Planning an international road trip is worth getting excited about. However, it’s also important to plan ahead and ensure everything is in order before you depart. This can save you major headaches and some unexpected financial expenditures as well. To get you on your way, here is our complete guide to overseas road trips.
Confirm Your Rental Car at Booking
It’s quite common to find that rental car companies outside of the United States only have manual transmission vehicles. Some companies may only have a handful of automatics in their fleet, so it’s imperative you confirm the transmission type if you cannot drive a stick shift.
Also, if you plan to drive through multiple countries, check ahead of time what the contract allows and where you can take the vehicle. It may be illegal to take the vehicle across country borders. Before you drive off the lot, confirm what type of fuel your rental car uses, as some have very specific fuel requirements.
Driver’s License and Insurance
Verify whether or not you need an international driver’s license in order to pick up your rental car. Depending on where you are going, it may be mandatory.
Contact your insurance company to confirm what coverages are available for an international rental car. A lot of people have coverage that will pay for damages to the rental vehicle, but that doesn’t necessarily extend to repairs on the vehicle you hit.
Don’t Pack Too Much
Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to rental cars in other countries. Many people drive smaller vehicles because parking is at a premium and fuel is expensive. In Europe, many of the vehicles are hatchbacks, and that means that if you pack a lot, your belongings will be exposed. Vehicle break-ins can be somewhat common in many countries, especially when savvy thieves know how to spot a rental vehicle. Try to keep your luggage to a minimum so it fits in the back, which also helps with vehicle performance and fuel consumption too.
Verify you have enough passport pages depending on where you plan to travel. You might assume you don’t need extra pages if you’re traveling in Europe, but if you are bouncing in and out of the Schengen Zone, you’ll pass through immigration at the border each time.
Learn the Driving Laws and How to Read Road Signs
One of the most important things you can do is review all the driving laws for the countries you plan to visit. Don’t be caught off guard by seemingly strange laws in other countries. For example, there are symbols on the streets in the Netherlands that give the right of way to a vehicle entering the roadway from your right, which means you need to yield even though you are proceeding straight ahead. Ask about specific tolls and insurance requirements for the countries you plan to drive to.
Countries like Switzerland, Austria and Hungary require you to have a special sticker in the window showing you have paid the toll to drive on any highway. Other remote locales, like Kosovo, require you purchase insurance as you enter the country, even on vehicles owned and insured in Europe.
Also drinking and driving laws are much stricter in other countries. In many cases, you can’t be above 0.02 blood alcohol level and be behind the wheel. Some cities will have police out at night giving random breathalyzer tests to passing motorists. It’s not a risk you want to take.
Now that you’re ready to venture out on the road, apps like Waze can tell you when there are speed cameras coming up. Speed limits can vary all over, especially on small back roads, and you don’t want to find yourself at the end of a police officer’s speed gun, or worse, clocked on a speed camera.
Watch for the app to tell you about “average speed zone ahead” in some destinations. This is where you will be photographed on two parts of the highway to determine what your average speed was. You won’t know you got a ticket until a few months later when the rental car company sends it to you in the mail. Thinking about ignoring it? Don’t, as some countries will attach it to your passport, so you won’t be allowed to enter the country again until you have paid all your fines, with penalties and accrued interest.