If you intend to drive overseas, check with the embassy or consulate of the countries you will visit to learn their driver's license, road permit, and auto insurance requirements. If possible, obtain road maps before you go.
Many countries do not recognize a U.S. driver's license. Most, however, accept an international driver's permit. Before departure, obtain one at a local office of an automobile association. You must be at least age 18, and you will need two passport-size photographs and your valid U.S. license. Certain countries require road permits instead of tolls to use their divided highways and will fine drivers without a permit.
It is also important for you to be aware that if you lose your wallet and drivers license, many countries will not allow you to drive. Here is the statement issues by the U.S. Consulate in England regarding lost drivers licenses.
Driverís LicenseDriving without a valid license is not permitted in the UK. To obtain a new license, apply to the Department of Motor Vehicles in the capital city of the issuing State. The Embassy cannot issue a replacement license. You must not drive until you receive your duplicate license. There are no exceptions to this rule which is strictly enforced by the British police. You can drive in the UK using your International Driving Permit.
Car rental agencies overseas usually provide auto insurance, but in some countries, the required coverage is minimal. A good rule of thumb when renting a car overseas is to purchase insurance coverage that is at least equivalent to that which you carry at home.
In general, your U.S. auto insurance does not cover you abroad. However, your policy may apply when you drive to countries that neighbor the United States. Check with your insurer to see if your policy covers you in Canada, Mexico, or in countries south of Mexico. Even if your policy is valid in one of these countries, it may not meet its minimum requirements. For instance, in most of Canada, you must carry at least $200,000 in liability insurance, and Mexico requires that if vehicles do not carry theft, third party liability, and comprehensive insurance, the owner must post a bond that could be as high as 50% of the value of the vehicle. If you are under-insured for a country, auto insurance can usually be purchased on either side of the border.
International Drivers Permit (IDP)
Obtain an International Drivers Permit (IDP). This can be purchased through your AAA club. Have your passport photos and a completed application. There will be a fee involved. Carry both your IDP and your state driver's license with you at all times. Some things to keep in mind: If you IDP is lost or stolen you need to obtain a replacement immediately. To obtain a replacement International Driving Permit, apply to:
The American Automobile Association
1000 AAA Drive, Mail Stop 28, Heathrow, Florida 32746-5063,
Telephone number (407) 444-4240/700, fax: (407) 444-3780.
Some countries have a minimum and maximum driving age. Check the laws before you drive in any country.
Always "buckle up". Some countries have penalties for people who violate this law.
As many countries have different driving rules, obtain a copy of them before you begin driving in that country.If the divers in the country you are visiting drive on the opposite side of the road than in the U.S., practice driving in a less populated area before attempting to drive during the heavy traffic part of the day.
Be aware of the countryside you will be driving in. Many countries require you to honk your horn before going around a sharp corner or to flash your lights before passing.
Find out before you start your journey who has the right of way in a traffic circle.
Always know the route you will be traveling. Have a copy of a good road map, and chart your course before beginning.
Do not pick up hitchhikers or strangers.
When entering your vehicle, be aware of your surroundings.
Excerpted from: U. S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs. U. S. State Department Publication 9926. February, 1992. pg. 20. Note: As of July, 1997 this was the latest non-internet-published U.S. State Department document pertaining to this topic.
Should you buy collision-damage coverage when your credit card provides it?
The insurance that car-rental companies offer overseas can be very expensive, sometimes it can be more that $20 additional or more per day. Most of the time your personal auto insurance will not cover a loss so you may have to obtain the additional insurance. Remember you are a visitor to a foreign country and becoming involved in an accident is not the time to wonder if you have proper coverage.
When I am traveling internationally, in a place unfamiliar laws and languages, I buy the insurance. But ask first whether the coverage is for all damages or only some. Some international car rental insurance covers only damages above a certain dollar amount so make sure to check the fine print.
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