What You Need to Know About Driving Abroad

When planning an overseas trip one of the main concerns is how to travel around a country. For many tourists, driving a vehicle is the best option. One of the main advantages of driving abroad is that you’re in control of where you can go and when to leave. But driving abroad is not quite like driving in the states. If you’re considering driving a vehicle when you travel overseas, here’s what you need to do and expect.

Get an International Driving Permit

The first step is to obtain an international driving permit as many countries don’t accept a U.S. license, although they do recognize an international driving permit (IDP). This valid identification form, which is recognized in 150 countries, consists of a driver’s name, photo and driver data. To get an IDP, you’ll need to first download an application form, fill it out and bring it to a local America Automobile Association (AAA) branch office.

Know What to Expect When Driving in Different European Countries

Before getting behind the wheel in a foreign country, you’ll need to be familiar with the various types of road conditions, traffic patterns and traffic laws as they can be extremely different from those here at home.

For example:

In Italy: If you plan to drive in Italy, be aware that a speeding fine is tripled for drivers pulled over for speeding between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. Furthermore, some larger Italian cities only allow residents to drive in certain areas. Therefore, if you see a warning sign reading, “zona traffic limitato”, don't drive there. If you violate this warning, it could result in a fine.

In Switzerland: Kids under the age of seven are not allowed to sit in the front seat. Also, you’ll need snow chains for driving in inclement weather. Road signs inform motorists when they need to put the chains on their vehicles.

In France: A self-test breathalyzer must be in a vehicle at all times. Another rule is that you’re not permitted to carry any devices in your car that are designed for detecting speed cameras.

Considerations and Warnings

  • To drive in Europe you have to be at least 18 years old. To rent a car you must be 21 or older.
  • If you plan to drive in a country where motorists drive on the left-hand side of the road, such as the United Kingdom, Australia and others, it’s critical that you first do some practice driving on country roads before attempting to drive on busy city streets.
  • Speed limits are typically higher in the United Kingdom.
  • In some countries, such as Switzerland and Austria, drivers must buy a sticker that is placed on the windshield. This sticker permits unlimited driving within a certain time period.
  • While turning on a red light is allowed in some countries, it’s prohibited in others.
  • In Vietnam, motor-bikes are often seen, just as they're common in many third-world countries. Additionally, Vietnam doesn’t have strict seat belt laws.
  • Traffic laws are extremely strict in South Africa. In fact, a traffic violation can entail a 10-year prison sentence, along with a heavy fine.    
  • Don’t expect roads to be in the same condition as they are in America. Besides having roads that are in poor shape, many areas are also known for reckless motorists.
  • A few of the most dangerous roads are in countries such as India, Russia, Turkey and Brazil. However, the most hazardous road conditions are in the Dominican Republic.

Take Advantage of AAA’s Global Discount Program

By using AAA’s global discount program, you can get significant discounts for hotels, attractions, restaurants, museums and other items. Check out our international discount page, which is especially beneficial when traveling overseas. Even more importantly, you’ll need to obtain AAA's roadside help in case your car breaks down.

That’s why it’s so crucial to have an AAA membership. Roadside assistance is only one of many perks you get from joining the American Automobile Association. AAA North Jersey, an affiliate of AAA, serves about five million motorists living in Bergen, Hudson and Passaic Countries. Please contact us and learn more about what we have to offer.

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