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Healthy Travel

Tips for Safe Driving in Other Countries

Thinking of renting a car on your next vacation? There is a lot you need to know. Keep reading for the best tips for your next trip.

Driving in Other Countries

One of the best ways to experience a new country is by renting a car and exploring on your own. This gives you complete freedom to experience local culture while going at your own pace. Driving in other countries can be a lot of fun but there are many things to consider before you go. 

Safety is number one. Always do your research on driving in the country you’re traveling to. Do they accept your license? Do you drive on the same side of the road? Are the laws the same? Is it safe to drive?

In this article, we will discuss all of this and more. The point is not to alarm you but simply to bring to light some of the nuances of driving abroad that should be considered.


What to expect when driving in other countries

You will be sharing the road with local drivers who have their own driving culture. For example, in many countries honking the horn is a form of communication, whereas some westerners take offense to this.

Driving in other countries can be intimidating at first. In North America or Europe, rules are very strict, to ensure the safe use of the road. In some countries, these rules are not followed or enforced, so don’t be surprised if a minibus overtakes you by mounting the curb… they probably do that every day.

One common way of getting around in other countries is by RV. Learn some tips for traveling in an RV for Seniors here.


What to keep in mind when driving in other countries

an image of a person driving

Always keep in mind that insurance is important. Ensure you’re covered by a credit card or buy insurance through the rental provider. If you are 100% sure you’re covered you can decline when renting.

Bribes are common…and sometimes necessary. Cops can be crooked anywhere, even in your home country! Don’t be surprised if you are pulled over going the speed limit. Not everyone is looking for a bribe but be aware if this is what they want.

If renting a car, always do a full inspection of the vehicle, and film it, before driving off. This will save you a major headache if the car was previously damaged.

Finally, be aware of gas station scams, they will fill up the tank and charge double. If it’s a full-service gas station, make sure you watch the meter like a hawk.


Tips for safe driving in other countries


When planning to drive in other countries, always ensure you’re driving legally. This means your driver’s license is recognized by local authorities. If not, you may be required to get an international driver’s license or pass a road test to drive.


Speed limit

Speed limits on roads and highways may be different from what you are used to at home. Always be aware and obey these limits to avoid being pulled over. Not everyone follows the speed limit however so be aware of how locals are driving and put safety first. Also, remember that some countries have min. speed limits on highways.


Alcohol limits

car key and a shot glass

Never drive while under the influence. Some countries allow small amounts of alcohol for fully licensed drivers. Know the limits. If there is a zero-tolerance policy in effect, avoid drinking altogether. We recommend fully staying away from the booze while driving abroad.


Renting a car

Renting a car is a given when planning to drive in other countries. The most common place to rent a car is at the airport when you arrive. The rates are higher at airports but also more convenient, for pick up/drop off. To save, you could shuttle into town and rent locally.

Some rental agencies will also drop the car off at your hotel or Airbnb and pick it up.. they even offer you a ride to and from the airport. Please keep in mind that some car rental companies have min. age requirements (25+). Additionally, credit cards may be required to book a car.



insurance policyAdequate insurance is a must-have when driving abroad. Check if your credit card provider has insurance coverage for travelers. If not, you will likely have to take the rental company’s insurance. Either way, insurance is an absolute necessity. Before you decline car rental insurance be sure to read this article.

Here is a tip: in google search – “Reddit car rental insurance for [insert country] – this will give you insights from other travelers who have been there before you. Don’t forget to keep your insurance & travel documents organized with this handy protector.


Traffic Laws

A man getting a ticket.

Traffic laws differ from country to country. This could mean anything from different road signs to some basic rules, such as turning right at a red light. You need to review the rules of the road at your destination.

There are also some really weird rules out there. Check out this infographic for some of the weirdest.


Side of the Road

According to data from there are 163 countries in the world that drive on the right side of the road and 76 that drive on the left. Know when the side of the road you will be driving on at your destination. Notable countries where you drive on the left side of the road include Britain, South Africa, Australia & India. It’s far more common to drive on the right side, however.


Driving Culture

Driving culture is a huge shock to many westerners when they start driving in a foreign country. Culture varies greatly from country to country and this should be taken into consideration when planning to rent a car in a foreign country. Here are some things to consider:

Aggressive driving – be prepared to encounter very aggressive drivers abroad. You may get cut off at any chance. Don’t be taken advantage of and try to match the aggression within reason. If you ever get into a pickle it’s wise to have a roadside emergency kit handy.

Speed limits – While you can get a ticket for exceeding the speed limit at home you may see that speed rules barely apply in foreign countries. Some places have such bad roads it’s impossible to speed. Some countries may pull you over for barely even exceeding it.

speed limit sign

Driving as a female – as crazy as this sounds there are still countries where women aren’t allowed to drive, such as the middle east. These outdated “rules” should be a thing of the past but unfortunately, they aren’t.

Animals & pedestrians – animals will not wait for a light and people likely won’t either. Be ultra-aware and keep your eyes on the road at all times. You don’t want to hurt or kill someone and you will be in for a lot of hassle if you do! So take things slow!

Obeying road rules – not everyone will obey the “rules” of the road. While you will feel like you want to due to the way you drive at home it simply isn’t possible all the time. Try to get a feel for what other drivers are doing and don’t get into any dangerous situations on the road.


Quality of Roads

image of roads

Road quality can certainly be an issue when driving in a foreign country. In places like North America, Europe and parts of Asia roads are good quality. Governments spend a great deal on repairs to ensure the flow of traffic is smooth. Be prepared for some bumpy and slow rides ahead.


Animals on the road

Perhaps the country that you live in has fencing keeping all livestock off the roads. This is not the case everywhere in the world. Even still, wild animals get hit on highways around the world regularly, it’s very unfortunate.

In many interesting tourist destinations, livestock such as cows, goats, or chickens moves freely as they seek greener pastures. This may involve crossing the roads. If you are renting a car in a foreign country be sure to research and be ready to anticipate animals crossing the road.


Navigation when driving in different countries can be challenging. For one, the signs all might be in a different language. Additionally, you may not have access to a data signal on your phone, making it harder to use your map.

Luckily, on most phones, GPS doesn’t always require data and links your location through satellites. However, even having access to google maps doesn’t make things 100% smooth sailing when locating your next hotel. Also, check out these hotel hacks to save money on your next hotel.


Traffic Violations

Traffic violation

Traffic violations can be a real nuisance when renting a car abroad. Local cops might be corrupt and your only option is to pay them a bribe… it’s not outside the realm of possibilities that you will be pulled over simply for being a tourist and given a ticket for bogus reasons. Unfortunately, this is part of the experience, so have cash on hand.

Traffic laws will likely be different from what you are used to at home. So try and learn them ahead of time, if not try to follow what the locals do.