Traveling to a foreign country can be an exciting adventure, allowing you the opportunity to experience a new culture, and immerse yourself in a different world of food, music, people, and experiences.
For many travelers, going about by plane, train or bus is often the easiest way to get around, oftentimes the cheaper option. For some seasoned travelers who plan on visiting countries this summer that is perhaps best explored by car, getting around on your own can be an adventure on its own.
The 2022 Deloitte Summer Travel Survey found that roughly 57% of American travelers are planning on taking a road trip this season, whether it’s domestically or abroad.
While the last two years of pandemonium and lockdowns have kept foreign travel at bay, this year is setting a different tone when it comes to taking a holiday in an unknown part of the world.
With more people than ever looking to travel this summer season, you might need to plan well ahead, as your cross-country road trip might be a bit more congested than anticipated. Ironically enough, it’s been found that traffic congestion is the leading reason for aggressive driving in most instances, and you can review this data on road rage to understand why.
Whether you’re biking around in Europe or exploring the outback in an SUV – the rules of the road change as you hop from one destination to another, oftentimes from city to city as well.
While you may know the rules and laws of the road back home, it’s good to educate yourself on your destination country beforehand, especially if you’re planning to rent a car.
Here are some basics you need to keep in mind when driving in a foreign country.
Research The Country and Rules Before Arrival
Not all countries will share the same rules, and you should research and educate yourself on the rules of your holiday destination before you set off. Make sure that you know what the various road and traffic signs mean so that you know what to expect before you arrive. Be sure to see whether your destination country requires any additional paperwork to rent a car.
Rent From Reputable Companies
Nothing is more daunting than having to deal with car rental companies that aren’t up to standard. Make sure you rent from companies that offer exceptional service, especially if you’re in a country where English is not the most spoken language.
Learn Basic Car Maintenance
It’s not every day you might need to change a flat tire or even the oil on your car. In some places in the world car service and maintenance shops might not be so frequently available, and oftentimes are not well equipped with the tools needed to fix a run-down vehicle. Make sure you have some idea of how the basics work in case of an emergency.
Obtain An International Driving Permit
Most driving licenses are valid in foreign countries, but in places where traffic and road officers enforce the rules, not having an IDP or International Driving Permit can be a costly mistake. You can apply for an IDP at your local AAA before leaving for your destination country. The small passport-sized booklet will contain all the necessary information, in more than 10 different languages.
An IDP states that you have passed all the necessary driving tests in your home country and that you are a licensed driver.
Plan in Advance
Instead of trying to be spontaneous, plan your trip, especially if you’re driving, and more importantly if you’re driving by yourself. Make sure to take both a GPS and a map with you- that’s right, a printed map.
GPS devices and smartphones might come equipped with the best navigation tools today, but there is a chance that you \end up getting lost where your device might be out of range from any nearby communication towers. There’s also the fact that some devices might not work in the country that you’re visiting, or the battery might die. Always plan and be prepared.
Learn How To Drive Stick Shift
Not all countries in the world have automatic cars, and in America, only 2.4% of cars are manual transmissions. Some countries do have automatic cars, but these can oftentimes be more expensive to rent, and insurance costs can be higher. Get comfortable driving a manual transmission vehicle, as these are more common in most countries in the world.
Don’t Use Your Phone While Driving
This might seem quite obvious, but in some countries, using your mobile device while driving is not only dangerous and distracts you, but it can also lead to heavy fines, and having your driver’s license revoked.
Gas or Diesel?
Know the car you’re driving, and ask the car rental company whether the car you’re driving is either gasoline or diesel. More so, make sure you know how gas stations work in the country you’re visiting. In some rural areas of the world, gas stations can oftentimes close early, or might not be as widely available as back home.
Get Car Insurance
Be sure to take out temporary car insurance, even if it’s just for the duration of your trip, or for the time that you drive your car in the city. Make sure that the car insurance can cover costs in case of an emergency.
At home, when you run into trouble on the road, you can easily phone roadside assistance, but when you’re traveling the rural mountains of East Asia, it might not be as easy. Be sure to have emergency contacts at hand, these include both the car rental agency and your foreign car insurance provider.
Remember You’re The Foreigner
The last thing to remember is that as a foreigner visiting a country for the first time, you should be educated on how the rules work on their roads. While you may be on holiday, and trying to relax, the rest of the people around you are simply going about their usual day, so make sure you’re prepared for any unforeseen circumstances that might change the direction of your holiday, especially while on the road.
Traveling to a foreign country by car can be both exciting and intimidating at the same time. Nevertheless, it’s important that you know the rules of the road, and how every country has different laws and regulations when it comes to using its roads. Don’t let it completely scare you off, just make sure you are well prepared and have the confidence to tackle the long road ahead of you.