Driving in a Foreign Country: What You Need to Know

International Driving Permit, Insurance Coverage, Automatic vs. Standard Transmission, Right-Side vs. Left-Side Driving


Driving in a Foreign Country: What You Need to Know


There's a lot you need to understand before you make the commitment of booking a car in another country and becoming a part of that country's "driver culture." The driving culture among locals can also have a great impact on your driving experience during the trip.

International Drivers License



1. International Driving Permit


Your driver's license may not be valid in all other foreign countries.Driving abroad doesn't always require getting an international driver's license - but in many cases it helps, especially in countries where English may not be understood well.There are no classes or exams involved, but you must already have your own driving license or permit.

Since the international driving permit is not a license to drive in itself, you will need to carry your own, domestic driver's license wherever you go. Not all rental car companies will ask for your IDP, but you should never be caught on a foreign road without an international driver’s license.


2. Insurance Coverage


Unfortunately, your domestic insurance coverage will likely not cover you while driving abroad. As a result, you will also need to purchase international auto insurance in order to comply with local laws. This is often in addition to any rental insurance you choose to purchase. While you’re operating a vehicle in a foreign country, always make sure to carry the following items with you:

  • International driving permit
  • Valid driver’s license
  • Rental and auto insurance documents
  • emergency contact info
  • Passport and travel visa (if you plan to cross any borders)


3. Automatic vs. Standard Transmission


Automatic transmission is something that many in North America (and increasingly, beyond) take for granted. In many countries around the world, though, renting a vehicle with automatic transmission is difficult, or sometimes impossible -- and if you can find it, it can be much more expensive.


4. Right-Side vs. Left-Side Driving


UK is not the only country where driving on the left-hand side of the road is the rule! Though the majority of the world’s population drives on the right, people drive on the left in more than 70 mostly English-speaking countries.Among the left-hand traffic countries are: Australia, Ireland, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand and the United Kingdom.

A healthy dose of good luck helps, but so does common sense. If you're doing the driving, you'll research whatever rules exist before you leave home, and learn local signage and rules. You'll often find these on the national tourist board or other tourism sites. Or ask when you get your international driver's license. Posting on expat forums is another good way of getting good driving pointers before you go.