From dirty cars in Russia to dress codes in Thailand, road rules around the world can seem a little weird. Renting a car may be an exciting way to see the sights, but it’s easy for travellers to get caught off guard by some often-baffling local laws.
Here are seven of the weirdest road rules from around the world – along with ways to ensure you can enjoy a smooth ride.
Drinking and Costa Rica
Believe it or not, it’s legal to drink alcohol while driving in Costa Rica. Provided you stay under the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05, sipping a cerveza while sitting in traffic is perfectly acceptable. Exceed that limit, however, and it’s another story.
With that in mind, Costa Rican roads are not renowned for their safety. Like in other Central American countries, unmarked hazards and ambiguous signs can make driving risky even without the effects of alcohol!
Because you’re safer when you’re sober, our TravelCare policy only covers you if you’re not driving under the influence of alcohol. Your best bet? Save the cocktails for relaxing in a hammock on the beach.
Costa Rica offers travellers boundless opportunities to explore. It’s important to note, however, that our policy doesn’t cover vehicle damage that occurs if you’re driving on anything other than formed or paved roads.
Headlights and Sweden
It could be the sunniest Stockholm day of the year, but if you’re caught driving without your headlights on in Sweden, you can get fined. Driving with daytime running lights became mandatory in 1977. Thankfully, all modern Swedish-sold cars are set to do this automatically now, making it a lot easier on us travellers.
If you’re renting a modern car in Sweden, it’s unlikely you’ll need to worry. However, if you’re driving a vintage motor and notice people flashing their lights at you, it may not be in appreciation of your shiny Porsche 912 – but a reminder to switch your headlights on.
Glasses and Spain
Motoring through Madrid may seem like the best way to see it all, but Spain has a series of intriguing road laws that can catch travellers by surprise.
Do you wear prescription glasses or contact lenses? In Spain, you’re required to carry an extra set in the car, just in case the first are left behind on a Barcelona beach. Driving with your shopping on the backseat can also get you into trouble, as can driving in jandals!
Parking in Spain is notoriously difficult. Double-parking is a common, and generally accepted practice. If it happens to you, ask nearby shops and businesses if they know the owner, as well as seeing if there’s a parking attendant working nearby. Some double-parkers will even leave their cars in neutral and the handbrake off, so vehicles can be moved whenever necessary.
Parking laws vary with different times of day, days of the week and cities and towns around Spain, so doing your research beforehand is key to avoiding any issues.
We can only provide insurance cover if you’re not in breach of any local driving laws, so make sure you’ve read the rules on where and when to park before you hit the road.
Blindfolds and Alabama, USA
The United States has its fair share of curious driving laws, some of which actually seem pretty obvious. Driving through Alabama? The state kindly requests that you don’t do so while blindfolded. Others are just downright strange, for example, in Arkansas it’s illegal to honk your horn where cold drinks or sandwiches are served after 9pm.
On a more serious note, travellers embarking on the great American road-trip should keep in mind that local police take even routine traffic stops seriously. If you are pulled over, make sure you have all documentation ready to display, and turn off the ignition, placing your keys upon your dashboard. They’ll be thankful for your co-operation.
T-shirts and Thailand
Driving in the humid Thai heat may tempt you to open the windows, peel off your tee and let the breeze fan your sticky brow. But opting for air conditioning is a much safer bet, as it’s illegal to drive without a shirt on while in Thailand.
Scooters are a popular rental option for the intrepid explorer, but they should also be treated with a healthy amount of caution. Thailand’s roads have been rated as the second most dangerous in the world, with motorcycle and scooter accidents being a common cause of fatalities.
Our policy covers you if you’re riding a moped or motorbike up to 200cc. Remember that you must wear a helmet, even if not required by local legislation.
Additionally, travellers should be wary of motorbike and scooter hire scams in Thailand. Always rent from a licensed and reputable provider.
Cleanliness and Russia
Keeping your rental car sparkling clean may not be at the top of your to-do list while overseas, but dirt means danger according to the Russian authorities. Drivers can be fined if their car is deemed unclean, as excess dirt can obstruct the vision of both drivers and passengers.
Similarly, driving with muddy tires in Minnesota, in the US, will also land you in hot water. Authorities in South Carolina, US, go one step further – demanding the interior of the car also be kept free of rubbish.
Travellers should pay careful attention to the requirements of vehicle rental agencies overseas, as our policy will only cover you if these are met.
Passengers and Japan
Finally, Japan has little sympathy for drink-drivers. A blood alcohol level of 0.03 is the official limit, however police have been known to heavily fine drivers with even a hint of alcohol in their system. Not behind the wheel? You could also be in trouble. Passengers of drink drivers can also be fined, as can the bar that sold the alcohol in the first place.
Travellers who plan to rent a car overseas should remember that our policy won’t cover vehicle damage that’s inflicted by someone who doesn’t have our TravelCare policy. Likewise, if you’re not the official driver on the rental vehicle agreement, we can’t cover any damage.
Our advice – if you’re planning to wash down the night’s sushi with sake, why not make use of Japan’s famously efficient train system?