4 Things to Consider When Driving in a Foreign Country

4 Things to Consider When Driving in a Foreign Country

I love to drive. It’s really therapeutic and calming to me. I know for some people, driving is nerve-wracking and stressful experience. But for me, it’s my me-time where I can play music at volumes no one else wants to hear.

Since I love to drive, I am always keen to rent cars and drive around the countries I visit. Though it sounds nice and lovely in theory, I have experienced the dangers that come with renting cars in completely foreign countries. I am not by any means recommending you never rent a car in a foreign country. I’m just going to go through 4 things I wish I had considered before I jumped right on the foreign car rental bandwagon a few years ago.

1. Stick vs. Automatic

I am fully aware that more people drive stick than automatic in countries outside of the U.S. I was not fully aware at how much more expensive it is to rent an automatic in one of the stick-loving countries out there. When I went to Iceland, it was DOUBLE the price to rent an automatic (I rented a stick and tried to learn it in a parking lot and started crying lol). Looking back, I probably would have considered public transportation options for the $600 it cost to rent an automatic vehicle.

*Also, just because a place promises you an automatic vehicle doesn’t guarantee it. These rental car companies do NOT carry that many automatics.*

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It cost $600 to rent this car for 5-days! Only because it was an automatic.

2. Left or Right Lane

Many countries have drivers drive in the left lane. That’s perfectly fine, but if you’ve only ever driven on the right side of the road, switching your brain over immediately isn’t going to happen easily. I’ve never attempted this, but I know many people who have gotten into car accidents because of it.

If you think you can handle it, I’d recommend watching MANY YouTube videos before you get yourself into an international dilemma.

3. Printed-Out Directions

We’re heavily reliant on our phone GPS today. So much so that it may seem out of the question to need printed-out directions on a trip. But remember: when you’re in a foreign country, there goes your cell service. I can’t tell you how many times I didn’t print out enough directions to navigate a country without cell service. The result? Pulling into dozens of gas stations asking for help (I’ve luckily only been to countries where the people are receptive – not everyone is going to want to help you).

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This is a photo from when I got lost in Selfoss, Iceland without printed directions.

4. Driving Etiquette

Did you know in the Bahamas it’s a joyful greeting to beep at someone? Driving etiquette is different all over the world. In Iceland, it’s perfectly legal to pass drivers over a solid line. Do some research to learn about what is and is not accepted on the road where you’re headed. It’ll save you many days of head scratching.

I’ve had some incredible rental car experiences, and I’ve had some rental car-related panic attacks I don’t ever want to think about again. Learn from my tips here, and make sure you’re completely prepared to tackle the foreign roads ahead of you!

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