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Prepare For Your International Road Trip


Prepare For Your International Road Trip
Photo © Jamie Harris

Road trips can be great fun, but when your itinerary takes you across an international border, you will need to do some extra planning. As you organize your international road trip, you will need to take customs regulations, rental car contracts and travel documents into account, at a minimum.


To cross an international border, you must be prepared to present a valid passport or other acceptable travel document, as required by the country you wish to enter. Some countries require that your passport be valid for six months past your entry date, while others require that your passport be valid for three months past your date of entry.

If you are driving into Schengen agreement countries and hold a United States passport, your passport should be valid for at least three months beyond your date of entry. You may not be asked for your passport at the border, but it must be valid, all the same.

International Driver's License

You will need to find out whether you should acquire an International Driver's License before you leave home, because you can only apply for this travel document in your home country.

Automobile Insurance

If you are driving your own vehicle, be sure you have the proper insurance coverage for each country you plan to visit. Your automobile insurance provider will be happy to help you determine how much coverage you need.

Should your travels take you to or through Mexico, you will need to buy Mexican car insurance. Do not drive in Mexico without this coverage.

Rental Car Border Crossing Permission

Rental car companies want to protect their vehicles, so they sometimes deny renters permission to drive their rental cars across international borders. Restrictions vary, which means you must carefully choose your rental car company after you have planned your itinerary. For example, if you want to rent a car in Italy and drive it in Slovenia, you must rent your car in or near Venice, and you will not be allowed to take luxury cars or certain German-made cars into Slovenia. In most cases, you cannot rent a car in Rome and drive it to Slovenia; you will be turned back at the border.


If you plan to drive through or to a country where yellow fever is a health issue, you should find out whether you need to be vaccinated against yellow fever and what type of proof you must provide.


Plan to have two different ways to pay tolls, cash and a credit card, transponder or prepaid toll card. If your non-cash method does not work, you can always pay with cash, provided you have the cash on hand. (Tip: In Europe, ViaMichelin.com can help you estimate your tolls, plan your route and calculate fuel costs.)


You will need to exchange money to pay your tolls and other road trip expenses.

Border Crossing Information

If your travels take you across a North American border, you can monitor border crossing times online and get real-time information. Before your trip begins, look at this information at the times you might want to cross the border, so you know how long you might have to wait.

Customs Regulations / Road Food

While packing picnic lunches can be both frugal and flavorful, you will need to pay attention to customs regulations if you plan to carry your own food across an international border. If you are driving into the United States, for example, you cannot bring most meat products across the US border. It's easy to forget about these regulations until you are actually at the border checkpoint unless you have looked at the rules in advance. Plan to eat food you buy in a particular country before you leave, unless you are traveling between Schengen agreement countries.

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