What a Tourist Needs to Know to Drive in the U.S.

Many people dream of taking a road trip around the United States. It is definitely one of the best possible ways to see the country and all that it has to offer. But if you’re coming from another country to take this dream trip, there are many items to be prepared before hitting the road.

From researching if driving in the U.S. with a foreign license is possible for you to mapping out the perfect itinerary and budget plans, there are lots of items on your pre-trip checklist. Let’s walk through some of these must-do’s together to help you properly prepare for the U.S. road trip of a lifetime.

Planning Your Start and Finish

Any great trip starts with a plan, and you’ll have quite a bit of trip planning for this one. If you will be coming from another country, it’s important that you choose your start and finish point for the trip, since you won’t simply be packing up and leaving from your home city. This will help to dictate where you’ll purchase a flight to and where to book your return flight home from. 

After you know this information, you can plan the route between point A and point B. A quick Google Maps search will give you the quickest route, but you can rework that route to make sure it includes the stops you want to make along the way. 

Planning this out will also help you see how long it will take to drive from stop to stop. You can decide where you want to take a rest along the route. That way you’ll know exactly where you need to find and book accommodations. Once you have this itinerary finalized, you can begin the booking process.

Getting the Proper Documentation To Drive in the U.S.

While the exact requirements for driving in the United States will depend on which country you are coming from, there are some documents that are required for all. To begin, drivers will need to get an international driver’s permit, also called an IDP. 

An IDP is required to obtain car insurance in the United States. After getting your IDP, you’ll also need to find an insurance company that offers car insurance to U.S. visitors.

If you plan to rent a car, many rental companies will include insurance as part of the rental package. However, if you plan to stay longer, you may want to take steps to be fully insured.

Beyond the IDP, you may need to obtain a visa to visit the United States as well. Again, this will depend greatly on which country you are visiting from. You must get all these documents in your home country before you travel to the United States.

Booking the Details for Your Trip

Now that you’ve got your itinerary mapped out and obtained the required documents, it’s time to book your trip details. This is the fun part when everything begins to become real. To start, you can book your flight to the starting point you decided on and the accommodation for the first stop.

Next, you’ll want to find a rental car company at your starting point and begin taking the steps to secure transportation for the trip. If you are opting to buy a car, you can begin your research and look for cars to buy in that city.

Booking the accommodations is next. You’ve already decided on where you’ll make your stops and how long you’ll be staying, but researching accommodations is a major task.

Booking all the places you’ll stay along will likely take some time. It can be best to do this in increments instead of doing it all at once.

The last things to book will be your return flight from your final destination and any activities that need to be booked in advance. For example, if you’d like to see a show and you need to buy tickets far ahead of time, go ahead and do that.

Finding the Right Car for Your U.S. Road Trip

As we’ve briefly mentioned, there are a couple of options when it comes to choosing which car option is best for your trip. You basically have two options. You can rent a car from a rental company, or you can buy a car to use for the trip and sell it before leaving for home.

If you plan on a short-term vacation, like one to two weeks, it might be better to choose the rental option. It will be easier and require much less research and time on your end. But if you’ll be spending a longer amount of time in the U.S., say, two or three months, you could buy something for your trip.

This decision will depend on your personal situation, finances, time frame, and desire to research. It may also depend on the insurance situation and whether you prefer to be fully covered or to take coverage through a rental package.

You can also look into changing your insurance company to make sure your rental car will be covered.

Budgeting for Your Road Trip

As with any trip, you’ll have to think about your travel budget. You’ll have to think about the cost of flying to and from the United States, the cost of renting or buying a car, paying for gas and maintenance on the car, food, accommodation, and other miscellaneous expenses.

There are many costs involved with a trip of this importance, and it will not be a low-budget trip by any means. But having a plan will help to save you in the long run. It’s also a really good idea to have an emergency fund set aside for any unexpected expenses.

Planning a road trip to the United States as a foreigner is a big undertaking, but it’s likely to be one of the most memorable experiences of your life.

Seeing the U.S. by car is arguably the best way to see the country, and it will allow you to see a lot of it in a short amount of time. Get ready for an unforgettable travel experience.

About the Author:
Sam Timmerman writes and researches for the car insurance site, CarInsuranceComparison.com. She loves to travel, especially by car, and is passionate about encouraging others to travel safely.

Sam Timmerman

Sam Timmerman