Driving in the US for foreigners : everything you need to know

Driving is of huge importance in the US and it’s pretty obvious why. In a country where life doesn’t revolve exclusively around cities, where people often commute over an hour to work, it can be quite impractical to rely solely on public transportation once you step away from urban centers. Since our services cater a great deal to tourists and foreign students, we thought we’d put together a few tips to make your life a little easier.

1. Driver’s license

Let’s cover the basics right away. Some states require you to have an International Driving Permit (IDP) in addition to a valid license from your own country. Since IDPs are issued by the authorities in your own country, you’ll need to get one before you head over to the States. California, for example, does not require or recognize IDPs, your own valid license will do.

2. Fuel prices

Depending on the region, you’ll need to shell out $2.10–2.90 per gallon — that’s $0.55–0.76 per liter. The lowest prices are on the Gulf Coast, while California and the West Coast are least affordable. While that might seem a bit steep, it’s still a lot cheaper than most European countries.

3. Choosing the right car

There are certainly many aspects to consider when deciding on a car for your road trip. While the first instinct might be to choose the cheapest option, that can backfire in a multitude of ways. The best solution is to choose a sturdy car with an engine that can easily cover long distances while providing you with the speed and quality of travel you desire. Otherwise you might end up spending extra on hotels, losing travel days because of back pains or getting stranded in the middle of nowhere. It should also be noted that most cars in the US have automatic transmission — so if you’re used to driving a stick, take some time to get used to automatics. It’s easier than the other way around.

4. On the road

Most roads are quite well maintained, with large, easily legible signs which makes them easy to navigate. However, having a sat-nav (aka GPS) is advisable, especially in cities where you can easily get confused by a multitude of signs and heavy traffic or if you’re planning on visiting some specific, difficult-to-find places.

5. Special traffic rules

Although most traffic rules apply universally, there are some specific regulations in the US it’s good to be aware of. First of all, in some states it’s allowed to turn right at a red light, provided that you stop before the intersection, give way to other vehicles and pedestrians and there is no traffic sign saying otherwise. Second, the right of way on intersections without traffic lights is somewhat different than elsewhere in the world. Instead of giving priority to the car on your right-hand side, it’s first come — first served. In other words, cars will have the right of way in the same order in which they arrived at the intersection.

6. Police controls

While police radars aren’t all that common, traffic cams are and the police are usually just around the corner waiting to pull you over. If that does happen, try to remain calm and polite, because the police will happily give you a ticket for any offence you may have made. It’s advisable to adhere to speed limits, especially in school zones, seeing as a ticket there will likely cost you double. Driving while intoxicated will most probably get you in jail, so if not for your own safety and the safety of others, it’s best to stay sober.

7. Carpool lanes

High-occupancy vehicle lanes (HOVs), as they are also called, are special traffic lanes reserved for vehicles with 2 or more passengers, although at some places it’s possible to use them as a single passenger, but at an additional cost. They are often in operation only during certain times of the day, like morning and afternoon rush hour. Keep your eyes peeled for the traffic signs — they will tell you what the minimum number of passengers is and when the road is used. We strongly advise adhering to those rules, because the fines are quite hefty! Also, pets do not count as additional passengers :)

8. Miscellaneous tips

  • even-number highways usually run east-west, while odd-number highways run north-south
  • some highways collect tolls electronically, via transponders, some accept credit or debit cards, but you should always have spare change in your pockets just in case
  • signs are color coded: green indicates route info, blue is for hospitality (food, accommodation etc.), brown signs denote heritage sites (historical attractions, entertainment etc.), yellow signs advise caution, while red signs are warnings that must be heeded. Most importantly, white signs with black letters are regulatory signs, such as speed limits
  • passing school buses is not allowed. If you see a school bus with 4 flashing lights, wait until everybody exits and move only when the bus does

That’s it, road trippers! We hope this article proves useful to you. If you happen to be in the San Diego area looking for car rental, be sure to check out our offer!


Originally published at www.expressrentacheapcar.com.