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Are there any restrictions on hire cars when you cross borders within the EU? I'm thinking about hiring a car in Linz, Austria and driving to Česky Krumlov, Czech Republic (about an hour away) and back again. I presume it's up to the rental company, but is it generally allowed?

  • If you just want to visit Krumlov get a taxi from there to meet you at Linz. You don't need a car in the town as you have to leave it outside the gates. Taxis from Krumlov are very cheap. – John Whitby May 6 at 10:06
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It all depends on the conditions of the rental company, but especially travel to East European countries is often restricted or prohibited.

Just a few examples for your exact combination (rental in Austria, travel to Czech Republic): Sixt allows travel with the cheaper categories of cars, while Avis prohibits all travel to the Czech Republic.

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    I might also add that there are no border checks in the Schengen area so you might as well get away with it, as long as you don't get into an accident. – JonathanReez Feb 18 '17 at 16:43
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    Even with border controls, I am not sure if the authorities would bother to check rental car conditions, since bringing the car across the border is only a violation of a civil contract between you and the rental company and not a breach of law in the country you are travelling to. The greatest problem you will face is that all insurance is void if the car should be stolen or you end up in an accident. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Feb 18 '17 at 16:50
  • Though a border control officer might not care, you could still run into the police. Driving without proper insurance might get you into trouble, depending on jurisdiction. @JonathanReez there are currently border checks some places in the Schengen area, from Germany to Denmark and from Denmark to Sweden. – Bent Feb 18 '17 at 20:32
  • @Bent those are immigration checks, not customs checks. As for insurance, a policy from one EU country is also valid in every other EU member state: europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/vehicles/insurance/validity/… (just like you don't need special insurance to drive from New York to New Jersey). – JonathanReez Feb 18 '17 at 20:44
  • @JonathanReez the checks are more than just immigration checks. There are quite a few danes that have been caught transporting fireworks across the border from Germany which is illegal even for fireworks that are legal on both sides of the border (you'll need a permit). I believe number plates are also scanned. But if the insurance for the hired car covers, then they would most likely not care about the details of the contract. – Bent Feb 18 '17 at 20:57
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There are three aspects to this question:

  1. Border checks: while there are occasional spot checks on the Czechia-Austria border, they're mostly targeting illegal immigrants and smugglers of contraband. Immigration personnel certainly wouldn't care about the car you're driving, especially since you're not a local resident.

  2. Police checks: it is of course possible that you would get stopped by the police for a random check, but again they don't care about the contract between you and the rental company. As long as you have your driving license and the car's documents, the police will be satisfied. @Bent mentioned that you might get in trouble for not having Austrian insurance, but that's not true:

    When you register a car in any EU country, you must insure it for third party liability. This compulsory insurance is valid in all other EU countries.

  3. Your contract with the rental company: while some companies do disallow driving outside the Czech Republic (although few would have issues with Austria), they pretty much cannot check that you haven't actually went there, unless there's a GPS sensor installed in the car. The only way they might find out is if you get into an accident outside the area where you've been allowed to drive and report it, so you'd better drive carefully while violating the contract.

My own advice is to find a company that would allow this trip (most would), rather than breaking your contract and facing the minor risk of getting caught.

Note that this answer applies to driving between any EU countries, not just Czech Republic and Austria.

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