Indians driving abroad

Would you like to drive abroad? Are you an Indian who has been driving in India all these years and have always wondered if you can drive on roads abroad? Does this sound like a dream for you? If so, you have come to the right place!!


Let me assure you, you can drive abroad, and the experience will be one of the most memorable and enjoyable moments in your vacation. [Especially if you are a guy who loves to drive!]

A little bit of background here first: I have driven in Mumbai for the past 20 odd years, and have lately been enjoying driving by relaxing in the back seat. I stay in one of the rare places in Mumbai where there is no traffic jams when I commute. Do not be jealous! J

So, what do you need to do before you actually plan that driving vacation?

Plan ahead.

Here is what you need officially if you want to drive abroad:

A smart card driving license with the address exactly the same as on your passport.

I assume you have a passport!

An International Driving Permit [IDP]


What should you do to get the IDP?

You can directly go to the RTO covering your area and get it, or go through an agent, who takes you through many dusty and dirty offices to get your papers signed by indifferent officers in uniform.

Anyway, one visit to the RTO is a must to get your IDP. It is a small booklet actually, with your photograph and visa number etc, and has a validity of usually 6 mnths to an year from the date of issue. This site has some more details on the nitty gritty of getting an IDP.


Ok, so now you have your IDP in hand. Congrats! What next?

Now is the time to plan the other bits to complete your memorable experience.

  • Which vehicle?
  • Which Road/route?
  • What to carry?


  • Which vehicle?

The vehicle you will be driving depends on how many of you are going to use it, and then on what you would like to drive.

Your IDP will also specify the class of vehicle you are permitted to drive. Your choice also depends on whether you are going to rent out a vehicle or use a relative’s. Among Rent a cars you can get a wide range of options and also optional accessories.

  • Which Road/route?

Nowadays, with Google earth and the internet, it is really a pleasure to see where you will be travelling and know what the highlights of that area are. The more time you devote to this, the better you will be able to enjoy your trip. Try to involve your family members if possible in this planning, as you visit the various places online and on Google earth, and the trip will really become a memorable one for you. Plan the places you would like to visit, check out the timings of the various attractions, as in some places in Europe the closing time can be as early as 5 PM, and they can be very strict on the timings too!

  • What to carry?

A GPS is most important! I use my Nokia phone as GPS and am extremely satisfied with its ease of use and accuracy.

I download Hindi and English with Street names language pack to hear the phone speak out every detail I need to know while driving, including warning me if I am going over the speed limit, and also of traffic cameras ahead J.

I find my Nokia 5800 and similar phones are much better than MapMyIndia GPS, and have used it extensively in Europe and India. If you have a Nokia phone with Ovi Maps, make sure that you download the map of the country you will be visiting by using Ovi Suite after connecting your phone to the PC using a data cable. These maps are invaluable, and free when you do it at home! If you use your GPRS or 3 G connection while abroad to download the maps as you travel [which the phone will do as it updates your position and finds no map data there], it will prove to be an expensive affair, as you will be charged for every Kb you download!

If you do not have a Nokia phone, you can get a GPS on rent from the Rent a car outlet. Make sure you know how to use it before you start driving!

It is always safer to pay extra for Insurance, and Child/Booster seats depending on local regulations which you can find out online. Also do check if you will need Snow tires depending on the weather and Toll Pass stickers.


Another important thing you must do is know the rules of the place where you are going to drive. In most places it is considered impolite to honk, so beware! Also, driving on the right side of the road can take a bit of time getting used to for us Indians! Other things like Lane driving, Stop sign, Speed limits, traffic signals, Round about rule, Parking, etc must also be studied properly.

While you are driving, if you miss a turn or an exit, do not panic! The GPS will recalculate and tell you where you have to take the next turn. Never back up or go in reverse on the highway or any of the roads. It can lead to a disaster.

Once you follow the rules, you will find that driving abroad is really a pleasure. Then you will also appreciate the needless tension that driving in India puts on you, often unconsciously, as you never know who or what will jump in your way as you are driving.

So enjoy your drive, and when you do come back I hope you are motivated enough to be the change in your local area towards a better driving experience in India!

Do let me know your feedbacks too:


Published by Dr. S. P. Mathew

A Mumbai-based practising Physician, passionate about God's wonderful creation, fitness, and integral health, writer, activist and family man. Saved by God's Grace alone :-) to be his Ambassador.

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