Catalonia, An Empty Fuel Tank and some Car Hire Tips

Catalonia Ceramic Tile Map

This was our final day in Catalonia and the original plan was to pack our bags into the boot (trunk) of the car and drive to Girona and put it in a car park for the day but as I told you earlier the car we had been allocated didn’t have a boot (trunk), so still fearful of being robbed, we changed our plans and drove directly to our final hotel at Girona airport to leave our bags and to return the vehicle.

I was still annoyed by the car hire scam of selling me an overpriced tank of fuel and challenging me to bring it back empty so I was determined that I would do exactly that.  When we left Besalú the trip computer told me that we had enough fuel for about sixty kilometres and I calculated that the airport was just slightly less than that so with a feather like foot on the accelerator (gas) pedal and with the air-conditioning system turned off we tip-toed our way sedately to Girona.

Our walking pace drive irritated local drivers now and again and once I was almost tempted to visit a fuel station and buy a thimble full of diesel but I resisted the moment of temporary self doubt and just kept going trying to shut out the nagging reminder from the dashboard controls that I should urgently refuel.

This reminded me of a holiday in Lanzarote in 1982 when six of us hired a Daihatsu jeep and when we collected it the fuel tank was practically empty.  My brother Richard was really annoyed and determined to take it back in the same state so towards the end of the hire period we pulled into a filling station:

‘Si Seňor?’

‘two hundred por favor’

‘two hondred?’ the man scratched his head and looked confused and then turning to us said, ‘two hondred – not enough room in tank!’

We looked confused but then after a short debate we realised what he meant and Richard was rather more specific –  ‘no, not litres – pesetas!’

Now this was the equivalent of about seventy-five pence so this required great precision on his part to deliver only just the required miniscule amount into the tank.  We handed him two one hundred peseta notes and he walked away shaking his head and in apparently total disbelief repeating over and over to himself ‘two hondred, two hondred…’ ‘two hondred, two hondred…’ and we fell about  and almost wet ourselves laughing.

As we got closer to the airport the fuel indicator needle dropped off of the dashboard gauge all together, the digital display said only enough fuel for ten kilometres and the refuel warning light was flashing madly like in a James Bond movie indicating only ten seconds to Armageddon but we were very close now and I was certain that I could do it so eased off the throttle even more and coasted towards the hotel.  At one stage I took a wrong turning which could have been disastrous but I quickly corrected that and gratefully pulled into the hotel car park.

We were too early to check in but the staff locked our bags away and then, as there was an hour to wait for the next bus into Girona we sat and had a beer before returning the car. When I got back into the driving seat to my horror the computer still said ten kilometres of fuel left so I took it for a ride around the airport circuit road  a couple of times until it had dropped to five and then satisfied with this achievement I took it back to the Solmar rental office and smugly handed back the keys.


At this point I am tempted to offer some car hire advice but I cannot do better than include here a comment recently received from my friend Dai Woosnam from Grimsby:

“In the past fifteen months I have flagged-up my car hire specials to cover a month long hire in April 2012 (2 weeks in Boston, Mass, and 2 weeks in Seattle, Washington); a month long hire in Washington, DC to drive down to Daytona Beach, Florida, last August); a week’s hire in Murcia, Spain, last November; and a week’s hire in Faro, Portugal in March 2013.  I have told you that I did the following:

1. Took out FULL worldwide car rental insurance for £80 a year.

2. Hired the car via an Irish agent who took a tiny 5 euros for each booking.

3. Collected the car of my choice from the relevant airport each time.  At ridiculously cheap prices.

To give you an idea:on the last trip we got a nearly new gutsy Fiat quite capable of carrying a huge fatso like me up the steep hills of old Lisbon! and paid the guy at Faro airport, an astonishing 29 euros for 7 full days!!

So that is a TOTAL of 34 euros (about £30) INCLUDING the Irish agent’s commission!

And also you will get the car you want, plus the way you want it (collect full/return full).”

Dai writes an excellent eclectic monthly digest including great tips like these.  If you want to subscribe then write to him at and he will mail a regular copy.


So, mission accomplished and feeling rather pleased with ourselves we had a second beer on the terrace of the hotel and waited the final few minutes before the scheduled time of our bus into the city of Girona.

River Houses of Gorona

10 responses to “Catalonia, An Empty Fuel Tank and some Car Hire Tips

  1. Your crusade to outsmart the rental car companies is a kick. I’m generally too worried about running out of gas in the middle of nowhere. 😉


  2. In spite of all the chsllenges, was it easy to drive in the area? We’re the directions and signs easy enough to follow? We are very comfortable driving around France, Germany, Switzerland, Etc. but we had a bit of a challenge in many parts of Italy. We have not tried to drive in Spain at all.


  3. Interesting car hire advice, Andrew. I’ll be checking out the possibility of using an agent and worldwide insurance in future.


  4. Spain is very easy to drive. Nice quiet motorways and the old national network are both a dream to drive.


  5. Dear Andrew,
    Thanks for the free plug of my Daigressing. Any of your readers wishing to board my vessel should know that she is still sailing in her 20th year of existence, though she is taking in water these days!
    With regards to the car hire and the Irish company: 5 euros was their commission on that stunningly cheap Portugal hire I enjoyed last March. As far as I can work out, they take the deposit as their commission.
    It is fair to say that I am less certain what their commission was on the other previous deals, as I paid the whole lot “up front” to them months in advance. Do not ever do that, folks! They will use your money to bolster their bank balance, and only pay the local car rental firm the day before you arrive!
    Just pay the deposit to the agent and pay the balance upon collection. The reason I knew that the 5 euros I paid the agent as deposit for the Portugal hire was their fee, was because the rental guy told me this when I paid him the balance at Faro airport.
    BTW, their car was virtually new. It is extraordinary, is it not? That there can be such a disparity in rental fees, I mean.
    One or two caveats though. Do not expect to find the car rental firm with a posh office in the airport terminal, like Hertz, Avis, etc. No chance! In the case of Faro, I had a 5 minute walk to find my lot in a shared Portakabin at the bottom of one of the airport car parks. But they could not have been nicer.
    And caveat #2: because you have not taken out their excess insurance (about 60 euros for a week, as I recall), they will run your credit card through an old fashioned visa “manual pull machine” (with a paper receipt) for the sum of 800 euros, should the car come back damaged!!! But no worries, if it does, your worldwide full excess insurance will reimburse you. And incidentally, a friend tells me that he has got a full year’s such cover for just £59.99. So I paid £20 over the odds for mine! But mine was still a bargain.
    Needless to say, on my returning the car, they gave me their copy of my 800 euros receipt – naturally unprocessed (!) – back, after they had been satisfied with their check of the car’s bodywork.
    Anyway, enough of my prattling on. Really looking forward to your next mailing when you describe Girona. I fell in love with it following Patrice Chaplin’s amazing book (long shamefully out of print, but still available second-hand for pennies via Amazon).
    Thanks again for plug. I owe you lunch here at Woosnam Towers.
    Dai Woosnam
    Grimsby, UK.


  6. Good to get one over the “Banditos” Andrew- keep up the good work 🙂


  7. I can just imagine you driving round in circles, almost on empty, just trying to use up that last drop. Nice one for defeating the system!!


  8. I killed myself laughing with the picture in my head of you driving around and around to deplete the gas in the tank. Oh what games we play but why not have fun when you can.


  9. Thanks for my morning laugh.Glad the whole fuel thing worked out for you.


  10. I like your game of moving around a circle and empty even last drop of fuel and completely deplete the gas in the tank. It shows and give massage never give up keep trying.


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