Guide to Driving Safely Abroad

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Driving your car at home is dangerous enough. When you drive abroad, you’re even more at risk of an accident since you’re in an unfamiliar place where the rules might not be what you’re used to. Not to mention, if you’re driving abroad, you’re probably going to be renting a car. 

Let’s demystify the process of driving safely abroad so you know what to do before your next trip!

Choose a Car You’re Comfortable With

Depending on where you travel, the cars might not be what you’re used to. In Europe, for example, during automatic cars isn’t that common. If you’re from the United States and you’re only familiar with automatic cars, you might be caught off guard when you’re pressed to use a stick shift in a new country! Because driving abroad is already hard enough, keep it simple by choosing a car that you’re comfortable with. Rentals fill up fast so be proactive about selecting a car early in your planning process. Make sure you choose a car that’s a size you’re comfortable maneuvered around a new city!

Review the Road Rules

The road rules are different in different parts of the world. Just like how there are different rules in different states in the United States, there are different rules by country. Do some research before you go by visiting Driving Guide. Some places drive on the other side of the road while others might have unfamiliar traffic signs. Your goal is to drive like a local and blend in as much as possible! Review road rules and practice them before you go so you feel confident before you get behind the wheel in a new country.

Prep Your Route

There’s nothing worse than being lost in a foreign country. It’s even worse when you’re lost while driving! Do some prep before you go and figure out your driving route in advance. If you’re using a map, be sure to mark all signs and routes ahead of time. You can make notes of the main roads and intersections you’ll pass along the way.

It might be worth packing a GPS to navigate unfamiliar roads abroad. Your phone plan might cover international data, but you can often rent a GPS through your rental car company if that’s not an option. While having a GPS is a great idea for cutting down on confusion while driving, you should also have a map in case you lose service or battery.

Learn Your Car Before You Go

Once you’re in your new car for your journey, take a few minutes to get comfortable. It’s tempting to rush out on your trip right away, but a few extra seconds can go a long way. Learn where all the major functions are like windshield wipers and headlights. Practice in the parking compound if you can until you feel ready to take the car out on the road! Try to avoid driving in busy areas while you’re still learning the new car if possible.

Bring Cash and Change

Driving abroad might mean encountering unexpected tolls or fines. Be prepared by having cash and change with you just in case. You can ask the employees at your hotel or car rental place about toll roads or the cost of parking so you can estimate how much you’ll need. In some cases you might be able to rent a toll pass from your car rental location, but it’s still worth bringing cash with you just in case!

Remain Calm

No matter how much you prepare to drive abroad, you’re still going to be stressed. The key to being safe is simply staying calm. Try to enjoy your trip and feel proud of yourself for overcoming such a big obstacle. Stay calm in busy areas and remember the traffic rules of the area. When in doubt, see what other local drivers are doing and do as they do. As long as you stick to the rules and you pay attention, you’re sure to have a safe journey!

Driving abroad is a whole new level of freedom! You’ve mastered something not many people get to do, and it’s such a unique way to explore a new place! Remember to enjoy the sights, but to stay alert. As long as you’re careful, you’re going to see the best of your destination!

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About Author

Kelly Lewis is the founder of Go! Girl Guides, the Women's Travel Fest and Damesly. She's an optimist, an adventurer, an author and works to help women travel the world.

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