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???



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

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 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!

Road signs-Greek to Me



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 roadsign to Glasgow from Butte International roadsigns - Zebras and tourists get direction in Namibia

roadsign 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


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....


Warning sign warthog




...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....

Warning roadsign Kudu - Africa International road signs-Caution Sand in Namib Desert

....and you definitely want to be on guard for a kudu (or deer or moose or kangaroo) bounding across the road.... Hitting one could ruin your trip.


Information sign Pantanal Brazil




Sometimes warning signs take on a different shape.... though I can't imagine a Giant Anteater jumping in front of you on the road.




International warning sign - coyotes

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

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.



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.

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 automobile association like the AAA for some help with the basics. And here's a site on Icelandic Traffic Signs that's a great example of the wide variety of international road signs you might encounter and what a different language might look like (if you don't speak Icelandic).

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.

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.

If you liked our site, why don't you go ahead and us.

Need a little more info on international road signs? We'll make it easy for you to search:

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


Go to Amusing Australian Road Signs  Share Amusing or Confusing Roadsigns
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