ASK TBE: Can I use my driver’s license abroad?

This week,  Karla Fraser  is answering your transportation questions.  

Disclaimer: You asked for advice. We’re providing it. But as with anything else, make sure you check with the actual professionals to make the right decision, especially when it comes to immigration.

Q: I actually enjoy driving and hoping to do so abroad.  Is it possible to use my existing Driver’s License from my home country while living  abroad?

A: Firstly, for specific driver’s license requirements you should check with the embassy or the government’s transportation website for the country where you plan to visit or live. Remember, it is illegal to drive without a valid license and insurance in most countries.

Secondly, many countries do not recognize a driver’s license from other countries, but most accept an International Driving Permit (IDP). You can obtain one from AAA in the USA, CAA in Canada, or a reputable agency in various countries. 

Thirdly, take a bit of time to learn the driver’s license process, traffic laws and transportation regulations. You may be restricted to a specific driving class. Even the process of renting or purchasing a car can have many steps. Your immigration visa type can be a factor in whether you can rent or purchase a vehicle, and can impact your financing options such as guarantees for loans, or full cash payments.

Lastly, consider the cost of maintenance and how you will sell or return the vehicle when you are ready to leave. Also, if you must leave on short notice, what will you do if it is a leased or purchased vehicle?

Wherever you go, remember to do your research before traveling to your destination. The more prepared you are upon arrival, the smoother the transition.

Q:  What are my transportation options as an expat?

A: Transportation is one of those critical necessities in life, and in some countries your options can go from one extreme to another. Places like the US, Canada, and Australia rely heavily on a car for all daily needs. As an expat, you might need to plan for a long-term rental or a purchase.

Other places have public transportation systems for most of their inhabitants’ use, including expats. Some countries have highly efficient systems of buses, trains, and taxis – like Singapore, Japan and many parts of Europe. When I lived in Singapore, I took a taxi or used a ride-share service for my daily commute to/from work as it was affordable. Malaysia uses a system of buses and trains that work at an average rate. But places like Indonesia, Cambodia or Bangladesh have a system of rickshaws, bikes, scooters, in addition to the primary system of large and small buses.

Many countries have a public taxi system, with routes like a bus system, that allows you to experience less frequent stops and more efficiency. You might also find a taxi-for-hire system. It is common practice in some regions of the world to hire a local taxi/driver for your daily activities, like commuting to/from work or shopping. This option gives you more flexibility and can be reasonably reliable.

You could also consider riding a bicycle or walking depending on your proximity to work, shopping or entertainment, and the cycling/pedestrian safety of the area. Both are also great ways to get your daily dose of cardio.

Whichever option you explore in your new country, remember that it will take time to adjust and to find the right combination of transport options to suit your daily activities. It could mean you use the bus to head to the office or your co-working space during the week. Then, on the weekend, you opt for a taxi for running errands and meeting up with others. Whatever you do, don’t forget to give yourself time to adjust and time for traveling.

As with any new life changes, take it in stride and learn to enjoy the experience.

Need advice? Ask away. Questions may be edited for length and clarity.

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