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SafetyTravel Planning

How to not lose your mind when driving overseas

By December 10, 2014 One Comment

I drove up to the white line and stopped. I looked around… “Where the hell’s the light? How the heck do I know when to go?” The car behind me honked. Was he angry? Nope. He could actually see the light which was too far back to serve any purpose to the driver in the front. Is this by design? Who knows, but 95% of traffic lights are like this in Morocco. I have long ago stopped trying to make sense of why things are done a certain way in Africa.

Why driving overseas can be interesting:

  • Why would I bother to look?

    Macedonia: (much like in Texas) people will drift to the right side of the road allowing you to pass them.  How nice!

  • Guinea: Roundabout rules are reversed; people entering have the right of way. This makes no sense at all. I’m not sure how this came to be but traffic is always a cluster. #Africa
  • Switzerland:  A warning triangle must be kept within reach (not in the trunk) and a vignette (aka: a stamp) must be purchased and displayed before driving on Swiss highways.
  • Middle East: People will slow down and stop in the middle of the road to talk on the phone (because driving and talking on the phone is illegal). People will also walk out in the road without… even… looking.

Driving overseas provides way more flexibility, reach and time savings than public transport, but it can also be dangerous as in this article from a local Moroccan newspaper indicates.  The World Health Organization has reported that UAE road users are almost 7 times more likely to be killed than their UK counterparts (source)

Which leads me to…


Driving overseas without it = bad news bears. Check with your current insurance provider, an overseas rental could be covered by your policy. The credit card you rent the car with could provide coverage as well. Alternatively you can purchase insurance from the rental agency. Lastly, I have ‘rented’ cars from ‘friends’ who have added me to their insurance policy for the days I had the vehicle. Traveling in multiple countries? Make sure your insurance covers you in all – if not, you may have to stop and buy it at the border… and they may not take credit

International Driver’s Permit:

Why an international permit is a good idea

AAA  or National Auto Club international driver’s permit (IDP) is required in some countries. Double check with the local embassy before you go (you could be arrested in some countries for driving without one).


  • Take two passport photos to the office nearest you (you can also buy them there for ~$15)
  • Fill out the form
  • 10 minutes later you pay and leave – Voilà !
  • The IDP must be presented WITH your valid driver’s license. Carry them BOTH when driving.

Speed limits and rules:

Speed limits vary and may or may not be well marked. Check State Dept and the FCO websites for special rules – enforcement will vary depending on level of corruption and on the degree of your foreign-ness.

Maps (Because GPS doesn’t work everywhere):

I recommend purchasing a map before you leave. It will most likely be more accurate than what you find overseas, and save you from having to stop at several gas stations for a map when all you want to do is get on the road. Save time, plan ahead. I also take a compass, which can be super helpful driving at night.

Living and driving abroad:

Living overseas? Get a local driver’s license – which is way cooler than just a passport stamp. Plus it’s a good idea.

So – my best advice for driving overseas? Pay attention to driving patterns of locals; blend in, don’t go against the grain – follow their lead and you’re in for a much better driving experience.

At what point did you get comfortable with driving overseas?

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Join the discussion One Comment

  • PatriciaSigh says:

    Excellent blog you’ve got here.. It’s hard to find quality writing like yours nowadays. I really appreciate people like you! Take care!!

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