When traveling abroad, there’s a lot to think about: your passport and tickets, finding your way around the unfamiliar airport or city, and getting used to the new language.
But don’t forget something essential for any road trip: preparing for the driving conditions in your destination country! Here are our top 10 tips for driving abroad.
Get an international driving permit.
If you’re planning to drive in a foreign country, often you’ll need to get an international driving permit (IDP). An IDL is a translation of your driver’s license into ten languages, including English.
If you hold a valid driver’s license from your home country and want to drive in another country, you will need to get an International Driving Permit (IDP). You can apply for an IDP through your local motoring organization or automobile club.
In some countries, you may need an international driver’s license (IDL). It can be helpful to have an IDL if you’re traveling to a country where your driver’s license isn’t recognized or if you want to avoid the hassle of getting a local license.
You can apply for an IDL through your local automobile association. However, not all countries require an IDL, so check your destination country’s requirements before you leave.
Research the driving rules and safety regulations in your destination country.
Before you hit the road in a foreign country, it’s essential to do some research on driving conditions.
Every country has different road rules, and what is considered safe driving in one country might not be seen as such in another.
For example, in some countries, passing on the right is allowed, while in others, it’s illegal. And in some countries, drivers must always yield to pedestrians, while in others, pedestrians must yield.
Drive on the correct side of the road.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning because it’s such an important rule. In most countries, traffic drives on the right side of the road. There are a few exceptions, such as in the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, India, and a few others, where traffic drives on the left.
In addition, be aware of the different types of roads you’ll encounter in your destination country.
For example, in Europe, there are highways (called autobahns in Germany) with no speed limit. In contrast, in other countries, such as the United Kingdom, the maximum speed on highways is 70mph.
You should familiarize yourself with the local driving rules before setting foot in a foreign nation. Using a hand-held or hands-free mobile phone while driving a car is illegal in various countries.
Manual or automatic transmission.
If you’re used to driving an automatic transmission car, you might have to rent a manual transmission car when driving abroad. In most countries, almost all cars have manual transmissions.
Depending on where you’re going, you might be able to find an automatic transmission car, but it will likely be more expensive to rent.
If you don’t know how to drive a manual transmission, you might want to consider taking a driving lesson or two before your trip.
In many countries, including the United Kingdom, Italy, Australia, and New Zealand, roundabouts are a common type of intersection.
A roundabout is a circular junction in which traffic flows around a central island. When driving on a roundabout, you must yield to traffic already on the roundabout and then enter the roundabout when there is a gap in traffic.
It’s important to know how to properly navigate a roundabout before driving in a country that uses them.
If you’re unsure about the driving rules in your destination country, ask someone with experience driving there. You can also check out online resources for your destination country.
Know the local traffic signs and signals.
To drive safely in a foreign country, you must understand the local traffic signs and signals. In most countries, traffic signs use symbols that are internationally recognized.
However, there may be some differences in color or wording that you should be aware of. For example, in the United Kingdom, a yield sign is called a “give way” sign.
If you don’t know the meaning of a traffic sign or signal, ask someone before proceeding. It’s better to take a few extra minutes to figure out what you need to do than to make a mistake that could result in an accident.
Be prepared for different climatic conditions.
No matter where you’re traveling, it’s always important to be prepared for changes in the weather. For example, if you’re headed to a tropical country, be prepared for heavy rains and flooding.
If you’re driving in a mountainous region, be aware of the risk of avalanches. And if you’re driving in a cold-weather country, make sure your car is equipped with snow tires and that you know how to use them.
If you’re used to driving in warm, sunny weather, you may be in for a rude awakening if you’re planning to drive in a country with colder, harsher conditions.
For example, if you’re driving in Norway during the winter, you may need to deal with snow and ice on the roads. In addition, in many countries, such as Canada and Russia, it’s common for the roads to be covered in snow for several months out of the year.
Get used to driving in these conditions.
If you’re not used to driving in these conditions, it’s vital to take some time to learn how to do so before you get behind the wheel.
You can take a driving course that teaches you how to drive in winter weather, or you can read up on the subject online. In addition, it’s a good idea to equip your car with winter tires and a snow brush.
It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the local forecast before you go. That way, you’ll know what to expect and can plan accordingly.
Of course, even the best-laid plans can sometimes go awry. So it’s always a good idea to have a backup plan if the weather worsens.
For example, you might want to bring a blanket, water, and some snacks with you in case you get stranded on the side of the road.
In addition to knowing the local traffic laws, it’s also important to know the local driving etiquette. For example, in some countries like Japan, it’s considered very rude to honk your horn while driving, except in an emergency. In other countries, such as Italy or Argentina, drivers are expected to honk their horns frequently.
It’s also important to know the local customs regarding turning to the right at a red light. In some countries, such as the United States and Canada, it’s legal to do so at a red light unless there’s a sign that says otherwise. In most other countries, however, turning right at a red light is illegal.
Finally, it’s essential to be aware of the local speed limits. In most countries, the speed limit is posted in kilometers per hour (km/h).
