I am planning my two week vacation in the U.S. As a foreigner, can I rent a car and drive from the east coast to the west? Do I need to do loads of paperwork for this?

  • 6
    Most of the time, you'll need a credit card and your driver's license. Which country are you / your papers from?
    – tricasse
    Feb 18, 2015 at 14:24
  • Make sure that the one-way-trip charge is included in the listed price. Rentalcars.com does not include this, so we'll have to pay $750 EXTRA if we go, glad we read the fine print!
    – Mårten
    Feb 18, 2015 at 15:13
  • If you have a photocard driver licence, and you're travelling before 8th June 2015, when the paper part will no longer be valid, be sure to bring both parts. Mar 11, 2015 at 3:13
  • While DCTLib's answer covers the legal aspects well, I'd also mention that this is really probably only advisable if you're accustomed to driving in countries with similar traffic laws and expectations as the U.S. From Europe, it shouldn't be too much of a problem, though the side of the road may be an issue. From much of Southeast Asia, on the other hand, I would highly advise not doing this. Even if you can legally drive in the U.S., traffic here is very different from much of SE Asia and driving will be dangerous until you get used to the traffic laws and expectations.
    – reirab
    Jul 2, 2015 at 3:05
  • 2
    Not directly related to the question but maybe worth considering: Most of our European friends don't have a good idea how big the US is and what a cross country drive looks like. Boston to San Francisco is about 5000 km. That's further than from Lisbon Portugal to Moscow Russia and about 50 hours of raw driving. Two weeks not a lot of time for this.
    – Hilmar
    Jul 2, 2015 at 16:32

1 Answer 1


Yes, you can. However,

  1. make sure that you booked your rental car in advance for a price that includes the one-way fee for this route (these fees can be very high). Also make sure that the quoted rate is for a non-resident, includes a reasonable insurance and is valid for drivers from your country (US citizens get different rates).
  2. look up the differences in traffic rules of all US states that you are passing through
  3. check whether your national driver's license is enough for the states that you are passing through. Different states have different rules and you may need an international driver's license in addition to the one from your home country. An example is the state of Georgia, where foreign licenses that have not been issued in English language need an additional international one.
  4. As tricasse wrote, you will need a credit card and of course a valid driver's license from your home country.
  5. As Yehuda_NYC added, you may want to check if you meet the minimum age requirement imposed by the rental car company.
  • 2
    What traffic rules are you referring to? The traffic rules are basically the same from state to state. I have driven in at more than a dozen states from Maine to Florida to California and not noticed any important differences in day to day driving rules. Perhaps rules concerning what to do when you see a school bus with flashing lights differ a little. In short, you stop for such a stopped school bus that has flashing lights, no matter if you are traveling in the same or opposite direction.
    – Yehuda_NYC
    Feb 18, 2015 at 15:21
  • 2
    If you are young, check to see if rental company will rent to you.
    – Yehuda_NYC
    Feb 18, 2015 at 15:21
  • 3
    Example for the traffic rules: Maximum allowed speed on highways. Also, right turn on red is not allowed everywhere: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_turn_on_red
    – DCTLib
    Feb 18, 2015 at 15:26
  • 4
    @Yehuda_NYC: In some states you can turn right on red, in others not. In some states, you can even turn left on red onto a one-way street. Seat belt laws vary. Whether you can coast in the left lane varies. Whether you can talk on a mobile while driving, or smoke in a vehicle with children varies. Whether you are required to pull onto the left shoulder to let an rear-approaching vehicle pass you varies. The variations are endless. These are just the ones I could think of off the top of my head in under one minute.
    – Flimzy
    Feb 18, 2015 at 16:34
  • @DCTLib is correct. There are a few areas of difference between states concerning driving rules. This is what I have noticed. Max speed on highways is almost always posted and may change (sometime changing in less than a mile) as a road passes through less or more developed areas. Max speed on streets in residential areas might NOT be posted and is set by the municipality, not the state. Usually the limit is 25 mph in residential areas unless otherwise posted. Right turn on red is usually allowed unless otherwise posted. One exception is NYC, where right on red is not allowed, unless posted.
    – Yehuda_NYC
    Feb 18, 2015 at 16:43

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