Can Tourists Drive In The USA? Driving Rules For Non-Citizens


If you are a tourist who wants to drive a car in the United States, you may wonder, “Can tourists drive in the USA?” This article will answer that question.

Certain tourist visas allow visitors to stay in the United States for months or years for various reasons, such as medical treatments, business trips, or temporary work. Having a car can make getting around during your stay much easier.

This article will discuss all the essential information you must know to drive a car safely in the nation as a visitor.

Can Tourists Drive In The USA?

Yes, tourists can drive in the USA. However, you must have a valid driving license from your home country. If your home country’s license isn’t in English, you might need an International Driving Permit (IDP). The IDP acts as an official translation of your driving license. It’s a good idea to always carry the IDP with you while driving in the United States.

You can use your home country’s driving license for up to 3 months without requiring an American license. So, suppose you’re visiting from India for a business trip or extended holiday. In that case, you can transfer your foreign driving license and use it as long as you meet all the necessary conditions.

Before you travel, it’s crucial to research policies regarding foreign drivers to ensure that you can legally drive a vehicle in the United States. Ensure you’re familiar with the relevant paperwork requirements to legally drive cars while you are in the USA.

Know The Visitor Status In The US

Short-term visitors are people who come to the United States for a short time, such as tourists, students, or people with temporary visas who stay 6 months or less.

If you need to stay longer, you can extend your visa for up to 2 years. But most people usually go back home after six months. If you want to stay around longer, get an International Driving Permit (IDP) from your home country before coming to the US.

Permanent residents in the United States have green cards and are officially recognized as permanent citizens. People who are issued residency status also get an Individual Development Permit, which they need to renew every 10 years to stay legal in the country.

Permanent residents have numerous rights and advantages that visitors here for a short time don’t get. They get access to social services such as healthcare, education assistance, and work opportunities. Getting a residency is a lot harder than just getting temporary permission to visit for tourism.

Requirements For Eligibility To Drive In The United States

Driving is a privilege that comes with the responsibility of ensuring everyone stays safe on the road. If you want to drive legally in the United States, you must fulfill specific qualifications, such as being at least eighteen while driving.

To qualify for a license, you require accurate identification, whether it’s a state driving license from your home country or an international one along with an IDP. Remember, expired licenses aren’t allowed. Make sure your driving license is updated before driving a car on the road.

You also need to be in good health and free of any conditions that could affect your ability to drive safely. Safety is paramount when driving in the United States, so follow all safety requirements before starting your journey.

After you have all the necessary paperwork and fulfill the requirements for using a vehicle, you are legally allowed to drive wherever you want. However, remember to obey all traffic laws. Breaking them could lead to hefty fines or even jail time.

What Are The Car Rental Requirements In The US?

If you plan to drive a car around the United States as a tourist, you will likely need to rent a car at some point. Car rental services are widespread across the country and offer reasonable prices. However, they have specific requirements you need to meet. These include:

  • Rental agreements
  • License requirements
  • Deposit
  • Good driving record
  • Insurance

Below, we’ll delve deeper into each of these requirements.

Rental Agreements

Before renting a car, you will receive a rental agreement laying out the terms and conditions. This document covers things like how long you will have the car for rent and what it’ll cost you. It also contains details about reimbursing for any damage or breakdowns midway through your rental. So, make sure to read it carefully at least once.

License Requirements

Every rental company will request your driver’s license, whether issued from the state, a foreign country, or an International Driving Permit. They might refuse to rent you a car if you don’t have it. The company can either make a copy of it or verify it and return it to you. So, make sure you have it ready when renting a car.


When you rent a car, you’ll often need to give a deposit, which you might get back if you return the car undamaged. It’s crucial to carefully read the rental agreement to know the deposit rules and fees.

The fees cover driver fees, fuel charges, airport surcharges, taxes, and equipment rentals. You can usually pay with major debit cards, credit cards, or cash in some instances.

Good Driving Record

Rental companies might request your driving records from the past. If you’ve had severe traffic violations or road accidents, it could impact your ability to rent a car.


It is wise to have insurance coverage when you rent a car. You can get coverage through a motor club membership, credit card, or auto insurance policy. Review the auto insurance policy terms to know what’s included and not for rental cars.

If you travel for business, your employer might already provide car insurance. Just make sure you are not duplicating coverage.

Important Tips For Driving In The United States Safely

Driving in the U.S. differs from driving in other countries in many significant ways. For beginners, understanding what to do in case of a collision or crash can make the situation less scary and reduce the likelihood of unnecessary problems. Below, you will get some vital tips for driving in the United States:

Make Sure You Know About Age Requirements

You can start driving a car by yourself when you are 16. However, renting one would be best if you are at least 21. No matter how old you are, never drink and drive.

Understand The Traffic Laws

Before you arrive in the US, check out the motor vehicle department’s site for the state where you’ll be driving. Every state has an online version of its Driver’s Manual available.

Do Not Honk Your Car’s Horn

Refrain from honking your car’s horn too much. Only use your horn if you need to alert another pedestrian or driver. For instance, honking is okay if a vehicle is about to hit you. However, honking is less common in the United States compared to other countries.

Avoid Using Handheld Devices

Using handheld devices like cell phones while driving is against the law in most US states and causes thousands of deaths annually. Keep your phones out of sight and focus on driving.

Stay In The Right Lane

In the United States, drivers travel on the right side of the street, unlike in various other countries. Your vehicle should stick to the right lane on highways or freeways unless you pass another car. You’ll often see signs reminding you of this rule.

However, keep in mind that on Interstate routes, the right lane in urban areas might be designated only for exiting the highway at the next opportunity. Also, if you’re driving slowly, like when you’re getting used to traffic, it’s best to stay in the far right lane. Of course, this applies if multiple lanes are going in the same path as you.

Wear Seat Belts

All passengers and the driver must wear seat belts. Moreover, kids under 13 should sit in the rear seat and use the right booster seat or child safety seat.

Follow Speed Limits

Speeding is a major factor in over a quarter of all deadly accidents on U.S. roads. It’s important to stick to the speed limit, which is measured in miles per hour. Also, watch out for pedestrians and cyclists.

In residential areas, the speed limit is often set at 35 miles per hour, but it can be as low as 25-30 miles per hour in some places. The speed limit is usually 55 miles per hour or higher on roads and Interstate highways with fewer intersections and traffic.

Final Thoughts

So, can tourists drive in the USA? Driving a car as a tourist in the United States is possible. Please make sure you have all the required documents and take time to learn the road rules. Before you know it, you will be driving on streets and highways across this amazing country.

Your foreign driving license will work fine if you are only here for a short visit. However, getting a U.S. driving license is a good idea if you plan to stay for one year or more. That way, you won’t have any trouble getting car insurance. We also suggest joining a traffic school to understand US road rules better.


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