Driving While Abroad

We generally discourage driving while abroad, as most students are not aware of local driving conventions, traffic laws, and road safety concerns.

Students traveling abroad, especially in developing countries, are often unprepared for the road conditions they encounter. They leave the U.S. for destinations in which they are exposed to narrow, winding, deteriorated roads; hairpin curves with no guardrails; inadequate signs, signals, and lighting; and byways in which motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians, and livestock compete for space.

In some countries aggressive or reckless driving, disregard for traffic laws and pedestrian safety, and motorists driving while intoxicated also pose serious risks. Buses, trucks, and vans may be poorly maintained and dangerously overloaded. Bus drivers may have received little or no training. Medical rescue staff and equipment may be inadequate.

Even in many more-developed countries, rates of serious accidents and highway fatalities are dramatically higher than in the U.S. Drivers may be more aggressive, and passing and speeding more common than those driving practices found in the United States. Students studying in areas with relatively safe roads may travel to other countries with poor safety records.

International Driver’s Permit

While we strongly recommend that you not drive while abroad, should you choose to do so, you may need a special driving permit, a road permit, or both to drive in certain countries. An international driver’s permit, available from your local automobile association, should be recognized by many countries and may, with your driver’s license, suffice for driving.

Please check the requirements of your host country before operating a motor vehicle of any type. More information about international driving permits and road safety can be found on the U.S. Department of State’s website at: travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/go/safety/driving.html.

Auto Insurance

In addition to driving permits/licenses, if you should choose to operate a vehicle while abroad, you will also need to make sure that you have the proper insurance that will adequately cover your activities. Please be aware that the insurance plan you have in the United States will generally not cover you while abroad.

  • Road safety information can be acquired for individual countries by contacting the Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT; phone 301-983-5252; fax 301-983-3663; email: asirt@erols.com; www.asirt.org.)
  • Additional road safety and emergency contact information may be found on the individual country Consular Information Sheets available from the U.S. Department of State at travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country.html.