6 Tips for Driving Internationally

Chances are, you feel comfortable driving in the area where you currently live. You're also probably comfortable driving in the surrounding areas and maybe even in the outer cities of your state. But what about a new country?!

While driving in a new country may seem a bit daunting, it really is simple - however there are a few things you should prepare yourself for. Here are 6 tips I learned during my international driving experiences.

1. Get an international driving licence

This is the first thing you should if you plan to drive in another country, and it's easier than you think. There are multiple ways of getting an international driver's licence, but I have found going to AAA is the easiest. Be sure to bring a valid U.S. driver's licence, two passport pictures (or they can take them there), and $20. They may even help save you some money on a car rental, which leads me to my next point...

2. Pick the right car

There are various options out there - compact, mid-size, luxury, SUV, etc. Before selecting your car, it is important to note that most international roads are not the size of U.S. roads - so be cautious on getting a full-size SUV for an Italian roadtrip. We have rented compact cars in the past and have been somewhat pleased with them. I'm a bit of a gearhead and tolerate them only because they are fuel sippers and can fit into tight parking spots. However, when it comes to passing a truck on the highway or going up a steep road, the compact cars simply do not offer the power. Additionally, most compacts can only fit one carry-on suitcase in the trunk. 


While we have never experienced a surprise invoice for a damaged car, there have been multiple horror stories out there. As a rule of thumb, even renting a car in the States, take pictures of your car and carefully go around it for any imperfections. Make sure the rental company has a representative there with you to also take down your notes.  

4. get a map

The best map option is to use your phone. Before leaving for your trip, speak with your service provider and switch to the International Travel Plan. Verizon has an incredible deal that allows you to use your domestic allowance for talk, text, and data for $10/day ($2/day for Canada and Mexico). That is less than the daily cost for most GPS devices through car rental companies (which are typically outdated and difficult to operate). We used our phone in New Zealand and it never failed us. We have also had success downloading areas of Google Maps for offline use, but they are small. As a fail safe, I suggest printing off the directions from Google Maps. 

5. learn the rules of the road 

What would you do if you saw these signs? Before hitting the road in another country, it is important to learn what these signs and others mean. Additionally, do you know what side of the road you're supposed to drive on? The Department of State is a good source to learn about each country's traffic signs and laws. 


6. have confidence

Driving internationally is a lot of fun, so believe in yourself and enjoy your trip! While the locals may be zooming past you, stay in the slow lane, take your time, and appreciate all that is around you!