Driving abroad is a great way to explore beyond major cities, and when you’re traveling for business, it may be the best option for reaching colleagues or meeting locations. It can also be a stressful experience. In addition to dealing with unfamiliar territory, you may be navigating in a language that isn’t your own. This is doubly challenging if you’re driving on the side of the road you’re not used to. These tips will help you through the process of driving abroad.
Before You Go
There are several things you can do before you leave on your trip that will make it easier when you arrive. These include:
Don’t leave booking your rental car to the last minute. In many countries, there can be a limited availability of cars or specific kinds of cars (for example, automatic transmissions). You should book your rental car as soon as you know the trip is confirmed.
Get Your Paperwork in Order
Many countries require you to have an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in the country. Even if the IDP isn’t legally required, the rental agency may require it. It can also be very beneficial to have in case you get stopped by the local police or get into an accident. The IDP is about $20, valid for one year, and can be obtained from your local driving association (such as AAA or CAA).
Sort Out Your Insurance
Before you arrive at your destination, know what your plan will be for insurance. Most countries have some kind of obligatory insurance scheme. Many times, your credit card extends coverage which will meet the minimum of the country’s requirements. Call your credit card company in advance to get the coverage details in writing. If you’re traveling for business, your company may already have a global insurance plan, so inquire at work before your trip.
The TripIt app can help take the stress and frustration out of business travel. You can forward your flight, hotel and rental car bookings to keep them organized in one place. The Go Now feature can help you plan when to leave for the airport based on your current location, flight status and local traffic, which is especially helpful when driving in an unfamiliar city.
On the Road
Here’s a few things to keep in mind when you’re on the road:
Know the Rules
Outside of the United States, international traffic signs are remarkably standardized, but some may be unfamiliar if it’s your first driving abroad. Your rental car agency should provide you with a pamphlet on road signs in that particular country along with a local map.
Navigate Your Way
GPS units and mobile phones have become incredibly useful tools for travelers. However, you should not count on having cell reception or that your GPS from home will work abroad. If you’re worried about finding your way, get a GPS from the rental car agency. It is also a good idea to have a sufficiently detailed map in the car as a backup to the GPS.
Adhere to the Limits
In many countries, the driving under the influence limits are significantly more stringent than in the U.S. or Canada. Often, even a single drink is enough to put you over the line into DUI territory. If you plan on driving, it’s best to pass on the wine or beer.
Allow Extra Time
Driving abroad is often different than what you are accustomed to in the United States. Allow extra time to get where you are going. Speed limits in other countries are sometimes lower than what you are expecting, and it can be difficult to navigate in an unfamiliar place. Just accept it and give yourself some extra time.