Driving and Road Safety Abroad

Are you thinking about driving in another country?  Road conditions, laws, and driving norms in other countries can be very different from those in the United States.  Poor road maintenance, lack of signs, vehicle safety, and insurance coverage are just some things you should consider. And remember to buckle up, no matter where you are. Read about road safety in the Travel and Transportation section for your destination country before you go. Get information from the website of the foreign embassy or consulate, foreign government tourism offices, or from a car rental company in the foreign country.

Keep these things in mind when planning your trip:

  • Potential hazards and dangerous road conditions
  • Local roads or areas to avoid
  • Availability of roadside assistance
  • Need for spare tires, fuel, and a map
  • Local laws and driving culture
  • Local emergency numbers
  • Vehicle safety considerations, including seat belts
  • Documents to carry, including any special road permits
  • Insurance and driver’s license (see below)

International Driving Permits

  • It is illegal to drive without a valid license and insurance in most countries. Check the International Travel Country Information page for your destination  to find contact information for its foreign embassy or consulate. Visit the website of the foreign embassy or consulate to find specific driver's license requirements. Many countries do not recognize a U.S. driver's license, but most accept an International Driving Permit (IDP) that you can get from the AAA (American Automobile Association) before you leave. IDPs may not be valid the whole time you stay abroad and/or may only be valid with a U.S. or local license.

Auto Insurance Policies

  • In general, your U.S. auto insurance policy does NOT cover you abroad, though some policies do provide coverage when you drive to Canada and Mexico. Check with your insurance company before you go.
  • Even if your policy is valid in a particular country, it may not meet local minimum insurance requirements. If you are under-insured in your destination, you may be able to buy additional auto insurance in the United States or in your destination country.
  • Car rental companies overseas usually provide an auto insurance option, but in some countries the required coverage is minimal. In that case, consider buying insurance coverage equal to what you carry at home.

Additional Resources:

Road Safety and Security

Reporting and Resources on International Road Safety

U.S. Government Links

Road Safety Statistics / Databases / Resources

Last Updated: September 12, 2022