Hit the Open Road: U.S. Road Trip Tips for Foreign Travelers

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Thinking about taking a trip to explore the U.S.? The expansive country has a lot to offer, and seeing it by car is arguably the best way to go. But there are many preparations that you should make before hopping into the driver’s seat. You’ll have to figure out car insurance for foreigners in the USA, decide on your start and end points, and be sure you have the correct visa.

Planning any trip can be overwhelming, but heading to a foreign country and planning to drive while you’re there adds a few extras. Let’s go through the main items you should be thinking about as you plan to hit the open road. It will make driving as a foreigner in the U.S. much easier and have you behind the wheel in no time.

Planning Your Itinerary

One of the first things you should do when preparing for your road trip is to figure out a rough itinerary. You especially need to plan where you will start and finish your trip. This will help you book flights and figure out where you can rent and return your car at each destination.

There are many options for your itinerary. You can go from coast to coast or simply explore one region of the U.S. Take some time to sit down and list the places you’d most like to visit. This can help you map out a route to take.

You will also want to consider what things you’d like to see and do. Are you an outdoorsy type? You may want to hit up some national parks and go camping. Or if you’re more of a city-dweller, you can hit all the major U.S. cities. These considerations will help you map out your itinerary.

Finding the Right Car

Once you have a rough outline of where you want to go, you can start to decide on what type of car you want. Remember those questions you answered when planning your itinerary about what types of activities you’d like to do? The answers to these questions will help determine what kind of car you need for your trip.

If you’re planning on doing more camping, you’ll want a car that’s better for rugged terrain and allows you to pack all the required gear like tents, coolers, and hiking supplies. If you’re primarily spending time in the city, you might want to opt for a more compact car that’s easy to park in tight spots. 

Should I rent or buy?

Depending on how long you plan to travel by car, you might find that it’s a better idea to purchase a car and sell it when your travels end. If you’ll be traveling for a long period of time, paying the rental fees can add up quickly. Buying and selling may be a more cost-effective option. But it will no doubt require more research on your end.

If you opt to buy a car, going with a used car is the best option. It will be much more affordable. There are many factors to consider when buying a used car or any car. You’ll need to keep in mind your budget, what the car will be used for, and the resale value if you plan to sell after your trip. 

You’ll also need to decide if it’s a better option to purchase from a dealership or privately from the previous owner. You may be able to begin your research from your home country, but you’ll likely want to test drive the car yourself when you arrive in the U.S. before making the purchase final. This, plus the selling time after your trip, will need to be accounted for when planning.

Know the Rules of the Road

Safety is a top concern anytime you travel, but there’s an added emphasis on safety when it comes to driving in a new country. Make sure you know the rules of the road, especially because they may be different from those in your country. 

There are many minor differences from country to country, and there are major differences, such as driving on the opposite side of the road. You may want to consider taking a driving class before you hit the road. For some licenses, it might even be a requirement. 

The rules and options for driving are different from country to country and depend a lot on the license you hold from your home country. Take a look at the specific rules for driving in the U.S. based on your home country.  

How to Choose the Best Insurance

Something you will no doubt need to have for your U.S. road trip is insurance. If you opt for renting a car, you’ll need to purchase rental insurance. If you choose to buy a car, you will need to set up your own car insurance. 

Obtaining insurance is a major step to take when planning your road trip. It will give you peace of mind, keep you safe, and save you major headaches if something were to happen during your trip.

The insurance that’s best for you will vary depending upon factors such as time frame for the trip, whether you buy or rent, your home country, and even your driving record. You can shop around and use insurance comparison sites to decide what is the best for you. Many rental car companies will offer insurance through the rental process as well.

Photo from Unsplash

Other Checklist Items Before Visiting the U.S.

There are a few other things you will want to look into before you jump on a plane and head out for your road trip. Make sure you have all of the proper documentation. This can include visas, passports, and the correct driver’s license for driving in the U.S. Of course, you’ll also need to pack, book flights, and take care of any arrangements at home. 

There are many things to consider when planning a road trip in the U.S. as a foreigner. Planning your itinerary, choosing the best car options, and taking the necessary precautions to obtain insurance and learn the rules of the road are no doubt time consuming. But, as you take in the sights from the road it will all be worth it.

Sam Timmerman writes and researches for the auto insurance site, BuyAutoInsurance.com. She is an experienced traveler and enjoys helping others travel and experience new places.