Planning an overseas road trip? Here’s what to consider beforehand

Exploring a new country in the comfort of a car is not out of reach.

Exploring a new country in the comfort of a car is not out of reach. Photo: Getty

If you dream of taking your holiday to the next level by hitting the road in another country, not much is going to stand in your way.

But from figuring out if you’ll need an international driving permit (IDP) to choosing your rental car, driving internationally requires pre-planning.

“It’s really important for Australians who are travelling overseas, if they’re planning on driving, to do their research first, because there are some things that they need to be aware of,” NRMA spokesperson Peter Khoury told The New Daily.

International Driving Permits

An IDP is a translation of your current Australian driver’s licence; it is distributed by the Australian Automobile Association (AAA), and costs about $50.

According to AAA, these permits are recognised in 98 per cent of countries around the world.

Not every country will require you to have an IDP – sometimes just carrying your Australian driver’s licence is acceptable – but it is worth checking before going on a trip, which you can do through the AAA website.

Even in countries that don’t require an IDP, such as the US and the UK, rental car companies may still require you to hold one.

If you prefer driving over public transport, not having an IDP could restrict your movement overseas, Khoury said.

He recommended Australians leave enough time ahead of a trip to order an IDP and have it arrive through the mail.

“[For example,] if you’re planning on a holiday to Thailand, you go on the [AAA] website, and just go to the search link [type] Thailand, and it tells you really important information,” he said.

“Like an IDP is required, you drive on the left-hand side, you have to have distinguishing plates – really important stuff that you need to think about before you go overseas.”

Travel insurance

Travel insurance is considered an essential for international travel, so if you’re planning to drive, make sure any incidents or damage would be covered under your package.

“Look at your terms and conditions, do your research before you buy your travel insurance … so that you’re not leaving yourself exposed,” Khoury said.

Research local road rules and conditions

It’s probably common sense to research your destination’s road rules, from what side of the street you should drive on to anything that might also diverge from what we expect in Australia.

But it’s also a good idea to look up local driving customs.

For example in Korea, hazard lights are sometimes used to communicate messages such as ‘thank you’ or ‘I’m sorry’ with other drivers, while in countries such as Brazil, you are not allowed to refuel your own car at service stations.

Consider looking up the strength of your destination’s internet infrastructure, as some rural areas may have low internet connectivity, rendering internet-enabled GPS services unusable.

Khoury said you should also research road conditions, as not every surface will be smooth.

“It’s important before you go overseas that you do your own research about … the road rules, road signs, the languages that they’re in, speed limits, you know, and the quality of the roads themselves,” he said.

“The more preparation you do here, the less stress and hassle you’ll feel on the other side once you get to your destination and get behind the wheel.”

Choosing a rental car

When it comes to choosing a rental car, choose one that feels comfortable driving, and which also suit local road conditions.

Khoury said safety is a priority, and you can look up the make and model of a car through the ANCAP website to check the details of available rental cars to ensure you’re making a good choice.

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