Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Renting A Car In Riyadh

TDRA on Olaya.  We've rented a couple of vehicles from here.  Nasser is a nice bloke.

We don't own a four wheeled vehicle in Riyadh so, if we want to go further afield on our Saudi Tiki Tours than a taxi can take us, we have to rent.  Fortunately, renting a car in Riyadh is easy.

Every now and then we do contemplate buying a car and, one day, Hubster even went so far as to ring up and enquire about a bright red Bentley, about fifteen years old, sitting on a vacant lot on Tahalia St, with a for sale sign displayed.  He showed me the car.  Discussion then ensued regarding the Pro's and Cons of owning a vehicle in Riyadh...

Moi - Con - I can't drive it just because I'm 'femme fatale' in KSA.
Hubby - Con - He doesn't have a parking space at work to park it.
Pro - We have a parking space here on the compound.
Moi - Con - It will sit in the parking space at the compound all week because he can't take it to work due to lack of parking space and I can't use it unless we hire a driver.
Con - having to hire a driver for the week because I can't drive it.
Con - it's not a four wheel drive, we can't take it into the desert.
Hubby - Pro - He looks good in it.  (uh huh!)
Hubby - Pro - it's an old beauty that we wouldn't own anywhere else.
Con - It's left hand drive so we won't be taking it back to NZ.
Con - Money spent on this will be less money able to be spent on travel.
Hubby - Pro - It will be cool to drive around.  (Moi - Is that actually a 'pro'?  I have my doubts.)
The more we talked, the more the con's had it.  In the end, we came to the conclusion, someone regretfully so, that this particular vehicle would not be practical for us at this, or any, point in time during our stay in Saudi.

So, we rent.
Most often a GMC Yukon.

Hubster loves the GMC.  It's a big 'don't argue with me car' and I admit it drives like a breeze.  When you put your foot down the pick up is fabulous and it's so easy to handle. (Not that I'm speaking from driving experience here in Saudi.  Of course I'm not!).  We prefer the short wheel base Yukon - it suits our needs perfectly. 

One week we spied a huge, extra large GMC Yukon parked outside a rental agency and, no doubt, it would have easily fit our travelling companions, my mountain bike, the Bar-B and all the food.  (We tend to travel with sufficient supplies to feed an army).   Hubster was keen as mustard but I thought it was a bit over the top.  Turns out it wasn't 4WD so we passed on it.  Our mind set is simple when hiring vehicles to hit the Saudi outback - Desert driving requires 4WD.

How to rent.

Renting a car in Riyadh is usually a piece of cake.  If you're a resident you need a Saudi Drivers Licence and your Iqama.  If you're here on a temp visit or business visa, or don't yet have an Iqama, you can use an International Drivers Licence with your passport for ID.

Finding a rental car in Riyadh isn't a problem either.  Rental places are plentiful.  Finding an agent you're happy with takes a bit of trial and error though.  Mr Inam, on one of our rental car searches, took us to a Rental Car Souq he liked and that his uncle worked at.   We were hopeful of a good deal but the minute they saw a bald headed white fulla the price escalated, though the car quality didn't improve any!  Moving on to the next place was an easy decision.

We have discovered that the mileage allowed on rentals can sometimes be a bit low and have, on a wayward wonder through the back roads outside Riyadh, racked up the kilometers and ended up paying for it.  Our friends also recommend reading the small print on the insurance so you don't end up paying for any other surprises, like new tyres, though I think the guy they rented from was a crook.

Which is the other issue with renting cars in Riyadh.  If you're going to rent from the corner agent because you're looking for the cheaper deal you will have to use your well tuned judge of character to determine whether or not he's as good as his word or shifty as desert sands.  Many corner agents have zero or limited English (or should I say we have terrible Arabic) which increases chances for misunderstandings in translation.

