Driving abroad: traffic regulations around the world

driving abroad

Planning a road trip through Argentina? Are you about to settle in Singapore and intending to get a car upon arrival? Traffic rules may vary tremendously from one country to another. Right and left-hand traffic, driving license validity abroad, speed limits: learn about your host country’s driving regulations and... hit the road!

 

Right or left? Driving on the right side of the road…

UK is not the only country where driving on the left-hand side of the road is the rule! Though the majority of the world’s population drives on the right, people drive on the left in more than 70 mostly English-speaking countries.

Among the left-hand traffic countries are: Australia, Ireland, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand and the United Kingdom.

Getting a local license or using an international driving permit

If you hold a driving license which was issued by a European country and are leaving for another European Economic Area (EEA) member-country, you will not have any paperwork to complete. Indeed, European countries recognize each other’s driving licenses.

Outside Europe, if you are leaving for more than just a short stay, you will need to exchange your original driving license with a local one. Do note that this is only possible if the host country has signed a reciprocal agreement with the country issuing the license. If no agreement has been signed, consider requesting an international driving permit before departure. However, this permit is not accepted everywhere and is usually only valid for one year. In some cases, you may be forced to take a driving test in your host country.

What about speed limits?

With no set speed limits on several motorway stretches, Germany stands out. Otherwise, speed limits can be quite variable depending on the country and sometimes even differ from one state or province to another (in particular the United States or Canada). For example, you can drive at 140 km/h on Bulgarian motorways whereas you cannot exceed 112 km/hour on British motorways. And in Malta, you can never drive at more than 80 km/hour, regardless of the type of road you are on...

Drink driving: observing zero tolerance policies or alcohol limits

Drink driving policies sometimes are extremely different from one country to another. In many parts of the world, driving after having drunk even a single drop of alcohol is totally forbidden. This law particularly applies in the following countries:

Czech Republic, Hungary, Jordan, Nepal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Tunisia and UAE.

Some countries such as Sweden, Norway and Finland also have established stricter regulations than those in force in other European nations: driving is no longer possible if you have over 0.2 gram of alcohol per liter of blood.

By contrast, other countries are considerably more tolerant. The blood alcohol content limit is set at 0.8 gram in the US, the UK and Canada.

Specific regulations…

In some countries, you might find some road regulations rather surprising. For instance:

  • In Sweden and Switzerland, daytime running light must remain turned on both day and night.
  • In Saudi Arabia, women are simply not allowed to take the wheel.
  • In Russia, it is illegal to drive a dirty car.

Therefore, make sure you get the right information before you leave!

To find out more about traffic laws abroad:

Take a look at the European Commission website to learn about driving rules in European countries.

Date of publication Apr 10 2015