If you're planning on driving in the States, here are a few things you're going to want to keep in mind
Author: Sam Casteris
The time has come. You're finally taking that Great American Road Trip you've been waiting to take for years. That's great! But as a foreign national, taking a road trip in the States isn't as easy as hopping in your rental car and going on your merry way.
Make sure you know how to drive in the USA
This one is pretty basic, but can cause a surprising amount of difficulty for people who haven't done their research.
Choose your rental car company carefully
Rental car companies all have different rules and guidelines that they abide by. When renting a car, make sure they rent to non-citizens. Some rental car companies have special rules about crossing city, county, state, or even country lines, so ensure that your road trip falls under their rules. A handful of rental car companies allow it, but charge a significant fee to return your rental car in another city or state. Other companies may need additional types of insurance or may charge an additional fee. Every company will be different, so do your homework on this one to avoid incurring surcharges. If arriving in Los Angeles be sure to check out StressFreeCarRental.com.
Get your paperwork in order
People driving in the States must have a valid driver's license. Some states will require an International Driving Permit (IDP), in addition to a valid license from your own country. Depending on where you rent your car from, your rental company may also require one, even if the state you're in (or are going to) doesn't require one. Make sure to double check with your rental car company, and to call the Department of Motor Vehicles in each state you're visiting.
Insurance is a requirement to drive in the United States. Your rental car company can help you with this one, but you'll also want to make sure you're not duplicating coverage. Check with your credit card, any motor club affiliations you may have, or your insurance back at home. Some plans offer travel coverage! Don't double pay if you don't have to.
Be prepared for any bumps along the way
Accidents happen, literally! Whether this means getting pulled over, getting a ticket, a fender bender, or worse, you're going to want to make sure you're totally prepared. Always have your passport, IDP, home driver's license, vehicle registration, rental car papers, and any insurance documents handy. If you get into an accident, not leaving your information with the other person is considered a crime. As a foreign national, this can be a huge infraction... and it's not something you want to take a risk on. Here's the information that you're required by law to exchange with the person or peoples you get into an accident with, should that happen:
Make sure you get the right phone plan
On a road trip, the last thing you'll want to rely on is free WiFi. Anything can happen on the road, from GPS snafus to more dangerous situations. You will want reliable access to a Maps app or GPS, as well as a phone to call people in case of an emergency. If it's too expensive to get an international plan with your home provider, get a pay-per-use phone in the United States. You won't regret this one.
Be aware of local biases
Not every city, town, or even state has the same culture in the States. What you experience in the Midwest will be different from what you experience in the Deep South. Even more granularly, what you experience in say, Canarsie or East New York will be different from what you experience in Williamsburg (and all three locations are in Brooklyn, NY). Be conscious of your surroundings at all times, even if areas that seem friendly or safe on the surface. Make sure you're aware of the crime rate, and the types of crimes committed. Don't be afraid to refer to forums, either.
When looking for a place to stay, check the Bed Bug Registry first
Bed bugs are one American souvenir you're not going to want to bring home.
Sam Casteris is an avid travel, lifestyle, and millennial finance writer interested in helping her audiences learn more about topics they're interested in. She currently lives in Phoenix and you can find more of her writing at Casteris Content.