Car Rental Texas
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Why rent a car in Texas?
Texas is the second largest (after Alaska) and second most-populous (after California) state in the United States. The state is home to both the sprawling metropolises of Houston and the Dallas-Fort Worth area and endless unpopulated desert. The urban conglomerations require a car to navigate, whether you’re on a business trip or a city break. Of course, Texas for most visitors means a road trip. Driving down empty roads on which you may go hours without seeing another car is an unforgettable experience.
Top ways to enter Texas
Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) is the largest airport in the state of Texas. It is located almost directly between Dallas and Fort Worth. When arriving at the airport, follow the signs for rental cars to get to the shuttle bus to the Rental Car Center, which takes about 10 minutes. The route upon entering the airport to drop off the car is well marked and afterward just take the shuttle back to your terminal. There is a toll to enter or transit through the airport, but you should not have to pay it if picking up or dropping off a rental car.
George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) in Houston is the second busiest airport in the state. It is located 40 miles (65 kilometers) north of the city. The airport is a major hub for United Airlines. It also hosts many international flights, particularly to Mexico, the Carribean, and Central and South America. The airport has a Rental Car Center that is open 24 hours a day and is located near all of the terminals. A shuttle bus is available outside of the baggage claim of each terminal. The road to reach the Rental Car Center to return the car is well signed when coming into the airport.
The third busiest airport in the state, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is located six miles southeast of the capital city which itself is located in the center of the eastern portion of the state. The airport has non-stop flights from many U.S. cities in addition to London, Frankfurt, Mexico City. All major suppliers have desks in the Rental Car Facility which is located across from the upper level of the Barbara-Jordan Terminal. Those arriving in the South Terminal with Allegiant, Via Air, or Frontier will need to take a shuttle to the main terminal to reach the Rental Car Facility.
San Antonio International Airport (SAT) is the fourth busiest airport in Texas and is located eight miles north of San Antonio’s Downtown. The airport serves numerous domestic flights and flights from Mexico. Its Rental Car Center, which opened in 2018, can be reached from Terminal B using the Sky Bridge. If in search of information about either the airport or the city, look for an Airport Ambassador wearing a denim vest and cowboy hat. These are volunteers who direct visitors for free (even tips aren’t welcome).
Amtrak has three routes that pass through the state of Texas. The Texas Eagle with service from Chicago and St. Louis stops in Dallas, Fort Worth, and Austin before joining the Sunset Limited in San Antonio from where the two transit through El Paso on to Phoenix and Los Angeles. The Heartland Flyer covers the 206-mile route from Fort Worth to Oklahoma City. While rental cars are not available at the train stations themselves, rental offices of suppliers can be found in the downtown areas of the large cities in which the trains stop. These offices generally have normal office hours and are not able to let you pick up a car outside of these times if that is when your train arrives.
It is also possible to arrive with a rental car from one of the surrounding states and drop it off on of Texas’ large cities. The main entry routes are I-10 from southern Louisiana to Beaumont and Houston, I-10 at El Paso, I-20 from Shreveport, Louisiana to Tyler and on to Dallas, I-30 from Arkansas, and I-35 from Oklahoma. I-40 also passes through Amarillo in the panhandle of Texas.
Top cities and places to visit
- San Antonio - More than 35 million people visit San Antonio every year. The city is known for the Alamo, famous for its role in the Texan Revolution and the soldiers who, though surely outnumbered, defended it from the Mexican Army. The Battle of the Alamo would become a turning point in the war. Many are of course underwhelmed at the site having expected the physical size to match the size of its historical importance.
San Antonio is not just the Alamo, though. The city is also known for the Riverwalk, a pedestrian area below street level along the San Antonio River. The Riverwalk is packed full of bars, restaurants, and hotels. Boats are available to get around the area. No trip to Texas should leave out San Antonio.
- Dallas - Dallas is the third-largest city on its own, but the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is the largest metro area in the state and fourth-largest in the country. Dallas is known for its upscale hotels and fine dining, but it also offers some tourist attractions, the most notable of which are Dealey Plazza, the site where President John F. Kennedy was murdered, and the Sixth-Floor Museum which covers the murder; JFK Memorial Plaza; and the Dallas Museum of Art, a world-class art museum.
