Driving overseas

Planning an overseas holiday is exciting but it can also generate some anxiety. There’s a lot to think about, especially if you’re considering driving.

The key to a happy and safe driving holiday is good preparation. Here are our top seven tips.

Get an international permit

Many countries require International Driving Permits (IDPs). They often are needed for car hire and RACQ recommends them. Selected RACQ branches issue IDPs for $42 or apply online here. Get more information here.

Prepare to drive on the other side

It takes time to get used to driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. Take extra care when turning left, and at intersections and roundabouts. Concentrate, and keep reminding yourself where the car needs to be on the road.

Be aware of local rules

Familiarise yourself with the road rules of the country you’re visiting. Most countries have distinctive rules. Not using handheld phones when driving or driving under the influence of alcohol are universal. Speed limits vary. Check local road authority and travel websites.  

Drive to suit conditions

Research local road conditions before you travel. Pay close attention to road signs. Be careful in situations of poor visibility. Keep an eye on weather changes and stay alert for errant wildlife, as well as narrow roads and blind crests. Be courteous to other drivers.

Don't stress about directions

Don’t worry if you miss an exit or take a wrong turn. Pull over where it’s safe and plan how to get back on track. It’s not worth worrying about losing some time. You can get maps from local auto clubs. Better still, use a satellite navigation device. You can even take your own device. Depending on your own satellite navigation model, you might be able to buy a map on a micro SD card for the country you are visiting before you leave Australia. These is usually cheaper than hiring

Hire a car

When you hire a car, be clear about restrictions on where you can drive, what the insurance covers and what excess applies. Also, you'll probably have to pay more if you want to nominate an additional driver. When you collect your car, inspect it and ensure all damage is noted on your agreement before you drive away. Do the same on drop-off. RACQ Travel can help take the stress out of booking a hire car before you go.

Prepare for fuel, tolls, parking

Try to keep your fuel tank at least half full, to minimise the chances of running out on long drives. Carry a credit card to pay for fuel. In some countries, you have to pay before you fill. Road tolls are common. Understand the hire company’s toll charging arrangement. It’s usually better to organise an electronic tolling device, but check out your options. Pre-plan if you want to park in city areas. It can be tough in many big cities.

RACQ members can use their membership card overseas to access discounts. See aaa.asn.au for details of affiliated clubs. See smartraveller.gov.au for up-to-date travel advice.