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driving in a foreign country

Traveling tips: Driving in a foreign country

Transportation is one of the most important aspects to consider when you are traveling but can get forgotten in the planning process.   If you are traveling internationally,  have the option of renting a vehicle, so you are not waiting on others, but there are some things that you should consider before you purchase your rental because the laws and customs can be different in each country that you visit. Don’t let that intimidate you though; Rocket Lawyer is here to help steer you in the right direction on what you need to know about permits, insurance, and other details to keep in mind.

You will need an international driving permit

What exactly is an international driving permit (IDP) you ask?

An IDP is a document that needs to be combined with your actual driving license so that you can legally drive a vehicle in another country. It is NOT a replacement for your license, rather, it acts as a language translation of your driver’s license and contains: your name, a picture and relevant driver information that is needed.  You do have to be over the age of 18 to be able to obtain a permit, and it would need to be from the same area that your license was issued.

You may find that rental companies will not ask for if you have an IDP, but you should still obtain one and carry it with you if something happens. You will need to show proof of the document to the police, and it will be required when filing a claim with the insurance company.

Since each country has different rules and regulation when it comes to driving it is very important to check the country’s embassy website for up to date information. Sometimes theses standards and regulations can change without notice.

Make sure you have insurance coverage

Unless you are traveling to Canada or Mexico (and even then) your auto insurance policy will not cover you overseas. You might consider setting up a meeting with your insurance agent before your trip to go over the details of your plan and learn what type of coverage you might need in the country you are visiting. If your insurance policy happens to be valid in another country, you will want to make sure that you are hitting at least the minimal requirements that and needed. If not most car rental companies will offer some form of auto insurance.

If you or your insurance agent are unsure of the requirements needed for auto insurance in the country you are visiting, it never hurts to check the country’s embassy website on what is required to drive in that country.

Can you take a rental car across the border?

The short answer is, maybe. But, first you must let the rental company know you are going to take their car out of the country, and they must confirm it is ok.   Not all companies will allow cross border travel, and in fact, there may be different rules between the various rental locations for the same company. You will be violating your renter’s agreement if you cross without their approval, and all kinds of costly problems will come up if you get a ticket or have an accident.  Also, U.S. Customs requires that the rental company has given their consent for the car to leave the country, so it had better be in the rental agreement.

Handling traffic violations or citations while abroad

If you incurred in a traffic violation like a speeding ticket or passing a stop sign, bear in mind that the approach to pursuing fines incurred by foreigners varies by country. For example, if you were in a rental car, they will pass on your details to the authorities. The rental company may get hit with the charge and MAY be able to pass it onto you and potentially even charge your credit card. Rental company terms /policy vary by company and country. 

Research. Research. Research

There are some things you never stop to think about when it comes to driving because it’s what you know and what you have picked up from driving with other people. It has become second nature, but what you think is normal behavior here might be in another country. Such as what side of the road your drive on, stopping for animals on the road, even to the pumps at the gas station. I remember when a friend of mine went to England with her family, they stopped at a gas station to fill up before starting their journey that day. After filling up the tank, they got maybe 100 yards from the gas station when the vehicle stalled. They had to call for road assistance to find out instead of putting gas in the car they had put diesel in the tank. Her dad assumed since the fuel nozzle was black it was gas, but in England, the fuel nozzle for diesel is black and green for gas.  Moral of the story, it never hurts to know a little more about the country that you are visiting because it can be just the smallest thing to you but mean something much larger to the country you are in.

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