If traveling in the area between the end of September and the middle of October, do not miss the State Fair of Texas (September 27 - October 20 in 2019). Texas’s state fair is a conglomeration of quintessential “texasness.” Even if you are going to miss the State Fair, it is still worth visiting the Fair Park and seeing the historic architecture.
- Fort Worth - At the other end of the DFW Metroplex, Fort Worth was once a completely separate city and the “Gateway to the West.” Fort Worth’s history is much closer to the stereotypical Texan cowboy culture than Dallas’ as it was a center for the cattle trade. The downtown area with its old buildings has many restaurants and bars and is popular both during the day and night. The nearby city of Grapevine is also worth a visit for its historic downtown and its wineries.
- Houston - The fourth-largest city in the country is also the most populous city in Texas. Though it is a sprawling city, most of the sites of interest to tourists are located in or near Downtown. These included museums, an aquarium and art galleries. One notable destination that isn’t located downtown is the Space Center. Houston has been home to the Johnson Space Center since 1961 which included the Mission Control Center for all subsequent space missions. The Space Center Houston serves as the visitor’s center and offers educational programs and a museum. It is located about 25 miles southeast of Downtown Houston.
- Austin - The capital of the state of Texas is often said to feel as if it is not located in the state. Austin is home to the University of Texas and its more than 50,000 students. The are is also packed with tech startups and known for its musical and food scenes. In fact, the city is often known as the Live Music Capital of the World. The typical landmarks, museums, and such that come with a state capital can also be found. Located on the way between the Dallas-Forth Worth area and San Antonio, a stop in “weird” Austin is certainly worth the while.
- Big Bend National Park - In the southwestern part of the state, Big Bend National Park is one of the most remote national parks in the country. It is, therefore, one of the least visited. This is unfortunate, though, as the park offers excellent hiking and biking trails. The park is the most popular between mid-November and the beginning of January and late March (when students have spring break). Due to extremely high temperatures, travel during the summer is not recommended and the hours of some of the facilities is reduced. Though the park is far away from everywhere, the drive to it is half the adventure. Getting lost on the desert and mountain trails in unspoiled and lonely nature is the other half.
- Galveston - Approximately a 45-minute drive southeast of Houston, Galveston is a city and island on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. The island is at the same time popular with Houstonians and a major port of call for cruise ships. The most popular reason for visiting is the beaches, of course. Corpus Christi, over 200 miles to the south bookends the Texas coast and serves as a gateway to the beaches from San Antonio.
- Guadalupe Mountains National Park - Located on the border with New Mexico, this national park protects the Guadalupe Mountains and Texas’ highest peak, Guadalupe Peak. The park is not as large as Big Bend, but it offers more than 80 miles of hiking trails. You can also camp at one of the two campgrounds or in the backcountry. If you make it as far as this national park, you should certainly venture north into New Mexico to Carlsbad Caverns National Park and descend into the caverns.
Most popular rental car
The most popular class of rental car in Texas is the economy of which the Kia Rio is a great example. Given Texas’ popularity among those traveling with families and the opportunity it provides for long road trips, Intermediate and Fullsize cars are also very popular. The Chevrolet Cruze is a good example of the intermediate class and the Chevrolet Malibu is a good example of the full-size class.
Driver licence requirements
While an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) is recommended if your driver’s license is not in English but is in a Latin script (for example, Spanish, German, or French), an IDP is required if your driver’s license is in a different script (for example, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Greek). An IDP does not substitute for your driver’s license, though. You still must provide a driver’s license from your country along with it.
Whether you are a U.S. citizen or a foreign citizen, your driver's license must have been obtained at least a year prior to renting the car. Non-U.S. citizens also are required to provide additional government-issued documentation (such as a passport).
Depending on the supplier, a driver must be at least 20 or 21 years old to rent a car in Texas. Any drive that is under 25 years of age will be charged and Underage Drivers fee.
Though perhaps tempting, it is unfortunately not possible to take a rental car from Texas to Mexico. None of the large rental suppliers allow their cars to be taken across the border.
