Have you ever driven or pictured yourself driving in a foreign country? What does the image look like to you?
Sometimes, people simply forget that they are in a foreign country until they hear a siren blasting for them to stop on the road.
In some other instances, many people that want to drive in a country they are not familiar with usually get a little bit nervous…
… and well, if you are not too sure what the laws are, you will find yourself constantly looking over your shoulder to see if law enforcement officials are about to pull you over and give you a fine for an offense you did not even realize you committed.
Everyone knows ignorance is hardly an excuse with the law, so it’s a good thing that you are here because there are certain things you should know before driving in a foreign country, especially with a rented car.
Why Bother About Driving in a Foreign Country
You have to be concerned about driving in a foreign country even if you are the finest, smoothest and best law-abiding driver in your home country.
And the reasons are simple; one is that traffic laws are very different across countries.
Yes, general driving regulations do not change, however, driving laws, road conditions, and other acceptable driving behavioral norms differ per country, and you don’t want to disturb your entire traveling experience by having to deal with law enforcement.
For example, what side of the road to drive on, unfamiliar signs, pedestrian laws etc., differ according to country and you have to take note of them.
When renting a car, it is especially important to be more careful while driving.
This is because anything that happens affects both you and the car rental company whose services you are using, thereby creating issues for you with law enforcement and the company, which is a terrible experience to go through.
Beyond dealing with law enforcement or your rental company, another important reason why you should be careful is for the sake of safety.
Tourist accidents make up a large percentage of the death and accident rate in most foreign countries.
According to Bootsnall, almost half of all medical evacuations back to the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand are the result of a vehicle accident, and a medical evacuation can cost you upward of $75,000 if you don’t have adequate travel insurance.
These are the reasons why it is very important to know as much as you can about driving in a foreign country.
Tips for Driving in a Foreign Country
There are many things to take note of when driving in a foreign country. The list here is very comprehensive although not exhaustive.
Therefore, the important thing is that for whichever country you are traveling to, you should check and confirm if they have any additional policies or regulations that you have to take note of in addition to these listed tips.
This is to help you stay safe and avoid breaking the law. A good place to get all the information you need online is The DMV.
You can enter your specific location and get information relevant to you, but first, here are the things you must know before you start driving in a foreign country:
Hold your documents:
You absolutely do not want to be caught up in a situation where you cannot present a means of identification or prove that you are legally permitted to drive.
Make sure to always have all the required documents before stepping out in your car.
This includes your license, your international permit, your car rental documents and all other essentials.
Get auto insurance coverage:
If you are renting a car, this can be done for you through your rental company, but if you are not renting, it’s compulsory that you get insurance for your vehicle.
This is because the insurance coverage from your home country will not be usable.
When getting your insurance, make sure to ask for the right type of coverage from your insurance agent.
Do not take rented cars across the border without permission:
This is because in doing this, you could be breaching your agreement and it would cost you a whole lot with law enforcement and your car rental company.
Getting pulled over:
If you are pulled over on the road, for security reasons, you should confirm that they are law enforcement officials, and not criminals trying to take advantage of you, by asking for their ID.
It is imperative you stay very calm when talking to law enforcement so that you can get your issues resolved fast and smoothly.
Answer their questions, give them what they ask for and stay calm.
Countries charge their fines and receive payments for fines differently.
In some cases, you might get fined and have to sort the payment out yourself.
In some other cases, your fine will be sent to the company your car is rented from, and they may in turn charge you.
Whatever the case is, be certain of which applies in your exact location to avoid extra issues coming up.
It is very important to take note of the pedestrian laws of the country you are traveling to.
For example, some countries require you to stop for animals and some other laws which you might not have imagined.
Know your route:
Luckily, online maps are now available to help and reduce the risk of getting lost while driving, but if you do not have an internet compatible device or you have a dead battery, you might want to get hard-copy maps to use instead.
In doing this, you should also find out if there are special things required on your routes such as tolls, and the accepted payment method.
Know the number for emergency:
This is very important, and it matters irrespective of whether you are driving or otherwise.
Know the emergency number for the country you are in so that if you need any help, or feel danger, you can reach out fast and quickly get help.
Know the regulations:
Driving regulations are sometimes changed based on laws in some countries.
For example, the “give way” sign might require you to yield to somebody on your right instead of your left, or someone coming from a minor road, etc.
The traffic light regulations in some foreign countries are also different.
You also want to know if you are in a right-hand or left-hand country, so you know what side of the road to keep to.
Tthe US for example is a right-hand country. Speed limits and pedestrian laws also differ per country, and so much more.
You should also take time to research the security of the country you are in, know how safe their roads are so you can plan your route, your time, parking locations, etc., much better.
Irrespective of what you find, make sure you always keep your doors locked, watch your back before entering your vehicle and stay as security conscious as possible.
Drinking & driving:
This is basic, but if you are used to getting away with it in your home country, you might not want to try that in a foreign country because sometimes you could get caught even if you didn’t commit any offence.
Car seat laws:
Car seat laws, especially for children, vary and are taken very seriously. It is crucial that you know why car seats are required or accepted for your car in the country you are in.
These are laws to prevent distraction while driving. You have to know what is permitted or otherwise.
Can you call? Can you text? These are important regulations to take note of as well.
Requirements for Tourist Drivers
Once you are ready to rent a car and start driving in a foreign country, certain requirements will be demanded from you asides from having a valid driver’s license.
All the things listed in this section are items that once you have, you must always carry around with you wherever you go.
This article will focus primarily on the U.S although these requirements are generally the same.
- International driving permit.
- Valid driver’s license.
- Rental and auto insurance documents.
- Local emergency contact info.
- Passport and travel visa (if you plan to cross any borders).
Going to a foreign country should be fun in all ramifications, including driving.
The last thing anyone wants is to get on the wrong side of the law.
To have a smooth driving experience in a foreign country, make sure you have all that is required.
Follow the regulations mentioned above and do as much research as possible to your specific location, and nothing can stop you from having all the fun and adventure you want.
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