The best way to visit a foreign country is to drive yourself. That way you won’t depend on a schedule set by others, you’ll be able to rest when needed, and you’ll spend as much time as you want at places you’re really interested in.
In order to enjoy all of these benefits, you’ll need to make a few preparations beforehand and make sure that you’re equipped for the drive. That way you’ll stay safe and comfortable at all times.
Be Mindful of Local Regulations
When driving abroad you’ll need to be aware of the local traffic regulations that are mandatory for foreign and local drivers alike. There are usually some differences that you’ll need to get used to. For instance, speeding laws are different in almost every country and some countries don’t have them at all.
In some countries, drivers are obligated to drive with their lights on at all times, including during the day. You’ll also need to have a medical kit with you and you’ll also need to learn how to use it.
Bring Along the Proper Documents
There are a few documents that you’ll need to have on hand when driving abroad. The most important one is the international driving permit issued by the InternationalDriversAssociation. It’s valid only if you have a national permit with you as well, and a photo ID.
These documents need to be up to date and an international permit expires after a year. The national permit expires after five. A driver can renew the international driving permit abroad, but it can’t always be done with a national permit. You’ll also need a document proving that your vehicle is insured.
Cars need to be insured if they are to be allowed on the road and international travelers usually overlook the importance of having an insurance policy. In most countries, you’re obligated to have one but it’s also useful to ensure your personal belongings and to include repair and alternative accommodations while they are performed.
If you’re using a GPS device in your car, it too needs insurance since it’s a separate piece of equipment from the car itself and rather a valuable one. The device is necessary if you’re going on a long road trip far from any city.
Plan Your Stops
It’s best not to drive more than 4 hours without a break and keep in mind that driving on roads you’re not familiar with is even more stressful and taxing than driving on one that you’re familiar with. That way you can give your trip some structure and stay well-rested as well.
Don’t hesitate to go off the road and change plans once you find a certain location to be of interest to you. That’s the main reason you’re driving on your own – so that you can plan the trip yourself. There are always sites outside the major tourist attractions that you’ll love.
Have Some of the Local Currency
It’s always a good idea to have some money in the local currency with you. There are venues that won’t accept cards or the dollar so this is the only way to pay. It’s also useful when it comes to making a tip.
Keep in mind that tipping culture varies from country to country. There are places where it’s common and expected but in some countries, the tip is included in the bill and it can even be insulting. Ask around before you visit a restaurant or a bar.
Dine With The Local
Tourist venues and hotels offer good service and great restaurants but it’s a mistake to stick to them when it comes to dining. One of the most rewarding experiences you’ll have during your trip abroad is to experience the life of the locals, if only for a brief time.
Having a car and being able to visit local villages, and shops will make that process that much easier. Don’t hesitate to go on a short foodie tour for a day or two if you have the time. It will give you a chance to explore the country in a new way.
An Emergency Kit
One of the most important things to pack for your trip is an emergency kit that can cover the most basic of repairs and most basic of injuries that may happen on the road. These kits could be bought pre-made or you can create one yourself focusing on the items you see fit.
It’s not enough to have such a kit with you, it’s also important to learn how to use the items you packed. This takes some time and practice but it can help you when such assistance is most needed.
Investigate Parking Options
Parking can be somewhat confusing for a foreigner since there are local regulations that you may not be familiar with. This is especially important when you’re in a large city. It can be arranged when you’re out in the country or on the road, but when you’re in a city you’ll need to pay for the privilege.
In many cases, this can easily be organized online and you can obtain the license to park in an area on your phone without the need for cash payment. In many cases, long-term parking arrangements end up being less costly than the short ones.
Should You Rent a Vehicle?
There are benefits to both renting and using your own car. Renting is a bit more expensive but it gives you more freedom when it comes to your route. It allows you to choose a drop-off point at which you’ll leave the car. This is something you can’t do with your own vehicle.
Driving your own car is familiar and therefore it can be more comfortable and safer as well. You’re also familiar with how your car is maintained and you can’t be when it’s provided by the rental agency. It’s a matter of choosing which of these features is more important to you.