Learning the Traffic Laws of a Foreign Country

By: Kat Saks August 13, 2012
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While traveling abroad can be a big adventure, driving abroad can be an even bigger adventure. When you travel internationally and get behind the wheel, you don't just experience foreign sights; you experience foreign traffic laws, too.

Learn more about how to study foreign traffic laws and obey the rules of the road overseas.

Carry an International Driver Permit

If you plan on traveling abroad, plan on carrying an international driving permit (IDP). Even if you don't think you'll get behind the wheel, an international drivers permit can help you along the way in your travels. You might also consider obtaining international auto insurance.

More than 150 countries recognize international drivers permits for tourists, and foreign authorities often recognize this form of identification easily.

Your international driver permit contains your name, photo, and driver information and translates that information into ten different languages. So, carrying an international drivers permit can provide an extra form of ID if and when you need it. Besides, you never know when you might need to take the wheel and drive abroad. Most car rental agencies will request an international driver permit when renting in a foreign country, even if this drivers permit isn't required by the country itself.

Learn the Traffic Laws of a Foreign Country

Traffic rules vary from country to country. You might drive on a different side of the road, signs might be posted in a foreign measuring system, and you might see unfamiliar road signs.

Before you start driving, take some time to study the traffic laws of the country. Learn about the country's road signs and rules, and the penalties for traffic violations. You will feel more at ease behind the wheel when you have a handle on this information.

Typically, you can access information on foreign traffic laws through the region's motor vehicle agency. Similar to the US, most foreign countries maintain departments of transportation or driver and vehicle services. Seek out the appropriate agency, then inquire into resources on traffic laws. These agencies might provide you with useful tips, as well as driving manuals.

Basic Tips for Driving in a Foreign Country

Beyond learning foreign traffic laws, consider these tips to help breeze through your international driving experience:

  • Carry an international driving permit and your state drivers license at all times.
  • Carry the country's traffic laws manual for a reference when you need it. You can find this information at a foreign embassy in the United States, a foreign government tourist office, or at an international car rental company.
  • Ensure you meet the minimum and maximum driving age requirements.
  • Determine whether or not you need any kind of special drivers permit to drive in certain areas.
  • Use your seatbelt.
  • Obtain liability insurance when you rent a car.
  • Review the rules of the road. Foreign countries often require drivers to obey new and different traffic laws.

Have you ever driven internationally? How did you learn the rules of the road? Tell us your story in the comments section.

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