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The Dos and Don'ts of Driving Overseas

handing car keys over
Allianz - handing car keys over

Planning to rent a car on your next trip abroad? Enjoy the ride, but first, read these tips for driving safely overseas.

Do get an international driver's license if your host country requires it

An international driving permit (IDP) is not an official government document, but an identification card with your photo, name and information translated into various languages. While a few countries require an IDP, in others your normal license will suffice. Contact the embassy of the country where you're traveling to find out if you need one.

If you're planning to drive overseas, you can apply for an IDP from the American Automobile Association (AAA) or the National Automobile Club (NAC) for about $15. Don't fall for scams that claim the international driver's license can be used as an official identity document.

Do learn the rules of the road in your host country

Americans driving in Italy are often surprised when they get expensive traffic tickets simply for driving through the wrong part of town. The center of Florence, Rome and other historic cities is identified as a "zona a traffico limitato" (ZTL) or restricted traffic zone. If you enter one of these zones at a time when driving is restricted to residents and emergency vehicles, a camera will catch you and slap you with a fine.

Always research the local traffic laws before you get behind the wheel. And if you're planning to drive in the United Kingdom or anywhere cars drive on the left-hand side of the road, practice safe driving before heading out into city traffic.

Don't drink and drive

This is just common sense, whether you're driving overseas or at home, but travelers should be aware that the penalties for drunk driving may be much more severe in other countries. In Europe, the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is, in general, lower than in the United States.

Don't drive in countries where the roads are dangerous

When you're driving overseas, don't expect to encounter the same conditions you're used to in the United States. Many countries are notorious for high traffic fatality rates, poorly maintained roads and scofflaw drivers. Some of the most hazardous countries for drivers, according to international surveys, are Russia, Brazil, India and Turkey. With widespread drunk driving, a heavy concentration of motorcycles and unenforced traffic laws, the Dominican Republic is the most dangerous country in the world for drivers, according to the World Health Organization. In places like these, tourists are better off using public transportation, and looking both ways before crossing the street.

Do buy rental car insurance

The car insurance policy that covers you in the United States probably won't cover you overseas, so it's essential to have rental car insurance in case of collision, loss or damage to your car. Rental car insurance from Allianz also protects you from fees for "loss of use." Loss of use" is something rental car companies claim when their car is in the shop after an accident and they can't collect rental fees on that vehicle. Allianz Global Assistance’s Rental Car Damage Protector also includes 24-hour hotline assistance, so if you run into trouble on the road, help's just a phone call away.

Before you begin your international road trip, protect yourself and your travel investment with innovative trip insurance products by Allianz Travel Insurance.

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Nov 14, 2016