Things to Remember when Renting a Car and Driving Abroad

abroad-car-rentalYou may be excited and looking forward to your trip abroad, renting a car and visiting a number of beautiful historical sites, landmarks, and cities. However, before you rent a car in a foreign country and hit the road, be aware of the few things that you should know.

First, rules of the road may not be are the same as what you’re used to. For example, some countries drive on the opposite side of the road, have different speed limits, seatbelt laws, rules regarding cellular phone use, crossing borders, and so forth.

When driving in a foreign country, make sure that you abide by their rules or regulations regarding licensure and insurance. If you’re from the United States, realize that many foreign countries will not recognize your valid driver’s license alone, but will recognize an International Driving Permit (IDP) when accompanied by your original driver’s license and translation in the language of the country through which you’re traveling. In order to obtain an international driving permit in most countries, you must be over 18 years of age, have a passport with photo, and a valid driver’s license for your country of origin.

Know the rules of the country through which you’ll be driving. Whenever possible, download the driving laws of the foreign country before your arrival. Such information is typically available from that country’s embassy or consulate, as well as from tourism offices and car rental companies in that country.

Be aware that your current automobile insurance coverage may not cover you if you cross borders or drive abroad, especially when you’re driving a rental car. Make sure that any insurance covers the visited country’s minimum requirements when it comes to insurance.

When driving in a foreign country, always have a roadmap with you. Don’t rely on GPS systems as they may be faulty, outdated, or fail to work in mountainous or low-lying regions, depending on the country you’re visiting. Plot your route before traveling and ensure that those roads are open to traffic and that you don’t require special road permits to drive on them.

Be familiar with the general appearance of road side signs in the country you’re visiting.  That goes for speed limits, yield, right-of-way, cautions, and so forth. A number of websites (in addition to websites provided by foreign country embassies) offer basics regarding road safety and travel. Take the time to access these websites so that you become familiar with what is expected of you as a driver in a foreign country.

When driving abroad, become familiar with the type of fuels available, as well as where fueling stations are typically located. Also be aware of the condition of the roads along your planned route of travel. Are they paved or dirt? Are they passable in winter? Do you need or are you required to carry chains, depending on the region and the season?

When you rent a car in a foreign country, be aware of where you can pick-up and drop-off cars. You must also be informed on how far or to which locations you can drive your rental car, especially in European countries where crossing international borders is relatively common. However, make sure you’re aware of the rules regarding such travel when you rent a car in Europe or any other foreign country. In some cases, crossing borders is perfectly acceptable and won’t incur any additional charges, but the same does not apply to all countries.

For safety’s sake, be aware of specific regulations when driving a rental car in a foreign country. For example, are seat belts mandatory? What about safety equipment required for a vehicle? Many foreign countries require safety vests, warning triangles, and even Breathalyzer kits to be carried in a rental vehicle at all times.

That being said, also be aware of what your options are if you’re pulled over by police in a country you’re traveling through. In many foreign countries, police are authorized to collect fines on-the-spot. Such a thing is unheard of in the United States. However, know your rights when it comes to such situations. Can you pay an on-the-spot fine with cash, a debit card, or a credit card? That’s something you should know. Always get an official receipt from the officer before he or she leaves the scene.

As you can see, there are a variety of things that you should be aware of when renting a car and driving abroad. Take the time to do your homework before you leave and begin your vacation, your business trip, or your family reunion in a foreign country. Such knowledge will ensure that your travels are safe, and that you don’t have to deal with unexpected and unpleasant surprises. – –

Independent Traveler –