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Canada offers no shortage of scenery and big cities to explore. But sometimes you crave a getaway that puts you outside your own country, which is why the United States can be an enticing vacation option for many Canadians. Cities like San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York, and Orlando tend to be the most popular U.S. destinations for Canadians headed south. 

Another bonus? The U.S. is a location that doesn’t necessarily require the hassle of flying and can easily be made into a road trip from Canada. But if you are a Canadian who is planning a road trip in the U.S., there comes a different set of trip preparations. You will need to make sure you have everything you need before jumping into the driver’s seat. 

Things to research and prepare for can include getting the proper driver’s license, renting or purchasing a car, finding the correct tourist car insurance in the USA, and learning the rules of the road. We will cover these things to make sure you have it all taken care of before departing on your trip.

International Driving Permit for Foreigners in the US

All foreign drivers in the U.S. must have a valid driver’s license from their home country. In addition, many U.S. states require that you have an International Driving Permit (IDP). As there can be a different set of driving requirements by state, it’s important to review the rules for the state or states you will be driving in.

A major benefit to getting an IDP is that it is recognized not only by the U.S. but by many countries around the world. It translates your identification into 10 languages and opens up the opportunity to drive in many countries. To get an IDP, you will need to contact the motor vehicle department in the country that your driver’s license is issued from.

Renting or Purchasing a Car

There are many options when it comes to choosing the car you’ll take on your road trip. Deciding whether you will drive your own car, rent a car in Canada to drive to the U.S., rent a car or even purchase a car there are all options available to you. There is a lot to be considered when making this decision.

If it’s reliable, driving your own car can be the easiest option. There’s no need to look for a rental or new car to purchase. But it’s not quite as easy as jumping in your car and taking off. You will need to be sure that your car meets the requirements set by the U.S. Department of Transportation safety standards and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Emission standards.

You could also opt for a rental car in Canada, but you’ll have to check with the specific rental company to see if they allow for international driving, many won’t. Whether you decide to drive your own car or rent from a Canadian company, you’ll also have to take into consideration the insurance offered. It’s likely this insurance may not cover your travel in the U.S.

If you plan on renting a car in the U.S., this is another instance where you would need to get an International Driving Permit. Many rental car companies will require an IDP to rent a car. One major benefit of renting a car in the U.S. is that most will include car insurance in their package, saving you a step in your trip preparations.

Lastly, you could look into purchasing a used or new car in the U.S. While this will definitely be the most costly of all the options, it might be the smartest decision if you can sell the car when you’re finished with your trip. Keep in mind that buying a car will require a much bigger time investment and research for finding what’s right for your needs.

Car Insurance for Foreign Drivers

Getting car insurance for your road trip in the U.S. is a must. Driving without it can incur fines up to $1,500, so it’s really not worth the risk of not having it. In order to obtain car insurance as a foreigner, you will need your International Driving Permit, and you’ll have to find an insurance company that offers insurance to visitors.

One of the easiest ways to obtain car insurance is to get a rental car that has an insurance package wrapped in it. However, if you’ll be staying longer and opt to buy a car, you can become fully insured that way as well. It may take a few more hoops to jump through, but can be worth it in the long run.

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Driving in the US

One major difference between driving in Canada and driving in the U.S. is kilometers per hour versus miles per hour speed limits. This is important to pay attention to. If you’ll be driving your own car from Canada, you’ll want to change your speedometer to read in miles per hour if it’s possible. 

You will need to be conscious of the speed limit and make sure you don’t go over it. This will help prevent you from getting a ticket, which is something you’ll want to avoid at all costs. It may also be a good idea to take a course to learn some rules of the road and tips for your road trip in the U.S.

Be sure to pay attention to other areas where tickets happen frequently, such as parking. This is another area where you can be easily fined and it can add up or negatively affect your insurance. Getting a ticket of any sort in a foreign country can be a hassle, so try to avoid them at all costs. If you’re ever unsure, you can always ask a local.

Pack the Car and Hit the Road

Once you’ve made these preparations, you will be all set to drive as a Canadian in the U.S. The only thing that’s left to do is plan out your road trip itinerary, pack the car, and hit the road. The U.S. has so much beautiful scenery and big cities to be explored. Traveling by car is definitely one of the best ways to experience the country.

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

Published by HOLR Magazine