans, we could just go to city hall and ask that it be sent to our home address in the US. They said they always will take the information but they almost never send the ticket (to this day, years later, we still never received a ticket!).
Two tickets and one tow – in one trip! Certainly some lessons were learned!
In northern Greece, it is actually an interesting time right now. The city had laid off all the municipal offers who had the jobs of ticketing cars. So, for 2 years, people just parked anywhere they wanted. But, now they have been hired back by a government that needs money. Guess what is happening? Tickets are flowing like crazy now on cars!
Greek Driving Practices
I am a pretty cautious driver but I must admit that I have slipped into some of the Greek driving mode. In one way, you have to adopt some local driving techniques or you will get in an accident (if you are driving a lot)! But, with the parking, I have gotten a bit loose with it – but I never park where it says not to!
However, last week, we were showing some friends around and the parking was very hard to find. I found a spot up on a curb near other cars and pulled up alongside of them. A while later, we came back and found the pink slips on our cars – but not the ones near us. Even though there was not a no parking sign/marking, they felt that we were not parked in the right place and gave us tickets.
The Parking Ticket and Process
Parking tickets here are €80, but if you pay them within 10 days, the price is cut in half. They call it a discount (I love discounts, but not like this!). Those 10 days include weekends and holidays, it turns out. There was a 3 day span when they could have been paid but I could not get there between their hours of operation – 8am – 2pm. When I could, they were closed. Because of the Orthodox Easter holiday this past weekend, they were closed from Friday – Wednesday!
I finally was able to get in and tried talking to them about the no signs and the other cars but they just said that is how it is. I went to pay the tickets and saw that they were going to charge me €80 each, not the 40. I explained that I have tried the last few days to pay but they were closed. It turns out, it is “the system” and there is nothing they can do about it. No extension for the fact that they were closed for 7 of the 10 days that the “discount” was valid for!
How To Avoid Parking Violations – Or At Least Avoid the Pain
So, what is the takeaway from all of this?
First of all, ask the rental agent about the parking issues in the country or if they have a guide to the laws. Many places will have something but they may not include it in your packet. In the case of Israel, the curbs are painted different colors to show you about the parking options. Knowing that can save you a huge amount of trouble! Also, it can help to know when their is free parking (like on the weekend – Friday afternoon through Sunday morning – you can park almost anywhere).
Second, do not lean on the word of a local as the actual answer! Like in Greece, they become used to parking wherever and they may tell you it is fine – it may not be, but it is not something they remembered. The same goes for parking where everyone else parks, do not assume that it is correct!
Third, when in doubt, pay for parking! It may cost a bit, but it will certainly be cheaper than a parking ticket. Or, worse, getting a tow and finding out that your car was slightly damaged during the towing process. Guess who is responsible for paying the rental company for that?
Fourth, if you get a parking ticket, try to take care of it right away. It will be processed against the rental car and you do not want to leave town having forgotten about it only to receive a big bill from the rental agency months later (and it can be several hundred dollars, depending on the country you were in). Post offices can often be used as places of payment or certainly the city hall.
Fifth, mention about being a tourist but do not be discouraged if that does not get you a pass. The truth is, it is on us to know the laws of the roads if we are driving in their country. If we make a wrong assumption or mistake, it is our problem. But, they may decide to let a tourist receive a pass on it.
Have you ever received a parking ticket in a foreign country? Where was it and for how much?