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Getting The Green Light To Drive Abroad


Being able to explore a foreign country by car can give you total freedom to go where you want when you want. Of course, it also requires a lot of research into the local laws. What side of the road do people drive on? What is the national speed limit?  Is it illegal to wash your car on a Sunday? 

These are all important things to consider while you’re out there on the road. But before you’ve even got in the driving seat there could be other important things to consider – the biggest being ‘am I actually allowed to drive abroad?’. 

Driving in another country could require applying for various permits first, taking out new insurance and possibly even taking another driving test. This guide explains more about just some of the things you may want to consider before getting the green light to drive abroad. 

Does your licence cover you?

It’s possible that your licence may be accepted in many other countries. For example, if you live in an EU country, your licence should be valid in any other EU country.

Other countries may require you to apply for an IDP (International Driving Permit). This cheap easy-to-obtain permit can be applied for online and is accepted in most countries around the world.

There are however some countries that don’t accept the IDP such as China. This means that if you plan to drive in China, you’ll have to take a Chinese driving test first (which is probably not recommended unless you plan on permanently moving to China). 

Other countries like Saudi Arabia may allow you to drive with your regular licence for three months, but after that you’ll have to take a driving test to get a Saudi licence. Sites like Saudi Drivers can help you with this if you are planning an extended stay in Saudi Arabia. Speaking of Saudi Arabia…

Can women drive in Saudi Arabia?

It used to be the case that it was illegal for women to drive in Saudi Arabia. However, that ban has been lifted since 2018. 

Women drivers will be happy to know that there are currently NO countries that ban women drivers. 

Does your insurance cover you?

Some insurance providers extend their coverage to different countries. However, many regular policies don’t. That means that if you plan to drive in another country, you’ll have to take out another insurance policy. Fail to take out insurance that covers you and you could be heavily penalised for driving without a licence.

Car rental services will usually be able to provide you with insurance, however, you may find that it’s cheaper to shop around and find your own cover. 

Do you need a vignette?

‘What the heck is a vignette?’ some of you may be thinking. In many countries that don’t have toll roads, drivers must pay a road tax in the form of a permit (called a vignette) in order to drive on motorways. 

Some of the countries that require you to apply for a vignette include Switzerland, Slovenia, Hungary and Romania. These vignettes usually don’t cost much if you’re planning on only driving for a week or two and can be applied for online or bought as a car sticker. This guide at Indie Campers explains more about vignettes and how to obtain them. 

Is your vehicle legal?

Taking your own vehicle to another country? You may want to check that your vehicle is still legal to drive. Different countries may have different laws when it comes to things like emissions, window tinting, engine noise and tire tread depth, which could be worth looking into.

Meanwhile, when driving around the US, different states have their own individual rules about vehicle legality. For example, laws on window tinting vary throughout the country (something to consider if you’re hiring a car for an interstate road trip). 

If you can, bring paper copies

While most permits and insurance policies can now be checked online, some police authorities in some countries may still ask you to provide physical copies of things like your licence or your insurance documents if they have to pull you over. 

To avoid any trouble, it’s best to print off any receipts or documents that prove you can legally drive in that country and to keep them in your vehicle. Don’t rely on digital copies of receipts that you can only access by email – if you don’t have Wi-fi or data, you won’t be able to access them. 

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We are Karolina, Patryk, and Mia, the lazy traveling family. After spending 5 years as digital nomads, and living in many countries in the world, we decided to make Poland our base.

Our mission is to show you safe and interesting destinations where you can travel with your family.

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