A Guide To Overseas Driver's Licenses and Auto Insurance
When you are traveling abroad, being able to rent a car gives you a lot of freedom.
Whether it’s zooming down the Autobahn in Germany, touring small villages in Ireland or driving the Great Ocean Road in Australia, there are many advantages to being able to drive in another country. However, driving abroad is slightly more complicated than operating a vehicle in your home country.
Before you hit the road, there are some important things you need to know about driving internationally.
Overseas Driver’s Licenses
If you want to be able to drive while traveling abroad, you’ll need an international driver’s license - which allows you to drive in over 175 different countries. In 140 countries around the world, this license is a requirement for renting a car. If you are caught driving without one, you can be subject to serious fines.
Getting an international driver's permit is not as difficult as you might think. If you are 18 years or older and you already have a license in your home country, you’ll be able to get one in a few simple steps.
For example, if you are in the USA, there are two places where you can obtain an international license:
- The American Automobile Association (AAA)
- The National Automobile Club (NAC)
These are the only valid places to obtain this document. So, If you encounter any other organization is promising you a license, they are probably a scam.
To obtain the license, you will need to present:
- A fee of $15 in cash, check or money order
- Your current valid driver’s license (must have been issued at least 6 months)
- Two passport photos
- A completed application form
You can submit the application at any NAC or AAA location, or you can mail the application if you are outside of the country. Once you receive the permit, it will be valid for one year. You can expect to receive your international license in approximately two weeks. (So, make sure you start the application process well in advance of your trip so it has enough time to be processed.)
Note: Some Countries Don’t Require an International License
There are certain countries where an international driving license is not required. For example, visitors to France who have a full, valid foreign driving license from their home country are permitting to drive in France for at least one year after arrival.
In some countries, it depends on where you are from. For example, in Italy an International Drivers License is required for all non-EU residents, but not for EU residents. If you are from the UK, you’ll be able to use your driving license to drive within the EU/EEA.
There are even some countries in the world, such as Bermuda, where tourists aren’t allowed to drive at all. Every country in the world will have its own unique requirements when foreigners drive there, so make sure you check the details before you plan your trip.
International Car Insurance
Whether you are bringing your own car with you or renting a car in your destination, you’ll need to have international auto insurance. This insurance will protect you if something goes wrong when you are driving abroad.
There are three basic types of car insurance:
- Cover for the theft of the vehicle.
- Cover for damage to the vehicle, known as “damage excess waiver” or “vehicle damage cover”
- Cover for injury or property damage suffered by a third party, known as “third party cover.”
Depending on where you are traveling, these three types of insurance might be already included in the car rental agreement. Make sure you read the fine print of the contract so you can understand what’s included.
If this insurance included, you’ll need to pay for a separate policy so you can extend your insurance coverage while you are abroad. There may be an international policy offered by your current car insurance provider, or you may need to use a different provider.
It’s also important to understand whether or not the car rental company will do a credit card pre-authorisation. This will allow them to charge your credit card for additional items, and it means they can take a payment from your card without getting your permission. So, theoretically, they could charge you the full excess cover if there is any minor damage to the car.
With this in mind, it’s important to check the vehicle thoroughly and record any mark or scratch before you drive it away from the car rental office. When you return, the hire company should record and sign documentation of any mark, so you have a written agreement of the condition the car was returned in.
Remember: Car insurance is different from travel medical insurance. If you become ill or injured while you are abroad, you’ll need to have full travel insurance to cover your bill. You’ll also need coverage if your bags are stolen, your flight is delayed or your trip has to be canceled due to weather concerns. Your car insurance won’t cover you for this.
Tips for Driving While Abroad
- Make sure you have all of your important documents with you at all times, including your license, passport, and insurance.
- Learn the rules of the road and other regulations related to driving in that country.
- Take note of the area’s law enforcement contact information, just in case you need emergency assistance.
- If you are going to a country that uses a different way of measuring speed and distance (KM vs MPH) make sure you understand the conversion rate.
- Figure out your route well in advance and check to make sure there aren’t any major roadworks planned.
- If you are traveling with children, it’s also important to know the country-specific rules for baby seats, booster seats and whether they are allowed in the front of the car.
Preparing in advance and making sure you have the right paperwork means you can enjoy a stress-free road trip abroad!