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How far in advance should I book my car rentals ?

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We are visiting Ireland and Scotland for about 8 days each in May 2014. Propose to rent an automatic transmission car at both places. Planning on renting from Dan Dooley in Ireland (from Dublin airport), and from Arnold Clark in Scotland (from Glasgow airport).

How much in advance should I book my car rentals ? Do prices go up as the dates approach ? The trouble is that they seem to charge the credit card immediately upon booking (although there is a liberal refund policy for cancellations); so I would like to book as late as possible, closer to journey dates.

Also, do I need an International Driving Permit ? I have my driver's license from India, which is in English, so that should work fine ?

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