You've purchased your airline tickets, reserved a rental car and booked hotel rooms. Your passport arrived in yesterday's mail. A stack of travel guidebooks sits on the coffee table. You're a little nervous, though – you've heard that Italians are crazy drivers and that Germans are speed demons. How can you find out what driving in another country is really like?
Many resources are available, but you'll need to take time to read them carefully. The following list will help you find out more about driving in other countries.
- U. S. Department of State
The U.S. Department of State's website offers a wealth of information for travelers who plan to drive overseas. Of particular value are the State Department's article on Road Safety Overseas and its extensive Country Specific Information. The Country Specific Information includes accurate, up-to-date details about traffic safety and road conditions in each country.
- Embassies and Consulates
Some countries include driving and traffic safety information on their embassy's website. Embassy.org, which was developed for use by Washington, D.C.- based diplomats, includes a handy index of embassy websites. Warning: Some driving information may be available only in the country's official language – not much help if you can't read Italian, for example.
- National Tourism Office Websites
It stands to reason that an organization dedicated to promoting tourism it its home country would include information on driving and other forms of transportation. Checking your destination country's official tourism website can be a good way to get this information – or it may not. Some tourism office sites include detailed information on renting and driving cars; others ignore this mode of transportation altogether. Look under "Getting Around" or "Transportation" for driving information.
- Travel Websites and Forums
One of the best ways to get information about a particular city or country is to ask in travel forums. Here at About.com, for example, you can post a message on one of our many travel forums. We offer destination-specific information as well as forums for getaways, practical travel and outdoor and recreational travel.
Rick Steves' Graffiti Wall is a popular source for European travel information, while Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree Travel Forum fills that role for the globe-trotting traveler. AARP also offers online travel discussion groups (scroll down and look on the left side of the page for a list of groups).
Don't overlook travel guidebooks when you're seeking driving information. Most good guidebooks include driving, rental car and traffic safety sections. Whether you prefer Fodor's, Frommer's, Rough Guide or Lonely Planet, you're bound to find some helpful driving tips. Don't forget to read the sections on traffic enforcement, tolls, cell phone use and drinking and driving.
- Rental Car Company Websites
Some rental car company websites offer basic overseas driving information, while others do not. Europcar, for example, has a handy list of common European road signs on its website. If you're renting a car for your trip, take some extra time and look for country-specific driving information. It's also a good idea to check whether your rental car company requires you to hold an International Driving Permit; if so, you'll need to get one before you leave home.
Because driving regulations and traffic conditions vary from place to place, it's important to find out what to expect before you get behind the wheel of your rental car. Knowing the rules of the road can save you many headaches and help make your vacation a carefree travel experience.