Practical international driving tips for travelers who seek the freedom and flexibility of renting a car and driving in a foreign country.
One of the best ways to go off the beaten path and away from the crowds is to rent a car to travel at your own pace. However, there are also many issues that need to be dealt with including; signs in a foreign language or unfamiliar graphics, unfamiliar traffic circles with many unstructured merging lanes, hairpin turns through mountain passes, the steering wheel on the opposite side, high crime rates and vehicular break ins.
Avoid driving in countries where you don't speak the language or don't understand the alphabet or the international driving symbols.
Check to see if you need an International Driving Permit (IDP). Many countries do not recognize a U.S. or other countries driving license and will accept an IDP. An IDP can be easily obtained. In the USA they can be obtained by either the American Automobile Association or the American Automobile Touring Alliance. If you are not a resident of the USA, check with your local authorities for acquiring and IDP. Beware of purchasing an IDP over the internet from unauthorized sources.
Check out the local driving laws. Some countries have laws about sounding your horn before entering a sharp corner or flashing your lights before passing. Find out who has the right of way in a traffic circle. Also look into the local laws on the use of cell phones and hands free driving, seat belts, and child car seats. Many countries issue and enforce fines, even for things you weren't aware were wrong. In France, for example, the fines are on the spot and you may be escorted to a collection point to pay the fine.
Check your auto insurance coverage. Is the auto insurance coverage is offered by the car rental company, your own policy, or your credit card coverage adequate for the country you are driving in. Make sure you have liability insurance. The consequences can be severe if you get into an accident without liability insurance. If you cross a border with your own car, check out the insurance coverage on your policy, and if you need to, buy a short a short term policy from one of the many reputable companies on the internet.
If you rent a car, ask for a GPS navigation system, or bring your own. If you have children, arrange to rent a car seat.
Don't be a target for tourist crime. Ask the rental car company for a vehicle without any stickers or indications that it is a rental car. Avoid storing valuables in the vehicle when parked.
When entering your vehicle, be aware of your surroundings.
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