5 Things Not To Do When Driving Abroad

5 Things Not To Do When Driving Abroad
By: Anthony WillettCC BY 2.0

Having the chance to get behind the wheel in a new place can be a serious adventure. You can get the best views, be in charge of your own travel itinerary and really get a feel for the culture and landscape. However, every country has their own set of road rules.

An uninformed driver could be putting themselves at risk, but these five helpful hints remind you what not to do when driving abroad.

1. Assume Your Home Driver’s License is Sufficient

In your home country, your standard driver’s license is typically all that you need to get into the driver’s seat and hit the open road. When in a new country, the guidelines can differ significantly.

Short-term travelers may not need any additional licenses or paperwork, but some countries will require you to have an international driving permit. Getting the permit is very affordable and quick, but you will need to do it before you depart.

2. Drink Alcohol

At home, you would probably not risk getting behind the wheel after a few drinks. For some reason, visitors in vacation mode can end up taking chances that they normally would not.

You might be surprised at just how strict the penalties are in some countries for intoxicated drivers. In China, you could spend up to six months in jail for drinking and driving. In Spain, driving after exceeding the legal limit results in steep monetary fines and license suspension.

To be safe rather than sorry, travelers should avoid drinking any alcohol when they plan to drive.

3. Avoid Paying Fines or Tickets

Many travelers receive tickets for parking or moving violations when abroad and then forget all about them or, worse yet, intentionally don’t pay them when they head back to their home country. Keep in mind that if you ever want to visit that country again, or even rent a car anywhere, you have to pay these fines.

If you don’t pay a ticket in Italy, for example, a car rental company in France might have access to that information and not offer you a vehicle unless the fine is paid on the spot.

4. Guess the Speed Limit

If the speed limit where you live is 60 miles per hour on the highway and 30 miles per hour in small towns, you might assume that the same rules apply when you are abroad. However, that would definitely be a mistake.

Speed limits differ greatly from country to country and even town to town, and you need to pay close attention to the speed limit signs along the road.

5. Honk Your Horn Unnecessarily

At home, honking your car’s horn might just be a way to get a fellow driver’s attention or show your annoyance on the road. In some countries, it is used exclusively as a warning signal for emergencies.


Driving abroad can be thrilling and memorable if you follow the rules of the road. These tips on what not to do can keep you safe whether you are driving in Australia or Zimbabwe.

About the author


Sally is retired teacher and now loves to travel the world. One of her favourite places to stay is Cornwall in the UK. Sally recommends The Alverton Hotel as a great place to stay.

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