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License and registration, please?Before heading abroad, you should check to see whether or not you'll need an IDP, or International Driving Permit. These permits are available from the Post Office. Many countries require these permits, along with a photo ID. For more information on IDPs, check out the information listed on the US Department of State's US Passports & International Travel page.
Check it out!If you'll be transporting your own vehicle for use while you're away, you'll want to check your car from top to bottom to avoid any unexpected break downs or issues. Make sure that you have your car inspected at least several months beforehand, just in case something is wrong and needs extra time to fix. Also, before leaving, check oil and other fluid levels, tire tread, and inflation to hopefully prevent any mishaps that could have been avoided.
Plan wisely.Always map out your plans. We all know that GPS is invaluable, but it's always wise to triple-check just to make sure that there aren't any closures or other issues that may ruin your travel plans.
It's also wise to familiarize yourself with the laws of the area. Luckily, in the age of technology, we have so many tools at our disposal to make our traveling experience a pleasant one. One particular tool to help you when traveling abroad is "The Traveller's Guide to Driving Etiquette." This handy interactive map allows you to click on a country to read the laws and unwritten laws of driving there.
Another wise tip is to carry with you a book of phrases in the country's language so that you may communicate if need be.
Stay on track.
Be courteous of others.As it should be in your native country, don't cut off other drivers, don't engage in road-rage behavior, and don't act as if you own the road. Be respectful and courteous of other drivers. One thing you may want to consider before you head abroad is to adjust your headlights for driving on the right-side of the road. There are stickers available that convert your lights easily and for a low price.
Obey the law!
This should be common sense, but because it's not practiced by everyone, it needs to be mentioned here. Always follow the rules! Obey the laws of the road. Pay attention to the speed limit and observe it. If there is a "No Parking" sign, don't park there. It's very difficult to explain yourself to a traffic officer when you don't speak the language. Just use your brain, and everything else should go rather smoothly.
Pay the toll!
If you've spent most of your life in America, you're probably not familiar with toll roads—and if you are familiar with them, you're probably not familiar with the sheer number that are found in most European countries. To cover the toll, keep plenty of spare change in your car. You'll obviously want to be sure that the change is in the proper currency, or else it's useless.
Use your brain.
A lot of times, we tend to believe that when we're on vacation, we can relax and enjoy our time without giving much thought to anything else. That is certainly not the case, especially when you're in a foreign country. You need to pay very close attention to what you're doing—follow the laws, wear your seatbelt, use a map, have an itinerary, and more importantly, THINK before all else. If you're tired while driving, pull over to a safe place to rest.
If you use all of the tips above and familiarize yourself with the countries written and unwritten driving laws, then you'll have more time to enjoy the scenery and the culture, and less time to worry about traffic tickets and language barriers.