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12.20.2016 | Travel

International Driving Tips

Driving Abroad

If you’re planning an international trip, there are important considerations you need to keep in mind. Ensuring your passport is up to date, getting any required vaccinations and, depending on your length of stay, a travel visa may be required. If you plan to drive in the country you are travelling to, you also need to have the appropriate documentation and insurance.

Renting a vehicle can be a great way to get around. Driving gives you the ultimate freedom to explore the country. However, it can quickly become a headache if you’re not prepared. Before you decide to rent a vehicle internationally, consider these steps.

Understand the Country’s Driving Culture

The first step is to understand the country’s driving culture. Each country has it’s own cultural values and norms that are reflected in the way we drive. In densely populated areas, people are used to defending their personal space which can mean drivers are more aggressive in their use of the road. This can be a big contrast for Canadians driving on organized, relatively low density streets. Your first visit to Mumbai or Japan may not be the best place to test your international driving skills. In densely populated areas, your best bet for an enjoyable visit maybe on taking the local cabs, rickshaws, buses and trains to reach your destination. Conversely, a country with a similar driving culture to Canada’s may be an easy transition. For example, the US has a very similar driving culture to Canada’s, making it an easy transition with little effort beyond minding the difference between kilometres and miles.

When deciding to rent a vehicle, you need to decide if you feel confident driving in that country and understand the risks in the event of an accident.

International Driving Permit (IDP)

Before you rent a vehicle, you need to determine if you require an International Driving Permit (IDP). An IDP translates your Canadian Driver’s Licence for international use. When driving internationally, you must carry your licence and your IDP (if required). To determine if your destination country requires an IDP, contact the local embassy. It is also important to consider that your IDP may not be valid for the full duration of your stay. In some countries, your IDP expires at 30 days and you may be required to obtain a local licence upon your IDP’s expiry.

Check Your Insurance

Another important step to take prior to booking your rental vehicle is to ensure your insurance covers you in the event of an international accident. To be sure, contact your insurance broker and have them work with the rental car company to ensure you have the appropriate coverage.

Automatic vs. Standard

One thing many drivers overlook upon booking a rental vehicle is the transmission type. While many drivers in Canada are used to automatic transitions, many other countries default to standard transmissions when it comes to renting a vehicle. Therefore, be sure to check the transmission type on the vehicle you are renting before finalizing your booking.

Know the Rules

Getting pulled over by police or being involved in an accident in a foreign country can put an immediate damper on a great trip. Before you leave, get to know the rules of the road so that you can safely drive according to the local laws. You’ll need to know which side of the road to drive on and other rules such as if it is legal to turn right on a red light.

It’s also important to know the rules in the event of a traffic stop. In some countries, you may need to be prepared to pay on-the-spot fines for driving infractions. Check with your local embassy to determine the requirements. If you are fined, you cannot simply ignore the ticket. Doing so can lead you to jail time if you return to the country with unsettled charges or fines.

Hitting the Road

When you arrive in your destination country and pick up your rental vehicle, take time to get to know the vehicle before you take to the streets. Familiarize yourself with the wipers, signals, lights (including hazards), brakes and clutch or gear shifter, if applicable. Taking a moment to test drive the vehicle through a parking lot can be a great way to familiarize yourself with the vehicle to ensure you can hit the road safely and confidently.

In addition to test driving your rental vehicle, you can reduce any stress related to driving abroad by obtaining a GPS unit. Most rental companies provide GPS as an added option upon renting or vehicle pickup. Lastly, leave extra time in your agenda for getting around. Navigating your way through a new country can be challenging and stress can lead to bad driving habits. So, be sure to leave plenty of time to get around and plan your trip before get behind the wheel.

If you have questions about driving abroad, contact your Easyway Insurance Broker. We can help ensure you have the information you need to have a great trip.

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