According to the World Health Organization (WHO), road traffic crashes result in the deaths of approximately 1.3 million people around the world each year and leave between 20 and 50 million people with non-fatal injuries. It is important to understand the risks, get the facts, and take steps to protect your safety when driving internationally.
For many insurance and travel risk management companies, road accidents can be one of their top causes of medical evacuations.
Driving abroad can present many challenges, from road signs in different languages to driving on an unfamiliar side of the road. These can make every trip by road an increased risk. Road safety is not just about being a safer driver. Sometimes, the safest option is not to drive at all. If you do not know the rules of the road, highway conditions, or local language, you may be better off arranging transportation with a trusted and vetted provider.
Road Rules, Etiquette & Laws
Understand that driving and riding overseas can be very different from your home country, even in countries considered quite similar to your own.
If you do the wrong thing, you could end up in trouble. You could cause an accident, injuring yourself or others. Another driver may assault you (road rage) or authorities may arrest and jail you.
It is your responsibility to find out the local ways, and comply.
Learn the laws. Do you need to keep left or right, who should you give way to and any other road rules e.g. minimum/maximum driving age)
Follow the etiquette. Find out about considerate merging, lane splitting and flashing.
Honk? Honking is polite, and expected, in some places. Especially to let pedestrians know you're there. In others, it is illegal in most non-urgent scenarios.
Check what licence you need. International Driving Permit, though long term, you may need a local licence.
Know your route. A good road map is essential. Chart your intended route and alternative routes.
Check road conditions and status as many roads are closed during certain times of the year.
The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) website includes driving overseas “Best Practices” - here.
International Driver's Permit
You may need an International Driving Permit (IDP), as well as a driver’s licence from your country of residence. If you drive without the correct license, you could be arrested or jailed.
An IDP is a document sanctioned by the United Nations. It lets you drive or ride a motorbike when travelling overseas. An IDP:
Works in more than 150 countries
The International Driver's Association keeps an up-to-date list of countries that require the IDP and those where an IDP is recommended.
Is printed in nine languages so that local authorities can read it
Is valid for 12 months from the date of issue, and
Includes photo ID and key personal information about the driver.
Many rental companies will not let you hire a vehicle without a valid IDP. Some insurance policies will not cover you for an accident if you are driving a vehicle without an authorised licence.
⚠️ The IDP and your driver’s license must be carried together at all times. The IDP cannot be used in your country of residence.
Know the minimum conditions for renting a car or other motor vehicle. These may differ depending on the type of vehicle.
Check to see if the car rental company offers insurance and at what level of coverage. Many times, coverage is inexpensive and highly encouraged or required.
Consider obtaining additional insurance, especially liability coverage, if the car rental company's coverage is minimal.
Road-based Crime & Safety
Before you go, find out what road-based crimes are common in your destination. Find out if there are any particular areas or situations where the risk is higher.
Carjacking/Robbery. Where the robber takes your vehicle or you could be forced to give up your valuables from the vehicle, this could be at gunpoint.
Scams. Travellers can be harassed and threatened by transport operators for returning allegedly damaged hire vehicles.
The following websites may contain road injury crashes, fatalities and injuries statistics:
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) - here.
The European Commission Mobility and Transport - here.
The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) - here.
Discover more about Driving Internationally at the following sites:
General Travel Advice Disclaimer - here.