International driving is a great experience and can be a total game changer when planning a big adventure abroad. Driving yourself around can sometimes work out to be the easiest and cheapest way to travel to multiple locations. If your travel plans include international driving, here are a few answers to some common question.
Do I need an international driving license?
No matter what people tell you, don’t just assume your driver’s license is valid in other countries. Not all country’s driver’s licenses are valid in foreign countries. It’s best to do a quick Google search and check. You should also check if there are any restrictions placed on your travel visa. In general, tourists and business travelers will not have to get a local driver’s license for international driving. If you have a residence visa or are working long-term in a foreign country, you probably will have to get a local license.
If you are at all concerned about the validity of your license, get yourself an International Driving Permit (IDP). An IDP is a document that translates your license into different languages. It is NOT a license and does NOT replace a valid driver’s license from your state/country of origin. You have to carry both. Note: Some countries require an IDP for rental cars. If you’re interested in getting an IDP go to www.dmv.org/international-driver-permit and apply.
What about Traffic laws?
Obviously, traffic laws differ from country to country. The best thing to do is to look-up the traffic laws of your host country and keep a copy on hand. Take particular note of common laws that change frequently (i.e., right turns at red lights, passing on right or left, speed limits, pedestrian’s right of way, etcetera). If you’re traveling through multiple countries, make sure you know the traffic laws of each one.
What do I do if I get pulled over or get a ticket?
If you get pulled over, stay calm and follow the instructions given to you by the officer—do not try to bribe the officer. As an international traveler, you should act like an ambassador of your home country. Act politely and the chances are, they’ll let you off with a warning.
More than likely, you won’t be getting pulled over. Instead, a traffic camera will capture you committing some traffic violation and you will receive a citation via mail or e-mail. If this happens, PAY IT! Contrary to what you might think, you can’t simply ignore these citations because you don’t live there. These citations go on your record and can haunt you in your future travels—think travel restrictions, rental restrictions, and potential incarceration.
Another thing to consider is Highway Tolls. Make sure you pay the appropriate tolls. Be aware that there are certain toll restrictions and that tolls are often much cheaper if you have a toll sticker or electronic toll device on your car (ask your rental place). Note: many times there are no booths on toll roads. Traffic cameras simply capture your license plate and send you a bill. If you’re not sure, ask some locals or consult a map of the area (GPS devices also indicate toll roads).
Do I need insurance coverage?
Yes! Contact your car insurance company to make sure they cover you for international driving and rental car use. If they do not, you can always purchase extra insurance coverage through your carrier or from the rental car company. Insurance coverage is typically mandatory in most countries.
Other things to consider are driving culture, car types, driving on the opposite side of the road and roadside assistance. For these things, it’s best to follow local’s advice. Locals are the best source of advice on things like what type of car to rent; what traffic laws are considered optional; how fast you should be driving; and availability of roadside assistance.
As always, our best advice is to do some research and give us a call if you have any questions.