I love driving and try to get a rent a car whenever I travel be it Malaysia , Seychelles or US.
The last time I rented the car in US some 3 years ago when visiting to Detroit suburbs and as I was familiar with the roads and rules it was easy for my to drive.
This time when visiting Anaheim , CA , I had a choice either to drive to Las Vegas , fly or hire a limo.
Now flying was out of question , the time it takes to go the airport , security checks , pay for the bags and then travel back to city were not worth the hassle which can be covered with a bit more then four hour drive.
I looked around for a Limo / SUV with a driver and their off the roof prices for $600 and above abolished the idea.
The last resort was to rent a car , now being a Pakistani ( or any foreigner I believe has it’s advantages ) , when I went to Hertz page from Pakistan , I was offered a Ford Explorer for just $110 with all taxes and surcharges , the same vehicle from Hertz USA page could cost upward to $200/- , talk about preference pricing , the same was with AVIS with whom I booked a backup Chrysler 300 for $100/- but didn’t took delivery.
The day of my rental , I walked to Hertz franchisee equipped with my credit cards , Passport , International License and of course Pakistani License. ( I later found out you can drive in CA for 15 days with a driving license of your country)
On the counter , the guy immediately ran my booking and when asked for an ID , I just handed over my Pakistani License (not International ) and to my surprise he accepted it and issued me a Nissan Pathfinder ( they didn’t had any Ford Explorer ) . As in any rental place , he listed all the options I could have including fuel topup for a $80/- now I was traveling some 350 miles and it sounded a good idea not to bother with fuel and also bother with filling up the car upon return so I opted for it .
Driving in CA was a new experience , I was in a city for the past 3 days and was observing the roads and how people drive including traffic rules like left turns lanes and right turns . I also extensively went through Google Maps to familiarize myself with the road .
I took the delivery of the car and asked the rental guy if I can drive around the lot to familiarize myself with the controls , in reality I wanted to get used to driving on ‘wrong’ side of the road.
With some courage , I finally took the car on the road drove to the hotel to pickup my family and in like 30 minutes was on my way to Vegas.
Now driving on a US highway is a experience of it’s own, I was driving on a Friday morning to Las Vegas so the traffic was considerably low . I had already planned the trip on Google Maps and it was doing an impeccable job , even rerouting quickly when I mistakenly took a ramp and went on to the other freeway , it got me back on track in like 10 minutes .
There is nothing to see on the drive to Vegas except vast expanse of arid land and if you keep your speed limit to 70/80 mph , you can reach there in about three hours. We took a stopover near Death Valley to eat something and were on our way again. Near Prim , I did get to see a Thermal / Solar Power Plant from a distance.
It’s when you enter Vegas you have to be careful , as soon as you enter city limits , the speed limit drops to 45/50 and there are cop cars waiting for you ( the best way to meet the quota) fortunately I saw the signs on time and also the flashing lights of cop cars handing out tickets , I slammed on the brakes and brought my car to the speed limit.
Las Vegas streets are a bit tricky and as it was my first time here , I did lost my way which Google Maps actively corrected . I did had a cop car followed me for a mile ( no lights , must be curious ) but I took the longer route on LV Strip and he lost interest in me and with a few detours I was at my hotel .
Total cost – $199/- , there are no tolls on the way . Do carry plenty of water as the temperature can shoot upwards of 110 F . Cell Rception (T-Mobile) is spotty at places and you can loose your data connection but somehow Google Maps had already downloaded the maps in cache and worked all the way.
For those wondering about my fuel usage , I had a full tank when I left Anaheim , some 20 gallons and when I reached Las Vegas , I still had half the tank.
Overall it was a great experience , driving from Anaheim to Vegas and I’ll recommend it to anyone making the trip.