Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Top Tips For Driving In The US

Driving abroad can be stressful. After all you don't want to get on the wrong side of the law or the wrong side of the road!

Myself and my husband have driven abroad on many occasions, and particularly love visiting the United States of America. The last time we visited we went on a fantastic California road trip.



      San Francisco


Los Angeles



San Diego

We drove across California from San Francisco to Napa, then LA, down to San Diego and over to Las Vegas. It was an amazing experience driving along the twisting and turning Pacific Coast Highway with it's beautiful coastline, the redwood groves of the Big Sur, the upmarket little village of Carmel where Clint Eastwood was once mayor, stopping for whale watching at Monterey Bay. It's a trip that we will never forget.



We have also driven from Orlando down to the Art Deco and happening city of Miami and then to the stunning scenic Florida Keys, finally stopping at laid back and happening Key West.

Key West

You see some sights along the way, like this giant lobster below at the side of the road.


Giant Lobster

Our next trip will take in the 'Deep South' of America from Atlanta to New Orleans, Memphis and Nashville. This area is called the Mojo Triangle - the birthplace of jazz, blues, rock n roll and country. To say I am excited is an understatement.

During our time driving in the USA we have learnt some useful information, hints and tips that we think are invaluable to those that are driving in the US for the first time. Below are some of these tips that we have learnt from driving in the US over the last 10 years. 

Top Tips For Driving In The US

1. Each state has different driving laws. Most of them though are very similar but you always should check the actual state/s driving laws before you land and with the car hire company when you pick up the car.

2. You need a full valid driving licence to drive in the US and some states will require an International Driving Permit (IDP) in addition to a valid licence. Many car hire companies will refuse to hire to those under the age of 25 although some will if you pay a surcharge. If you live in the UK you will need to register with the DVLA for a 'licence check code' to share your details with the car hire company. This is valid for 21 days and allows them to check if you have any endorsements now that the paper part of the licence no longer exists.

3. A great tip is to ask what the total car hire charge is including all fees. You will be charged more for car seat and sat nav hire and taxes are always on top. You may also be charged more to hire/drop off a car at the airport, and if you are driving over state lines.

4. Children are kept in the back seat of a car in the appropriate car seat/restraint up to the age of 12. Check the laws on the type of car seat required for children before you go as it varies from state to state.

5. A tip we have learnt for driving anywhere is to carefully inspect the car before you hire it and when you return it. It is useful to take photos or a video on your camera/smart phone for evidence.

6. Hiring a SatNav from your car hire company can be expensive. Consider renting a SatNav from Ebay with preloaded US maps or buying one from Walmart when you are there, that you can sell on or keep if you plan to visit the USA again. Alternatively download the free Navmii smart navigation a
nd travel app to your phone.

7. Most gasoline (petrol) stations require you to pay before you fill up and this often means a trip to the attendant in the kiosk as many UK credit or debit cards don't work at the pump. When you hire the car there are two options to return the car empty and to return the car full, so don't forget to fill up if you have picked the second option.

8. 
In the USA they drive on the right and you generally keep right. Roads are wide, often with a number of lanes. Speed limits vary according to state with urban or rural roads being different and the maximum speed limit on a freeway (motorway) is anything from 65 to 80 MPH . Near schools the speed limit is usually 20 MPH and if you see a school bus with flashing lights you should stop in both directions. Some states require headlights when it is raining. 

9. In urban areas you will see HOV on the road - these are for High Occupancy Vehicles or car pool lanes. If you have multiple passengers in the car you can take these quicker lanes to help bypass traffic.


10. Making right turns on red signals after stopping and ensuring the path is clear, is allowed in most states, unless there is a specific restriction posted at the intersection, or the traffic lights show a red arrow in place of the standard red light. In New York they will not allow you to go right on red.

So here are my tops tips for driving in the US. For more top tips check out the best travel tips from Around The World travels


I have done my utmost to make sure this information is correct but I would always advise you to check for up-to-date information on driving abroad before you go as advice can change.

For more information about driving abroad and driving etiquette including the do's and don't and the little eccentricities peculiar to that country check out this useful interactive graphic here.

Tell me, have you ever driven in the USA? Would you give it a go?


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19 comments

  1. Oh gosh, that all sounds a bit confusing, especially turn right on red! That would really throw me. Sounds like you had an awesome trip.

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    1. My husband finds it easy to remember Laura, you just get used to it.

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  2. I got my licence in the USA and thought it was the easiest country to drive in. Unlike here in London, where I actually cried after one lesson. I prefer my bike to commute!

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    1. I guess if you start to learn in the US it will be easy. My husband learnt to drive in London.

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  3. Wow that's sounds like a fantastic drive you lucky things. Great tips too especially that the laws are different in different states x

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    1. Thank you, we can't wait for out next road trip. Always wise to check the local state laws before you drive there.

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  4. I've never driven abroad. It terrifies me! Great post though x

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  5. Like Emily, driving abroad scares me, so if we are on holiday, I take a holiday from driving too! (Although my husband is intent on a fly drive to America one of these days so I will have to remember this advice)

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  6. Some great tips, hiring cars in foreign countries can be tricky!
    Liquid Grain

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    1. It can be Kathryn, hope the tips were useful!

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  7. A really useful post with lots of good tips.We recently went to Florida and hired a car but did not venture out of Florida.

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  8. Ooof, I barely know how to drive in the UK- think I'd have to leave that up to the other half, but sounds like an amazing trip you have planned!!! Thanks for the tips.

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  9. I don't drive but my other half is really comfortable driving when we venture abroad. We've not visited the US yet but would to have a driving holiday. Great tips!

    Laura x

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  10. I have never driven in the US. But thank you for sharing this fantastic tips as we will be going in the summer. Taking a photo of the car afterwards is indeed very clever.

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    1. Have fun! Where are you off to in the US?

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  11. Got my licence on the 'continent' and have never driven in London, too many crazy people!

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  12. Wow it sounds like you've had some amazing driving trips! I'm going to the US next year but I'm too nervous I think to drive there

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    1. I can understand your trepidation but it's not that difficult really. My husband really enjoys driving in the US.

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