Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Car2Go Stockholm

We tried Car2Go this weekend. It's a short term car rental company spreading around the world. It arrived in Stockholm earlier this year. I used to see Zipcar back in northern Virginia but we never needed it while living there so this was my first use of this kind of service. They're all little 2-seat Smart cars perfect for running around the city.

I registered online but needed to stop by one of their kiosks for them to validate my driver's license and identity. They take Swedish or EU licenses but needed to see an "International Driver's License" with my US state issued license. Fortunately I got one from AAA back in the US before leaving but it's a silly thing to me. It's just a little booklet with translations of the class of license and some handwritten info transcribed from my US license. It has a passport photo glued in to make it look a bit more official with some AAA rubber stamps but it's essentially a document anyone could make. It requires the US license with it to be valid so it's not an international license by itself. I've heard I could rent a car here with just the US license but they wouldn't let me sign up without it.

Now with that little formality out of the way I could rent a car with their smartphone app. The cars can be picked up and dropped off at any city parking space (not private parking lots/garages). They handle the parking fees, gas, insurance, city toll, and most everything else about the car. US prices are about 50 cents/hour, maximum $19/hour, or maximum $77/day at the current exchange rate. We wanted to run out to an Ikea and a plant nursery for some things which would be a lot to carry using our normal buses and trains.

I used the app to pick the closest one with a good amount of gas in the tank. I reserved it and we walked 2 blocks to find this:


Someone smashed into the poor little thing or the last driver did it. The app said it was available but there's a little status screen in the windshield with Swedish words translating to "not in service" even though it should probably have just said "ouch!" We found another one and walked probably 4 blocks to find it. It was just fine so I started the rental with the phone and it was remotely unlocked. It kind of felt like I was stealing the car as we jumped in and started fiddling with the controls and mirrors. I stumbled through the GPS menus to switch the language from Swedish to English. It had a switchable automatic transmission so I turned that on since I'm not very experienced with using a manual transmission.

If we stayed in the parking service areas marked on the online map then I could have ended the rental when we got to the stores. That also risks someone else stealing... I mean renting, the car we were using. We went out of town a bit and out of the parking area so my only choice was to keep it. It's allowed but I had to keep the rental time period going and take the key with me. We did our shopping, headed back home to unload our stuff, and left the car in a nearby parking space. It felt like ditching a stolen car after a joy ride! Now we have another nice option for getting around without owning and taking care of a car which makes it worth the price to me. We got some heavier stuff from Ikea and some plants for the balcony now that's it's starting to warm up some (it may get above 70F in early June!):



Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Belgium

We had another Swedish holiday this past Thursday (Ascension Day) so I took Friday off and we flew to Belgium to visit some friends living there now. It was a 2 hour flight to Brussels so another short trip. We didn't end up spending too much time in Brussels since our friends lived about an hour away but that was a good thing. Our trips so far have been from city to city using public transit everywhere we go. Our friends had a car so we actually saw some of the countryside and sights we wouldn't have normally looked for if we had flown to Brussels on our own. Here's a little bit of downtown on a rainy day which I'm told is typical for Belgium:

       



We went to Citadelle de Namur and there was a big fire in the town while we were eating lunch so that added something unusual to our view. Otherwise it was a cool fortress high on a hill and the rest of the pictures aren't fire related.





 





 

 

 

 

 
Pairi Daiza a really cool zoo and botanical park about an hour from Brussels near our friends. We would have never seen it without them taking us since it isn't a city destination. There was just so much to see there that I can't share it all with pictures. It's one of those things I'd recommend checking out if you're ever in Belgium. It's an awesome zoo for kids or those of us who think we're still kids. lol