For Binh Nam, renting a self-driving car when traveling abroad is an opportunity to bring families closer together, no one holding a phone, and heading towards the same road.
Nguyen Binh Nam, born in 1983, is currently the director of a digital transformation consulting company in Ho Chi Minh City. He and his wife’s family and son have a hobby of renting self-driving cars instead of taking public transport when they set foot in each new land. Together, his family drove cars to conquer 5 countries: France, Italy, Switzerland, Greece, and the US.
Explaining the reason for choosing such a reckless way of travel, Nam said that he always tries to have an experience as close as possible to the locals. He was inspired by a friend in his old company who used to rent a self-driving car across France.
Nam had to spend a lot of time convincing his family to agree: “At first, my family and wife disagreed because they thought that traveling abroad is not simple, unpredictable and dangerous… I had to find out more information. I believe very carefully, prove that the rate of traffic accidents abroad is low, and then give many cases of friends who have gone like this. I also connected my wife to meet people who have gone directly to give her peace of mind. In general, it is not easy to start this kind of tourism.”
Before pursuing the form of renting a self-driving car for travel, Nam’s family has conquered 5 countries together. He calls his travel style “cultural experience tourism”. According to him, it is necessary to eat, drink, live, and especially travel in their own way to truly feel where we are going to the fullest. The benefit of self-driving cars according to him is being fully active in the travel plan. In addition, luggage and clothes do not need to be carried around, just leave them in the car. The only shortcoming he found was that it was difficult to find a parking space, but he said that he was used to this while living in Ho Chi Minh City, so he was more flexible.
Likes to go abroad but doesn’t like food, is allergic to cheese and milk, so during a 2-week trip, Nam lost 5 kg. To learn from experience, his family brought a small rice cooker and prepared light dishes such as fried rice, canned food, eggs… In the morning before departure, his family got up to cook rice and check out The hotel always brings the rice cooker to the car. During the trip, whenever hungry, the whole family will stop to eat in the car. This is also one of the benefits of driving a car abroad.
However, self-driving family car trips are not always smooth. The trouble that he often encounters is mainly from not being familiar with the car, strange roads, not knowing the language. “Once I went into a tunnel in Italy, I didn’t know where the button was to turn on the light. My wife and children were sleeping, the tunnel was dark. It was bright, but it turned dark right away, so my eyes didn’t have time to adapt. So I tried to run a few kilometers. with the default fog light that sweats like a bath because of fear”, Nam shared about a “heart attack”.
Nam is also quite lucky to have overcome the problem many times. He recounted a time when he rented a car but didn’t listen carefully, forgetting that the lessor told him to fill up petrol or oil, but the phone ran out of 3G capacity. He stood for an hour to decide whether to fill up with gas or oil, but luckily he made the right choice. “Once in France, I drove my car out of my house, was busy looking at the solid or broken line to turn, and almost bumped into a police car. They lowered the car door and spoke in Western, I didn’t know the language, so I just laughed. Then he said Sorry, Sorry. Fortunately, they didn’t punish him, it must have been a minor mistake, so it was ignored, “Nam said.
The incident that reminds him the most is a driving time in the US. At that time, at about 21 o’clock, when the car passed a natural section of smoke, thick smoke appeared in the car, and the car was hot and hot, blocking the view. He was about to say “Stop dying, or is it a forest fire?”, but he was uncertain whether to continue or turn around. He decided to rely on his emotions to continue, run an extra 3-4 km, then he was lucky to pass that section.
However, the car trip across the United States also left his family with many experiences of a lifetime, such as driving through the slopes of San Francisco, through the Death Valley desert in the middle of a starry night, past the Las Vegas casino. Vegas like in the movies, or to the sunny San Diego waters…
Nam said that self-driving made him understand more about the traffic of each country. In the inner city of Rome (Italy), traffic is divided into several zones, with some areas only allowing cars in that area, some areas are banned by the hour. Because there is no ban board, traveling in this area needs to be on the map for self-identification.
Nam’s family does not have the habit of planning in detail before each trip but in a “going to whereabouts” style. He usually only plans near, for example, every evening he will read Lonely Planet, search on Google to see where tomorrow goes. However, many nights before going to bed, they still couldn’t decide, so the next morning the whole family got in the car and looked at each other and asked “So where are we going now?”. Nam also does not have the habit of booking hotels in advance. During his travels, he often looked for the nearest hotel to check into when it was dark.
To rent a self-driving car abroad, Nam must have a B2 driver’s license in English. According to him, this license can travel to 85 countries. In addition, an international driving license issued by the Directorate for Roads is required. To register, you need to go to the website of the General Department, provide information about B2 driver’s license, pay the fee and wait 2 weeks for the driver’s license to be sent home.
According to his information, car rental prices in Europe and America are not much different. The price for a day rental ranges from 60-120 USD depending on the vehicle type, with full insurance. Short-term car rental will be more expensive than long-term rental. If you rent for more than a week, you usually get a discount of about 30%. In addition, high-end cars are usually only 20-30% more expensive than regular cars, so in his opinion, try to invest in renting a high-end car to run “for pleasure”.
Nam’s experience is that you should rent a car before the trip, as soon as you buy a plane ticket because the sooner you rent it, the cheaper the price will be. If you go to a new rental place, you may be at risk because in addition to the expensive price, you may not have a car or you may not have a satisfactory car. Nam said he needed to rent a car at a convenient place to pick up and drop off the car, such as the airport or hotel. Also, pay with an international credit card like Visa or Master Card as there are often great promotions. According to him, this method of travel is more economical when traveling as a family, the more members, the cheaper it is. For example, if you go with a few people or go all day to just a few attractions, with public transport available, renting a self-driving car will not be as cheap.
All trips bring memorable experiences for the family. For Nam, getting in the car is the whole family together, no one holds the phone, no one watches TV. All talk, discuss, listen, enjoy the same moment, a road ahead. His 9-year-old son is learning and experiencing this style of travel. According to him, the value gained from these trips will be richer and more diverse than the usual way of tourism.
Currently, his family is planning to most recently explore Australia, but due to the impact of the pandemic, it has been postponed. However, the family has good news that they have just welcomed a new baby girl. At the beginning of the year, when his daughter was 8 months old, his family drove from Ho Chi Minh City to Da Nang to celebrate Tet in the car. Follow vnexpress