Five tips for driving abroad

Driving
Driving abroad - a Fiat 500 in Rome (The Car Expert)

Driving abroad can leave you feeling intimidated and anxious, but by taking the right precautions and understanding the rules of the road, you’ll be confident behind the wheel in no time when you’re overseas. Driving in a foreign country gives you the freedom to explore your surroundings without the limitations that public transportation sometimes present. Learning a few key driving tips helps to ensure that your overseas travels are safe, fun, and unforgettable for all the right reasons.

1. Make sure you have access to satnav or GPS

Traveling in a new environment can cause confusion, especially when road signs are written in a foreign language. It can be even harder to acquire directions from a local if a language barrier gets in the way. A satellite navigation system (satnav or GPS) pinpoints your desired destination and guides you along the way. Satnav also helps you avoid dangerous streets and construction sites by following major roadways. Most rental companies offer cars already equipped with GPS, or they can supply portable units, to eliminate the hassle of purchasing the device or bringing it with you.

2. Understand common road sign meanings and local rules

Before getting behind the wheel in a foreign country, be sure you fully understand the meanings behind the country’s unique road signs. The best way to learn and understand these symbols is by obtaining a pamphlet, or using a trusted website that fully explains their use. Learning how to pronounce and spell the names of the towns you plan to visit is also important, so you can identify them more easily on maps and pronounce their names in conversation.

3. Make sure that you have adequate car insurance before driving abroad

Even if you have extensive car insurance in your home country, you may still need additional coverage when visiting a foreign country. Make sure to discuss your options in advance with the car rental company and your personal insurer to find the plan that best fits your needs. It’s better to be over-insured than under-insured, especially when you aren’t familiar with a region. You’ll be able to rest easy knowing that you’re fully covered in the case of an accident or other car issue during your trip.

4. Become familiar with the car you plan to rent

All cars are not created equal, especially in a foreign country, so it’s important to understand the features your rental vehicle offers. Depending on the country you visit, you may find your steering wheel on the opposite side or a stick shift waiting for your command when you’re used to an automatic transmission. By spending a little time researching the vehicles available, you can determine the best option for you.

5. Find out if you need an International Driving Permit

Many countries refuse to allow foreigners to rent a vehicle without an international driving permit. Even if you have an existing driver’s license, the permit is still required in these countries. Fortunately, you can obtain the permit for about £5-10 by visiting your local automobile association – or in the UK, the Post Office. Research the country you plan to visit ahead of time to find out if this is necessary.

By following these helpful tips, you’ll gain the confidence you need behind the wheel while avoiding unnecessary hassles and other common issues that can arise when you decide to visit a foreign country. Remember that each region is different, so it’s important to plan ahead to make the most of your travels when driving abroad.

The Car Expert forum

Do you have any interesting or amusing anecdotes from driving in another country? Tell us about your exploits in The Car Expert forum!

Driving abroad - the Arch of Triumph (The Car Expert)

Doug Climenhaga is president of SVI International, Inc., a leading supplier of parts for industrial lift equipment, and other repair parts including tyre changer parts. With more than 20 years experience in the hydraulic and automotive lift industries, he holds two patents and has designed scores of problem-solving products.

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