Traffic Laws Abroad

You need to know about traffic laws abroad if you plan to rent a car.

On a driving trip in the Baltics, the first few minutes on the road we noticed everyone flashing their lights at us...

A quick look at the local map reminded us that we were supposed to drive with our lights on all day, everyday....

...Yep, 24/7.

Those are the kinds of traffic laws abroad that you need to be aware of.



You might be reading road signs in a foreign language....

...and that could get you lost or confused.

You may be driving with distances in miles or kilometers...  

...and it would be easy to miscalculate how long it will take you to drive from one place to another....

...but...

You really can't afford to be confused about traffic laws abroad...

...THAT could get you a ticket.


Know The Basics Before You Jump In The Car

The best way to find out about the rules of the road in the country you are going to visit is to go to government websites.

Check traffic laws abroad with rental car companies

Look for travel information on road conditions and laws for each country you plan to drive in.

When you get to the rental car counter, ask if there are any rules that might be different from home.

The car rental agents won't be able to give you all the answers, but they can answer basic questions.

Don't Drink And Drive

That's a rule you need to observe everywhere, but the legal tolerances for blood alcohol level vary around the world.

In many states in the U.S. the legal limit is 0.08 percent blood alcohol content

The limit is only 0.05 in Australia and much of Europe....

And more and more countries are going to zero tolerance of any drinking and driving. Want to find out more?  Wikipedia has a whole page on blood alcohol content and what the limits of each country are.

Requirements For Safety Equipment

Some traffic laws abroad apply to safety equipment that should be carried in the trunk (or boot) of the car. The rental car companies should provide anything that is required, but you should know about the laws.

Visibility Vests

Many countries require orange or yellow "visibility" vests.

Some countries say these should be inside the car, so that you can have them on anytime you exit the car on the side of the road.  Some say you can have them in the trunk.

Sometimes only one vest is required, sometimes more.

To go along with those vests, many of the same countries require that the car has a reflective triangle to alert other drivers if you have to park on the side of the road.

Reflective safety vests often must be carried in the car
Rental cars should have mandatory safety items

First Aid Kits

First aid kits are compulsory to carry in some countries and highly recommended in others.

Sometimes you're supposed to carry replacement headlight bulbs.

Do You Need Spare Glasses?

In some countries, drivers who wear eyeglasses must carry a spare pair in the car at all times.

What's A Foreign Driver To Do?

Well, for equipment, the rental car should have what is required... but you should check to make sure that it does.

We always even check for the spare tire!

Traffic Laws Abroad On The Road

Headlights and Speed Limits

Road rules sign at Estonian border

In some countries headlights must be on during the day... no matter what the weather. (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania among them!)

Most countries now want headlights on when the windshield wipers are on.

Some countries want headlights on during the winter.

If you're driving across a border, look for informational signs that will tell you the basic speed limits and rules.

When Can You Turn?

Can you turn right on a red light?

Or turn left on a red light if you're driving on the left?

That's another law that varies by country. We say, when in doubt, wait for a green light.

Parking

Pay and Display parking in Egar, Hungary

In Germany, you may be able to park and leave a blue plastic disk showing when you stopped... those will generally be in the rental car.

In France, some meters need to be swiped with a card that you get at newsstands or "tobacconists".

In most cities, you need to find a parking garage or a machine on the street where you can buy a "pay and display" ticket.

Sometimes you even get to park for free!


More Questions

You need to be aware of which countries require toll sticker (or vignettes) to be on the car for using the highways.

Are you supposed to flash your headlights when passing, or are you never supposed to flash them?

Will you get a ticket if you DON'T use your signal while passing... that could happen in Spain.

Is honking the horn illegal in the town you're driving through?

OK... We know we're not giving you answers here.

The traffic laws abroad vary too much for us to do that. We're asking the questions that you should think about.

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

Curious about what else we've written about?  Search our site for a destination or travel tip.

But... We'd love to have you share this page or comment on it…
Thanks, Judy and Mark

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