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Driving Around the World

Whether you’re heading for the pristine hills and mountains of New Zealand, to the Australian Outback, into the techno-center of Hong Kong, to the Grand Canyo

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n in Arizona, USA or somewhere else, you can save money and enjoy your trip more if you drive yourself. International car hire has become simpler and easier (not to mention more affordable) in recent years, and AtlasChoice streamlines things even further by providing you with top quality products from top car rental companies around the world for rates that simply can’t be beat.

Of course, the act of driving in another country can be a bit daunting, particularly if you’re new to international driving laws, regulations and habits. Many things can vary considerably from one country to another, but you’ll find that some basic information will keep you safe, on the road, and enjoying your excursion.

License Requirements

There’s a great deal of confusion out there surrounding the topic of licensing. Do you need an international driving permit if you’ll be driving abroad? Actually, as long as your state-issued driver’s license is valid and in good standing, you’ll be fine. There’s no need to get an international permit, although they are available. However, you might consider getting such a permit.

An international driving permit is essentially a translation of your state-issued license that tells authorities in another country that you’re legally licensed to drive. This can be an important benefit, as it can be difficult for even seasoned professionals to tell an authentic driver’s license from a fake when it’s from another country. However, international permits aren’t free, and since they’re not required, feel free to opt out if you prefer.

Know the Road

While you aren’t expected to know the roadways in the traditional sense, you do need to know how the roadways work in your destination country (or countries, if you’ve managed to schedule an excursion to more than one international destination). In the US, drivers drive on the right-hand side of the road. In the UK and Australia, they drive on the left (and cars are left-hand drive as well). Before you arrive, make sure you know what side of the road you’ll be occupying, and be prepared for at least a little bit of disorientation when you first start driving. Even seasoned international travelers can experience some adjustment time.

In addition to knowing which side of the road to drive on, you’ll need to know how your host county operates – the rules of the road. These vary considerably from one country to another. The US posts speed limits on black and white signs in miles per hour. European countries use kilometers per hour, although the UK uses miles per hour. In every country, your rental car should show both miles per hour and kilometers per hour on the speedometer – it’s just a question of remembering where you are and what speed reading you should be looking at while driving.

Many road sign shapes and colors have been standardized, at least in Western countries. Stop signs tend to be octagonal and red. Warning and yield signs are triangular and red/white. Red colored signs either mean stop or caution. You’ll find that with a little time, a little preparation and some common sense, reading road signs isn’t that big a deal.

Laws and Legal Regulations

Different countries have drastically varying regulations and laws that apply to drivers. For instance, driving in Cyprus while using your cell phone will likely see you fined. Doing the same thing in the US is perfectly fine (however, many US states have enacted anti-texting laws, so be wary). Alcohol consumption while driving is also governed differently around the world. Do a little research on your destination country’s driving laws and driving standards and you should be fine.

Distances

Depending on where you live and where you’re visiting, you might have some adjustment in terms of distances. For example, most Europeans find the distances in the US or Australia surprising. They’re used to having only a few miles between towns and cities. In the US and Australia, it can be a considerable distance from one town to another, and in remote areas, there might be few or no support services or gas stations. Learn more about the distances between the areas you want to visit, and then try to visualize what those might be like in your home country. If you live in Germany and you’ll be traveling to the US state of Georgia, a trip from Atlanta to the South Carolina border will take you about two hours, roughly the same time it takes you to get from Stuttgart in southern Germany to France.

In the end, driving in an international country is simple and relatively easy so long as you do a little research and abide by that country’s rules of the road.

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