Traveling abroad: What you need to know before driving overseas

If you’re getting set to travel overseas, then you might want to considering avoiding the trains and coach tours and getting behind the wheel and doing some touring of your own.

If you decide to take the plunge and drive yourself around, you’ll be opening yourself up to a whole new world of adventure and you’ll end up seeing more than 90% of tourists who are stuck in a cramped coach.

However driving overseas is not without its hurdles.

Before you leave, there’s a few things that you might want to consider before getting behind the wheel in a foreign country.

Getting your license

For the most part, you’re going to need a license to drive in a foreign country. The good news is that your Australian driver’s license is going to be valid in a number of countries.

However many will require you to get an International Driving Permit. The place to check is AAA. Their site lists the countries that require you to have a valid permit.

An International Driving Permit has two key purposes that travellers need to be aware of.

The first is the obvious one that if a country requires you to have an IDP, then if you drive with your Australian license alone, you are technically breaking the law by driving without a license.

The second key consideration is for insurance purposes. And there’s two types of insurance to consider here.

Firstly travel insurance. Many travel insurance providers will only cover your claim, if you were in fact driving with an International Driving Permit. Otherwise any claims you make, might well be void and you won’t be paid out. Your best option is to check with your insurance provider to see what the conditions are for driving in a foreign country.

It’s also important to note that driving a scooter overseas, may or may not require a license of any kind. However if you injure yourself or cause damages while using a scooter, there is a strong possibility that you are not going to be covered for anything medical related by your travel insurer. Again read the PDS and speak to your provider about the use of scooters.

The second type of insurance to consider is car insurance by the hire car company. In most cases the easiest option to get insurance is going to be directly with the hire company. However you might be required to hold an International Driving Permit, to get insurance and if you are required to have one to drive in that particular country or in a country you intend to travel to, then you will certainly need to provide that to the hire company, prior to renting a car.

Getting your International Driving Permit

The good news is the process of obtaining an International Driving Permit, is quite straightforward. If you hold a current Australian driver’s license then you’re simply going to have to apply to get one and pay the small fee.

The easiest place to get one is via AAA or through one of the following affiliates:

  • NRMA
  • RACV
  • RACQ
  • RAA
  • RAC

Borrowing a car

If you’re borrowing a car from a friend while you’re overseas, it’s important to make sure they check their policy to make sure other drivers are covered.

Again they will need to check whether you as a foreign driver will be required to hold an International Driving Permit.

Getting around overseas

Once you’re fully licensed and insured the next thing to consider is how to get around safely.

There’s a strong chance you’ll need GPS, Google Maps or at the very least a good old fashioned map.

If you want to use your phone, be sure to get an international SIM or buy a new SIM when you arrive overseas. Paying the data costs for International Roaming charges is extremely expensive and can run up your phone bill into the $1000s very quickly.

If you rent a car you can consider renting a GPS unit to save the hassles.

Remember, road rules and practices can vary significantly compared to Australia. Speed limits in some countries can be very high in comparison to Australia so if you’re concerned remember you can always just sit in the slow lane.

And of course, if you’re in countries like the US you’ll not only be driving on the other side of the road, but also sitting on the other side of your car. Just take it slowly to begin with until you get the feel for the car.

Hopefully once you’ve got all the basics sorted and you’re full insured, you’ll be good to go and ready to explore a foreign land.


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