Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

Renting a Car Overseas? Read This Post First

my drive to work today

Thanks to guest author Olivia Chi for this contribution.

Driving in a foreign country can be a lot of fun — or a lot of hassle.

Do Your Homework

Before you get behind the wheel of a foreign automobile, find out about the country’s driving laws. We all know that in the U.K. and Japan, for example, people drive on the left side of the road rather than the right. This is a big difference, but you might find it easier to get used to some of the other quirks of international driving laws. Here are some example questions you might find the answers to for your destination: Can you make a left turn at a red light? What should you do if an emergency vehicle, like an ambulance, is behind you? What hours of the day do you need to use your headlights? Not all countries have the same stipulations for drivers that Canada does.

Know What Documentation You’ll Need

It’s a great idea to get an International Driving Permit before you leave home. In many places, you won’t be able to rent a car or drive one without this permit. But don’t think that’s all you’ll need — you’ll also need to bring your Canadian driver’s license and any proof of insurance that you have. Keep your passport handy when you’re in the car as well, as foreign traffic police officers will probably also ask for that if you’re pulled over.

Ask Your Insurance Company About Coverage

It’s always a good idea to book extra insurance coverage on your rental car, especially if you’re driving in a foreign country, but you may also be at least partially covered by the insurance you have on your car at home, or by your travel insurance. Find out if your existing insurers cover you, and then use that information to help you decide how much coverage to buy abroad.

Evaluate How Tired You’ll Be

Unless you’re travelling due south, you’re going to end up in a different time zone. International travel can be grueling by itself — catching flights, dealing with luggage, clearing customs and immigration — but you may also feel the effects of jet lag. Driving tired (or jet lagged) can be as dangerous as driving drunk, so think twice before you get off your intercontinental flight and head straight for the rental car agency. If possible, schedule a night’s rest in a hotel before you begin driving.

Plan an Easy Trip First

Heading to Australia to drive across the Outback? Sounds like a great trip, but don’t expect to hop off the plane and drive straight into the desert. Spend a day or two practicing driving on the other side of the road before you embark on a long road trip in another country. Even in countries like Spain, where cars (mostly) stick to the right lane while driving, local traffic may take some getting used to.

Find Out About Local Road Hazards

If you’re driving in rural areas of Canada, you know what to look out for: deer and other wildlife on the highways, and frost and ice during certain parts of the year. Each country you visit will have its own unique road conditions that you should take into account when driving. For example, in Australia you’ll need to look out for kangaroos hopping into traffic, meanwhile in Scotland herds of sheep might block a country lane. Pedestrians generally use crosswalks in Canada, but in some nations they don’t, which means that drivers must be doubly on the lookout for people crossing the road in front of them.

Learn About Local Emergency Services

The odds of you being in a traffic accident while driving overseas are very slim. However, it’s prudent to learn what to do if you need roadside assistance. Make sure you have the local emergency hotline number with you and easily accessible when driving, and that the rental car company explains what you’ll be expected to do in case you break down or get a flat tire while on the road.

About the Author: Olivia Chi is a former flight attendant who has driven in about 15 countries around the world.

photo by: emdot