Do I Need Special Insurance For Driving Outside the U.S.?

Craig Middleton

Tips for traveling outside of the United States.

Though driving a car may seem a routine thing here in the United States, attempting to do so in another country without being adequately prepared can end in disaster. Not only do you have to get used to the fact that you are thousands of miles from home, but the language barriers, customs and regulations could make the experience more intimidating. You must do your research before your trip to find out about insurance, road signs, rental cars and your legal ability to drive in a particular country. You can use this quick overview to help you prepare for your next journey.

While the United States has driving laws that vary by state, you will encounter the same changes in regulations as you move from one country to another. You may be required to have more than just a valid U.S. driver’s license and be older than the general age restriction of 18. The International Driving Permit offered by the AAA and the National Auto Club may be more recognized and widely accepted than your driver’s license. This permit translates your driver’s license into a number of different languages, making it easier for officials and rental car companies to verify. Though you have to be at least 18 in order to obtain the IDP, you still need to check with the driving age requirement for the country you are visiting for legal permission to be on the road. Additionally, most rental car companies have their own requirements before leasing a vehicle.

Your Accident Precautions

Whether or not you choose to rent a car for your travels or you will be borrowing from a friend or family member that lives overseas, you will want to look into insurance coverage for international travel, as it is often required by law. Before your journey, you can look up the best insurance quotes online, though using a rental car service often provides the chance to purchase insurance directly from the leasing company. A word of warning though, for simply going with the provision and extra charge at the rental car company. Read through the plan and coverage extensively, since oftentimes the coverage is minimal and you will be left paying much of the costs of an accident out of pocket.

It may be in your best interest to select a stand-alone policy from a recognized provider that carries the equivalent coverage of what you may use on your personal vehicle back home. Also, check with your credit card company when you get ready to lease the vehicle. Some companies extend insurance services or will pay the deductible when the car is leased through their financing. You do need to check that whatever insurance you select will be able to travel with you, i.e., that it will cross borders if you are traveling through Europe.

Your Safety Precautions

Once you have determined your legal ability to drive within the country of your travel, and you have secured both a vehicle and comprehensive insurance, you need to take precautions for your own safety. In overseas travel, you may find yourself only able to rent a car with a manual transmission. While you may be able to upgrade to an automatic for a fee, you should be prepared for the possibility of having to drive a stick long before you go. Doing your homework before signing on the dotted line can avoid this hassle. You also should prepare for the potential of having to drive on the wrong side of the road. It will be confusing, and the chance for accidents increases. Stay alert, especially near intersections and when taking turns onto roads. Use a GPS to help you navigate the territory, but make sure it has been loaded with international maps. Using your smartphone could result in expensive international roaming charges. Keeping a physical map in the car is also needed. To increase your safety, try to use public transportation around city centers, as it will be more navigable and less stressful.

Driving through another country is a great way to see the place leisurely. However, without the right precautions, you could find yourself in a costly and vacation-ruining predicament should you get into an accident.

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