The other issue with rentals that is kind of annoying, is the reek of cigarette smoke that often accompanies them.  For we non-smokers it's a pain in the proverbial.   I am now in the habit of taking a whiff of the vehicles before giving Hubster the nod.  If it stinks, we won't take it.  Hubster thinks I'm being picky - an opinion probably developed the night we traipsed around four car rental agencies before I found one that smelled right.  Given that cigarette smoke is a trigger for migraines, I think I'm being perfectly reasonable!

Hubster brought home a stinky car once. I spent hours attempting to defume the seats and floor with baking soda and carpet cleaner and perfumes and anything else I could get my hands on, letting it all sit overnight and vacuuming it all out the following morning.  My cleaning efforts included smatterings of swear words and abuses at smokers in general and at Hubster for bringing a reek tank home and presuming I'd be happy about it!

The Yukon is not the only vehicle we have used because, being impulsive types (or is that highly disorganised), we sometimes don't book it early enough from our usual guy and have to take what is available at the agents down the road.

To date we have set out into the Saudi highways, by-ways, and occasional desert tracks, in the following vehicles (in case you're the least bit interested):

The Hyundai Tuscan got us from A to B but the suspension left a lot to be desired.  Every bump was felt in the Tuscan and, given that Riyadh's side roads can be rough, if the driver is not paying attention to passenger comfort it can be an unpleasant drive.   This vehicle took us out to the quad bikes at the Red Sands once or twice.

We've also hired a Toyota Corolla which is a smaller car but was the only thing available at short notice.  We actually took this vehicle out to the Camel Trail which, now that the track has been graded, doesn't require 4WD though some careful driving over a couple of rough spots is a good plan.

The Honda Accord we only hired once.  Hubster just didn't fancy it, though it did a perfectly good job delivering us to Graffiti Rock.

A Toyota Fortuna delivered us to The Edge of The World.  I have to say, it handled quite well and our passengers said the ride in back was very comfy.  Hubster thought it sounded like a diesel farm vehicle and found the room in front a little squished for his liking.  Perhaps he ought to lose some excess inches round the midriff.  Nasser, from TDRA car rentals is a nice bloke to deal with and we have rented the vehicle from him a couple of times.

The Prado Landcruiser we took out to RawDhat Khuraim the first time we went there.  It wasn't the V8 model so lacked the power Hubster prefers, though it got us out of a few ruts and soft spots without any problem.

The Chevy Silverado might look chunky, but is a complete waste of time (and I'm paraphrasing Hubsters words which included some non-mentionables).  However, we got it because a friend was moving compounds so, on the plus side, the nice big tray certainly came in handy for that.

It is possible to find inexpensive cars for rent in Riyadh if you're on a bit of a budget.  We should be on a budget but when a rev head bloke is told he can have a big, grunty workhorse, as opposed to a Mitsi Mirage with dents, budget sometimes takes a back seat.  And besides, where else in the world could we hire a huge, gas guzzling truck and fill it which cheap as chips petrol.

When Mr Finland was in charge of car rental we always got something cheap and nasty (Bank types and Accountants are like that!) that he thrashed the guts out of but it got us where we needed to go.  One such vehicle took us out to the Camel Trail before the track was graded, another he drove all the way to Ushaiger Village and back, even offering me the wheel, though Hubster gave a tsk tsk snort (I have no idea how to do a tsk tsk snort, but he can) which put an end to that idea.  Why did he object?   He feels that if anyone is going to get into trouble because I like to get behind the wheel he'd prefer it was only me, not our friends as well.  Honestly, what good are friends if they can't get in trouble with you?

Anyway, the other day, while at the rental agency, we were offered a Lexus 4WD for 2000SAR a day (about $800NZ).  Or we could get ourselves a Hummer. Can you you imagine Hubster drooling about renting these vehicles?  (He can drool as much as he likes, we aren't spending that much cash hiring a car!)   If you're an expat planning a stint in Riyadh, don't panic about getting a vehicle.  Renting or leasing a car in Riyadh is easy and there are plenty to choose from.

Ka Kite,

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