You might think that the biggest problem you’ll face when driving a car in another country is knowing which side of the road you should be on. It’s actually a little more complicated than that, and if you’re planning to rent a car while abroad, be it for fun or on a business trip, then you’re going to need to make sure that you know these vital tips. No matter where you’re visiting, driving in another country can be very different from driving at home, and even something as simple as renting a car will need a lot more in terms of preparation than you’re most likely used to. If you’re hoping to explore another country from behind the wheel of a car, then here’s everything you need to know about renting a car in a foreign country.
How to Book Your Rental Car
You should always book your car rental in advance. The cost difference can be quite substantial, with counter rental significantly higher than those made beforehand. Even something like 24 hours before pick-up can mean considerable savings, so always make your booking before you leave home. If you do this level of preparation before leaving your home country, you’ll have fewer issues with factors like exchange rates and local language barriers as well, so it’s always worth doing the prep as early as possible. You will need to check on age requirements, as many countries won’t allow car rentals for drivers under the age of 25 or over the age of 70, no matter how long you’ve been driving or how proficient you might be.
The Rules of the Local Road
No matter which country you’re visiting or your reasons for being there, knowing the local laws is essential. Every country has its own driving laws, and you can avoid fines or delays by knowing in advance even the basics. If you’re traveling to a country that drives on the other side of the road than your home country, then it’s often worth getting some practice in before you set off. Remember too that many countries don’t treat automatic transmission as the norm, and you’ll either have to pay more for an automatic or be able to drive using a stick. Look too at the cultural reputation of drivers. Those in places like Paris or Brazil are notoriously aggressive drivers, so be prepared to deal with the differences in driving styles. It’s also worth budgeting for gas costs too, because some countries pay much higher prices for gas than others, so make sure that you don’t run out of gas money in the middle of nowhere.
Are You Legal to Rent?
For the majority of English speaking countries, your American driving license will most likely suit your needs in terms of necessary paperwork. If you’re traveling a little further afield, then you may need an International Driving Permit (IDP). You will need to be at least 18 years old to obtain one of these, but they are inexpensive and will allow you to drive in over 100 countries. This simple piece of paper, which provides a translation of your driving details, can be worth its weight in gold if you’re pulled over by the local police. You can pick up your IDP at either the American Automobile Association (AAA) or the American Automobile Touring Alliance, and it’s worth bearing in mind that there are a number of websites that claim to provide this paperwork for you. Don’t be tricked into buying from unofficial channels. Remember too that your IDP is not a replacement for your driving license, and you will need to present both forms of identification when asked.
Are You Covered?
Always check with your insurance company if you’re planning to drive overseas. The vast majority of insurance policies do not cover car rentals in another country, and it’s a very easy thing to forget about. Most foreign car rental companies offer their own form of overseas insurance, although many people limit themselves to relying on the insurance covered by their credit cards, and simply put the cost of the rental on the card itself. Make sure when using rental company insurance policies that you are covered by the minimum coverage requirements of your destination country.
Driving in a foreign country can be very stressful for the unprepared or inexperienced driver. Simply taking the time to make sure that you have some idea of what to expect will go a long way to making your travels much more enjoyable. Driving in a new country can be an exhilarating experience, and is the best way to really get to know a new environment. Making sure that you’re protected as much as possible means that you’ll be able to enjoy the experience all the more.