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Car Rental in Des Moines: a perfect Starting Point to explore America’s Agricultural Heartland
The fast-growing capital of Iowa, Des Moines is an excellent base from which to explore the heart of America. With some fantastic street art, fabulous local breweries, busy summer downtown farmer’s markets (every Saturday, May to October), and outlets, you’ll want to do some thorough exploring of this Midwestern city, whether you’re here for business or pleasure. Automobile hire is by far the most convenient, comfortable, and independent way to check out this fun and growing city!
Roads will be icy and the region will be covered in snow from November to February, making driving fairly treacherous and parking an ongoing fight with the large drifts created by snow plows. Visit from March to September for comfortable to hot weather.
The de facto national language of the United States is English and the currency is the US dollar. Currency exchange is widely available at airports and popular tourist destinations, and credit cards are accepted at the vast majority of businesses.
Located at the intersections of east-west bound Interstate 80 and north-south bound Interstate 35, Des Moines greets most of its visitors by road. However, flights into Des Moines International Airport have been getting increasingly cheaper in recent years, making air travel to Des Moines even more convenient. Located about 15 minutes south of the city center, the airport is a great place to pick up your rental car whether you fly in or not. There are also numerous rental car agencies throughout the city itself, particularly along State Route 6, which intersects the city at Hickman Road or Euclid Avenue.
Don’t make the mistake of just sticking to the city during your visit to Des Moines, but make sure to head out on the highways of Iowa and explore America’s agricultural heartland. Head southwest to Pella, a quaint town 45 miles from Des Moines along Lake Red Rock, for a taste of the American frontier and some excellent Dutch architecture and bakeries. Or take a weekend trip to the glacial Okoboji Lake, 3.5 hours northwest of Des Moines, for some lakeside relaxation and water sports.
38 nationalities can enter the United States as tourists without applying for a visa, though if you are among these nationalities, you are still required to fill out the ESTA in advance. Visit esta.us for more information. All visitors to the United States will be fingerprinted and biometrically photographed upon entry. If your nationality is not included on the visa-waiver program list, you will be required to apply for a B-1 or B-2 visa in advance of your arrival.
Driving in Des Moines
With wide streets, numerous parking spots, and slow public transportation, renting a car in Des Moines provides the most opportunity to truly explore Iowa’s capital city and its surroundings.
Here are some tips and regulations to consider as you drive in and around Des Moines:
- Traffic drives on the right-hand side of the road throughout Iowa.
- Unless otherwise marked, after coming to a full stop at a red light, you can turn right from the right lane if there is no oncoming traffic.
Typical Speed Limits
- In business and residential areas: 25 miles per hour (circa 50 km/h)
- In school zones: 15 to 20 miles per hour (circa 30 km/h)
- On interstates outside of metropolitan areas: 70 miles an hour (circa 110 km/h)
- On urban interstates: 55 miles per hour (circa 90 km/h)
- Traffic in Des Moines will be bad in the hours around 8am and 5pm.
- Parking in downtown Des Moines is regulated by time and fees, whether you park on the street or in a parking garage, but it is by no means a problem. In residential areas, street parking is typically unregulated.
- An international driver’s permit in addition to your valid domestic driver’s license is recommended for renting a car and driving in Iowa.
- There are no toll roads in Iowa, though you will have to pay a toll to cross the Bellevue Bridge, an obsolete and scenic bridge that links Iowa to Nebraska across the Missouri River 2 hours west of Des Moines.
- While the minimum fully licensed driving age in Iowa is 17, you will have to be at least 21 years of age to rent a car. Drivers under 25 will likely have to pay young driver surcharges.
- If you’re visiting in the winter, be prepared for very hazardous snow and ice conditions on the road. Weather conditions can change very quickly in Iowa!
- Particularly if you’re a fan of Midwestern and frontier American cities, take the 2-hour drive west to Omaha, Nebraska for a day or a weekend trip; just double-check regulations on interstate travel with your rental agency before you cross the border.