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Most Helpful Tips for Foreigners Driving in the USA

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The United States is a right-hand driving country! You probably know what right-hand traffic or left-hand traffic means. Two-way traffic must keep either on the left or right side of the road, unless otherwise directed. Sometimes this is called The Rule of the Road. It helps improve traffic flow (your ability to get where you're going quickly) and cuts down on traffic fatalities.

If it is your first time to drive in the United States, we at VroomVroomVroom want to make not only your booking experience a breeze but your driving experience as well. That's why we have come up with some useful driving tips for foreign visitors.

Essential driving tips in the United States

Roadway signs in the USA commonly use symbols instead of words to communicate with drivers, regardless of language barriers. The color and shape of each sign usually indicates the type of information the sign conveys. Familiarize yourself with traffic sign symbols to maximize your safety when driving in the United States. Click here for a list of common road signs that you may encounter and general road rules in the US. Continue reading below for more driving tips:

  • If you're driving slowly - perhaps just getting used to the traffic - the best lane for you to drive in is the far right lane, if there is more than one lane going in the same direction as you, of course!
  • When traveling on a freeway or highway, your car should stay in the right lane, unless you're passing another vehicle. There are often signs to remind you of this. However, be aware that on Interstate highways, the right lane within an urban area is sometimes only for exiting (leaving) the Interstate at the next opportunity.
  • If you're at an intersection, American drivers usually defer to the vehicle who arrived at the intersection first. If two vehicles get there at the same time, the driver on the right proceeds, unless stopped by a red STOP or YIELD sign.
  • Don't honk your horn, unless you're in a situation where you need to get the attention of another driver or pedestrian. For example, it's okay to honk when another car is about to hit you, but you may find that honking in the USA is less common than in other nations.
  • The speed limit in a residential area is often 35 miles per hour (60kph), but is as low as 25 or 30 miles per hour in many areas. On Interstate highways and roads with very little traffic and intersections, the speed limit is commonly 55 miles per hour or greater.
  • If you had a few drinks, remember to always make allowances when driving and never ever exceed the legal blood alcohol limit which is 0.08.
  • Each state has a unique method of charging for the use of toll roads. Click here for more information on where and how you can pay for toll roads.

Are you planning to rent a car when you visit the United States?

It is important to know the Terms and Conditions of the United States Rental Companies that we compare here at VroomVroomVroom. Keep in mind that each company's TnCs will tell you everything you need to know about the company's requirements regarding car rental insurance, driver's license requirements, and whether or not you are allowed to drive the rental car out of the U.S. (to Canada or Mexico).

Here's a list of car rental companies that we compare on VroomVroomVroom:

  • Advantage
  • Alamo
  • Avis
  • Budget
  • Dollar
  • Enterprise
  • Europcar
  • E-Z
  • Fox
  • Hertz
  • National
  • Thrifty

Things to know when renting a car in the USA

  • If you will be driving during a visit to the United States, we advise you to check the state website for driving rules. You need to verify that you can use your non-United States driver's license in the state or states in which you are planning to drive.
  • You also need to acquire an International Driving Permit (or IDP), which contains the same information on your official driver's license, but also has the information translated in several different languages. You must acquire that BEFORE visiting the USA, because the U.S. government agencies DO NOT issue them.
  • Also make sure that your car rental is insured because rental cars are not insured in the United States. You could rely on personal car insurance, travel insurance and credit card insurance OR purchase insurance products. Click here for the types of car rental insurance that you can purchase.
  • If it is your first time to rent a car in the United States, check out our rental information category for a list of articles that can help guide you on the process of booking a car.

Driving tips in major cities