Travel overseas is very exciting, with no shortage of amazing
places to visit and see. However, even though your travel plans
might depend on renting a car upon arrival, the reality of overseas
driving is more complicated.
Your Canadian driver's license is usually not valid
overseas. In most countries, you need an International Driving
Permit (or IDP). An IDP is a document translating the information
on your driver's license into multiple languages – when
presented along with your driver's license, it serves the
function of a valid driver's license overseas. IDPs are
governed by the 1949 United Nations Convention on Road Traffic, and
any country that is a signatory of that convention will accept it.
It also has sufficient international recognition that most
countries that are not signatories of the 1949 convention, such as
Russia, will still honour it, although some countries, such as
Brazil, will limit how long you can drive with it while within
To get an International Driving Permit, you can apply to the
CAA. The permit is valid for one year. To apply, you must be at
least 18 years old, have a valid G2 license or higher, have two
passport-type photos, and pay a $25 fee.
Although most countries honour the IDP, there are some
exceptions, most notably China. To drive in China, you must have a
valid Chinese provisional driver's license. Acquiring one
requires you to pass a written test, which can be taken in English.
A road test is also sometimes required, but it is often waived if
you hold a valid pre-existing driver's license.
While driving overseas is one thing, being insured is another.
Most people's domestic car insurance does not cover rentals or
driving outside of their home country. However, if you are renting
a car, the rental agreement and fee usually provides insurance
coverage for the period in which you are driving, although this
often does not include collision coverage. To get collision
insurance – and protect against having to pay the repair or
replacement cost of the car after an accident – you need to
also purchase a Collision Damage Waiver from the rental agency or
your credit card company.
If you are driving overseas in a place such as Europe for more
than a couple of weeks, you may not want to rent a car, but instead
get a short-term lease. Some car companies, such as Renault and
Peugeot, offer short-term leases for a minimum of 3 weeks,
with full insurance coverage provided in the fee. If you are
planning on doing a lot of travelling in multiple countries, or
want to use your own car on the road while you travel, another
option is to contact your car insurance company to see if they
offer international coverage, or to seek out another insurance
company offering international car insurance.
Using your own car to drive overseas is possible, depending on
whether the country you are visiting is a signatory of the 1968
Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, which allows for drivers to use
cars outside of their country of registration. Before attempting to
bring your car overseas, it is important to check that your
destination is a signatory, and, if so, that there are no local
exceptions to the Convention. To use your car overseas, it must be
fit for driving in its country of registration, have a distinguishing sign of its country of origin
on the rear of the vehicle, and have license or registration plates
at the front and rear. Insurance is one of the sticking points, and
as mentioned above, you need to find an insurance company willing
to provide coverage in the countries you will be visiting.
Nobody wants to start their vacation by discovering that they
can't rent a car as they had planned. Doing the extra legwork
to ensure that you have what you need to drive and be properly
insured in the country you are visiting is a key step to a happy
and satisfying trip.
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