However, in a few countries, such as the United Kingdom and the United States, the speed limit is posted in miles per hour (mph). Make sure you know the conversion rate, so you don’t accidentally exceed the speed limit.
Plan your route.
When driving in a foreign country, it’s always important to plan your route. This way, you can make sure to take into account rest stops, gas stations, and food options.
If possible, try to look at a map of the area beforehand so you can plot out your route. And if you’re renting a car, ask the rental company about the best route to take.
In addition, it’s always a good idea to have cash on hand in case you need to stop for gas or food. Many countries have toll roads, and in some cases, you may need to pay with cash. So it’s always best to be prepared.
A GPS can be a helpful tool when driving in a foreign country. If your rental car has one, be sure to use it. Otherwise, you can always use Waze or Google maps on your phone. Just be aware that data roaming charges can apply, so it’s best to have a plan before leaving. Also, the coverage in some rural areas can be spotty.
And finally, make sure to take your time. There’s no need to hurry when driving in a foreign country. If you can, try to relax and enjoy the experience. After all, that’s what traveling is all about!
Be aware of road hazards.
No matter where you’re driving, there will always be potential road hazards. These can include everything from potholes to animals crossing the road.
In some countries, such as India, it’s not uncommon to see cows or goats wandering around on the side of the road. In other countries, such as Australia, you may need to watch out for kangaroos.
Poor road conditions.
Of course, road hazards are not limited to animals. In many countries, the roads are in poor condition, and potholes are a common problem. In addition, in some countries, it’s not uncommon for rockslides to occur.
It’s essential to be aware of these potential hazards and to drive accordingly. For example, if you see a pothole in the road, slow down and avoid it if possible. If you’re driving in an area where animals are known to cross the road, be on the lookout for them. And if you’re driving in a place where rockslides are expected, be sure to drive slowly and carefully.
In addition to being aware of the different driving conditions in a foreign country, it’s also important to drive defensively.
This means being aware of your surroundings and being prepared to react to potential hazards. It also means following the rules of the road and respecting the rights of other drivers. When driving in unfamiliar territory, it is even more important to be defensive.
If it is a tourist destination, take note of the local traffic conditions. If there are a lot of pedestrians, be sure to drive slowly and yield to them.
Be aware of your surroundings and the road conditions at all times.
It’s safer to err on the side of caution whenever possible. You can protect yourself and others on the road by practicing defensive driving.
It can also help to avoid driving at night, as this can be more dangerous when you don’t know the area well. If you must drive at night, take extra precautions and drive slowly.
Be aware of pedestrians and cyclists.
When traveling in a foreign country, it’s always important to be aware of your surroundings and be respectful of the local culture.
Right of way.
This means being cautious of pedestrians and cyclists, as they may not be used to the same road rules as you are. For example, in some countries, pedestrians have the right of way, while cars have the right of way in others.
In many European countries, cyclists have the right of way, and drivers are expected to yield to them. So if you’re renting a car in Amsterdam, for example, keep an eye out for bikes!
Similarly, in Asia and South America, it’s common for pedestrians to jaywalk, so don’t be too surprised if you see people crossing the street outside of a crosswalk, even if they’re not supposed to. Use your best judgment and be aware of your surroundings, and you’ll be fine.
And remember, even if the locals do things differently than you’re used to, they’re still people just like you. So treat them with respect and courtesy, and you’ll undoubtedly have a great time abroad.
Keep your car clean both inside and out.
When driving in a foreign country, it’s important to keep your car clean both inside and out. This means keeping the exterior of your vehicle clean and ensuring the interior is free of any garbage or clutter.
A clean car will not only be more presentable and easier to drive, but it will also be less likely to attract attention from thieves. So take the time to vacuum your car and wipe down the dash and windows.
Hide your valuables.
And if you’re parking your car in a public place, hide any valuables out of sight. This includes GPS devices, laptops, baggage, and anything else that might tempt a thief.
In general, it’s always best to err on the side of caution regarding car security. So if you’re ever in doubt, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Driving in a foreign country can be a great way to see the sights and experience the local culture. But it’s essential to be aware of your surroundings and be respectful of the local laws and customs. If you do that, you’re sure to have a great time.
Happy travels! Drive safely, and thanks for reading!
Matthew Mansour is a professional life coach, fitness trainer, health coach, a blogger with over 800 articles published to date. He enjoys reading and researching books that are reflective of the nature of who we are as humans, understanding the complexity of our minds, and using it as an advantage to propel us forward in life.
He is a self-help enthusiast and he is not ashamed about it! He’s always looking for his next fix of inspiration, motivation, insight, and wisdom from those who have been there before him!
He also does a lot of courses and research on the latest and greatest in the area of self-help, life coaching, and health.
He likes to share his discoveries with anyone who is interested in listening! His personal goal is to help people achieve great results in their lives, that is why he also has a blog about self-improvement.
He loves animals and he currently lives in New Jersey with his loving wife and his recently born child.