Driving in a foreign country

Sometimes, My Vacation Lady’s clients prefer to rent a car and drive around on the own.  In Hawaii, it’s a breeze (and our recommended means of transportation) but in foreign countries, it may be a bit trickier.

Here are some tips on how to stay safe while renting a car abroad:

  1. Get an international driver’s license if you are driving abroad.  They aren’t expensive and it’s worth the $20 or so to make sure you have the right documentation.  You can purchase them at AAA
  2. Know the rules of the road.
    • Which side of the road are you supposed to drive on?
    • Did you know that in Europe, you can’t make a right turn on a red light?
    • Make sure you have a shirt on while driving in Thailand or you might end up with less that luxurious accommodations at a Thai jail.
  3. Know the road conditions.  Watch out for sheep crossings in Ireland.  Be aware of pothole ridden dirt roads in rural areas of Costa Rica.
  4. Auto Insurance- Chances are that your US based auto insurance will NOT cover you when you rent a car aboard.  When renting a car, many times CDW (collision, damage and waiver insurance) will be included or available at an additional cost.   Take it, along with liability insurance.  Auto rental agencies in Europe are sticklers for charging foreign drivers for scratches made on their vehicles.
  5. Automatic or stick shift  You might drive a manual transmission here in the US but try maneuvering a manual transmission while driving on the “wrong side of the road”.  While it may cost more, think about the safety issue of shifting with your left hand.  Also, keep in mind, that if you are going to rent a car in a small town in Italy, automatic transmission vehicles may not be available so you’ll want to rent them at the airport or larger cities or towns.
  6. Traffic Police- so Scott and Kelly can never go back to France since his name and photo are probably plastered all over the country after getting and not paying a speeding ticket a few years ago during their honeymoon.  It is equally as easy to get a ticket for not paying a toll.  This will end up coming through the car rental agency and they’ll add on a large fee.
  7. Read the rental agreement– if you can.  Clients go stuck paying for filling up the tank through the car rental agency even though they brought it back with a full tank because they didn’t ask questions when signing the rental agreement contract.  If you don’t speak the language, make sure you ask questions.
  8. Just like at home- Don’t drink and drive
  9. If you are renting a motorcycle or scooter, wear a helmet
  10. Only drive in registered and marked taxis or reliable car share services like Uber

According to the CDC, there are 25,000 tourist deaths a year due to vehicle related accidents and we certainly don’t want any of our clients having issues while renting cars aboard.

When in doubt, My Vacation Lady can recommend transfers so that you feel more comfortable on the roads during your next vacation.

About the Author:

Mindy Gilbert of My Vacation Lady has been helping clients, just like you, plan their dream vacations, cruises and honeymoons since 1994.