International Road Signs
What Are They Trying to Tell You?

I'm planning to rent a car in Italy. I’m worried about international road signs... should I be? --Jack V.

I wouldn't worry, but you should be prepared. International road signs MAY be different from what you're used to.

You see road signs all the time driving at home, but...

You may not pay much attention to many of the informational ones because you know...

--the rules of the road,
--where to park,
--where the pedestrian streets are...

But you're probably not familiar with any of the above in a new destination.


Now you're driving in a foreign country

You have a rental car, and you don't want to break a law.... and even though those road signs are international and intuitive, you may not be familiar with them...

AND you may not think at first that they are all that intuitive!

What do International Road Signs mean?

What does that circle with the slash mean? .....No entry?

No stopping.... No parking??

Or what???

Know The Basics (Answers for these at the bottom)

You'd better have a basic understanding before you rent that car.... or at least know that you're looking for something different.

Driving Tips

Foreign Rental Car Tips

Document Rental Car Damage

Driving In Foreign Places

Driving on the Left Or Right
Whichever Is Wrong For You


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What Is A Highway? Two Lane Roads to Autobahns

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Parking In Cities - Where To Leave Your Rental Car

Autobahn Etiquette

Traffic Laws Abroad - Know The Basics

US Highways - A Major Part Of Any Trip To The USA

RV Road Trip - What We Learned

Rent An RV-Will You Like It?

Traveling With An RV - Where To Stop For The Night?

RV Travel in Europe

Sharing an RV - Tips For A Good Trip

While there are basic international road signs, they can vary slightly by country.

There are too many for us to list here, so it's best to check a guide book or a map that can help you interpret them or check below.


Some May Make You Laugh

Some advisory signs may even make you laugh... We've collected photos of a few roadsigns that have confused or amused us...

BUT... take them seriously; know what they mean so you don't screw up.

International road signs may be different than you're used to at home... and they may be not only in a different language, but maybe in a different alphabet!

The first road sign we saw in Greece was.... well Greek to us!

OK that can be a challenge, but even if the signs are in a familiar language, they can come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors..... stay alert, learn what to look for in each country.

Direction Signs May Look Different

Direction roadsign to Glasgow from Butte
International roadsigns - Zebras and tourists get direction in Namibia
Which way?  Either way to Rosthay Scotland

Sometimes the signs use a combination approach... direction and information... and...

Remember, they are coming at you stacked on top of each other as you're speeding down highways or negotiating narrow roads.

Direction and information sign Italy
International road signs in France

International Road Signs May Caution You

Caution - Warthogs!

Those red triangles with the cute pictures inside are caution signs...

Laugh if you want, but warthogs do nibble grass on the side of the road...

...and I love warthogs, I wouldn't want to hurt one!


International road signs-Caution Sand in Namib Desert




...sand in a desert like the Namib may seem obvious, but it can blow across the road and make the road slippery and hard to see....


Caution sign - Kudu jumping across road

....and you definitely want to be on guard for a kudu in Africa...

(or deer or moose or kangaroo on other continents)

Watch for any big critter bounding across the road....

Hitting one could ruin your trip.


Other Warning or Advisory Signs

Information sign Pantanal Brazil



Sometimes warning signs take on a different shape....

I can't imagine a Giant Anteater jumping in front of you on the road....

But they are so cool, you should want to protect them.


Some May Leave You Laughing

Even when you're looking for them, some may leave you wondering....

Especially if a local jokester has added to them.

A friend of ours driving in Death Valley, California wondered if this drunkenly leaning sign meant no feeding drunken, red-nosed coyotes or just what.


Let's Get Serious About International Road Signs

Seriously, you've got your rental car, you drive out of the rental lot and you face those international road signs for real... in a foreign language... or a symbol... Do you know what they mean?

  • Can you pass here?
  • When do you need to slow down?
  • Can you park here?
  • Can you even drive down this road?
What ARE these?

OK.... These are:

    1) No passing
    2) No entry
    3) You have priority over oncoming traffic
    4) Closed to vehicles, and
    5) No stopping.

Get A Map For The Country You're Driving In

If you didn't know what they meant, find a good map or guidebook for the country you'll be visiting.... one that gives you an explanation of their version of international road signs. Take it with you when you drive.

You can also check with your local automobile association... in the US that would be the AAA- the American Automobile Association for some help with the basics.

And here’s a great document from the Australian Automobile Association… it shows you tons of international traffic signs: 16 pages of them… only problem is it shows up sideways (on my computer anyway!).  At least it’s not upside down; it does come from “down under” you know.  You could always print it and study it before you go.

Since colors and shapes can vary for speed signs, warning signs, caution signs, information signs, prohibitory signs (stop signs), and all the rest, it's best to get good information about the signs in the country you will be visiting.

Don't Get A Ticket

While the authorities may be sympathetic to tourists, you'll be lucky if you get off with advice and a warning...

They can give you a ticket if you break the law. Just do a little research, pay attention, and you'll have a great time.

Happy travels... even if you don't travel the world... just remember that life is a journey... embrace and enjoy it! Judy and Mark

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Thanks, Judy and Mark

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