It is possible to cross the border on foot at various crossings in the state. Most of the cities on the Mexican side of the border, particularly the larger ones such as Juarez are plagued with violence and may not make for the best day-trip. One border crossing that may be the best is that between Big Bend National Park and Boquillas. At this crossing, you can take a rowboat across. The Port of Entry is open from 9 AM to 6 PM Friday through Monday in the summer and from 8 AM to 5 PM Wednesday through Sunday in the winter. Be sure to return by 5 PM at which time the border closes. Also, make sure to take your passport as even U.S. citizens are required to have a passport to reenter the country.
When traveling in the vicinity of the border, drivers will encounter Border Patrol checkpoints. If you are a U.S. citizen, stating such is usually sufficient. If you are a citizen of a foreign country, you will be asked to produce your passport with a valid entry stamp or visa.
As for state borders, it is generally allowed to take a car rented in Texas to other states. Some suppliers restrict the states to which you are allowed to travel to neighboring states. Consult the Rental Conditions or the supplier if you are planning to go on a long road trip.
All suppliers that Discover Car Hire currently has available in Texas include unlimited mileage for rentals (as long as the renter is not a local renter).
Top driving routes
- Route 66 - The most direct route between Chicago and Los Angeles available these days doesn’t pass anywhere near Texas. The historic Route 66, however, passed through the Panhandle of Texas. Though the route through Texas now mostly coincides with I-40, portions of the old road transiting through small towns and Amarillo still exist and are certainly worth the trip north.
- Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive - Though only 30 miles long, this drive through Big Bend National Park (which requires a long drive to get to) is simply stunning. Though it technically starts at a turnoff from TX-188, starting from Panther Junction is probably best.
The road was made specifically for visitors to see all of the geological history of the park. It includes both viewpoints and trailheads for venturing further into the park and could take an entire day to drive. The beginning of the road offers views of the Chisos Mountains. Further down the road are vistas of landscapes such as the Mule Ears, the Tuff Canyon, and finally the Santa Elena Canyon. The Castolon Historic District offers a history of the settlers that once inhabited the area and is where restrooms and a store can be found.
When traveling to Big Bend National Park it is essential to be prepared. Be sure to fill up on gas anytime that it is available, as long stretches of road in the area are without services. If driving to the park via TX-118, gas is available in Alpine and Terlingua. If arriving via Highway 385, gas is available in Marathon and at Panther Junction. Gas is also available at Rio Grande Village. No gas is available along the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive.
It is also essential to carry enough water with you, both when driving and hiking. Big Bend country is a dessert and temperatures can be quite high. Bear safety is also essential, so be sure to store your food in the provided bear-proof containers in the campgrounds and dispose of any trash properly.
- El Camino del Rio - If making the long trip to Big Bend Country, don’t overlook Big Bend Ranch State Park. State Highway 170 between Presidio and Lajitas along the Rio Grande in the park is one of the most scenic drives in the country. Most of the route winds its way through the stunning desert environment next to the Rio Grande.
Multiple trailheads can be found along the road. One of them is that of the Closed Canyon Trail which starts a short walk from a parking lot by the road. The tail goes through the canyon all the way to the Rio Grande. Pay close attention to the weather forecast as the canyon should be avoided in the rain. It is also advisable to not descend all the way to the river, as there is a large drop off that may be more difficult to ascend than it was to descend. The Controbando Movie Set that can be seen from the road and makes for a nice stop. Primitive campsites are located along the road, but be sure to visit the park’s Visitor Center to reserve one and pay the small fee.
Be sure to fill up your gas tank before making this drive (and before venturing down to this part of the State in general, as prices are much higher in this region). Your next destination after Lajitas should be Terlingua, a ghost town just outside Big Bend National Park.
- The Twisted Sisters - A great trip nearer to Texas’ major cities, three roads in Texas’ Hill Country collectively know as the twisted sisters form a drive that is known as one of the best motorcycle roads. It is also a great trip to make with a car.
The Twisted Sisters, Ranch Roads 335, 336, and 337, are close to I-10 west of San Antonio. If coming from West Texas places like Big Bend, Highway 377 is closer. Combined with State Roads 41 and 55, the roads form a cicular route. Road 19 is also scenic and can be a great way to get back to I-10.
Top 9 Most Popular Cities in Texas
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Top 12 Most Popular Locations in Texas
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Car Rental at Laredo International Airport from $62.99 per day
Car Rental at Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport from $62.99 per day
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Top 3 Suppliers for Texas in 2019
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