Going On A Road Trip When You Don’t Speak The Local Language

It can be daunting to take on a big road trip in an unfamiliar country, and if you can’t speak the language then it can seem like an even tougher task. That’s why it’s essential to get prepared, make sure you have the right equipment, and know what to do in case of an emergency. It doesn’t matter where in the world you want to go, with these few tips you can make your road trip a lot less daunting.

Learn the road rules

If you are going to hit the road, it’s worth spending some time researching the local road rules, and this starts with learning the international road sign standards. This will ensure you stay out of dangerous areas, as well as sticking to speed limits and other regulations. When you step off the plane it’s a good idea to try a short drive before you attempt a full day on the road, so try to start your itinerary with some short practice drives.

Other things you might want to research include:

  • What equipment you are required to carry – i.e. warning triangles and first aid kits
  • The level of car insurance you will need for your hire vehicle
  • Whether you can use your existing licence and for how long
  • Common scams that target motorists
  • Where service stations and garages are located along your route

By following the rules you avoid any run ins with local police, which can be difficult if you don’t speak the language, and can avoid getting fined on the spot.

Plan your trip

Part of the fun of a road trip is having flexibility and spontaneity, but it’s also important to have a rough plan in mind so that you’re not left panic driving back to the airport on the last day. By having an idea of the areas you want to visit, you can spread the driving evenly over the different days, and this can be a lot easier on you mentally. If you plan to rent a wohnmobile in Australien for example, you’ll find that many major cities are quite far apart, so you’ll need to plan an overnight stop, either sleeping in your van or booking a hotel, to avoid fatigue.

A GPS system can be very useful, but make sure there’s an option to store the directions offline in case you end up in a low reception area. If you are really going off the beaten track then picking up a local map at a garage can be helpful, as it will have more detailed plans and useful information, and some areas will even do them in different languages.

Get help with phrases

In the days before smartphones, it was common to pick up a phrase book before you jetted off, but the digital age has mainly replaced these guides with apps and software. It can help to download these apps before you leave to avoid huge internet bills, and make sure they don’t connect to the internet to run up big data tariffs. Some of the best translation apps offer advanced features such as real time translation, or even the translation of written text via your camera; perfect for when you have pulled over and need to read a road sign.

Get emergency details

Whether it’s hitting bumpers with another motorist, or being involved in a more serious accident, it’s essential to know what to do when you don’t speak the language. Make a note of the local emergency number, or dial 112 for the international operator, and you will usually be able to speak to someone in English. You should also note down the number of the local embassy, your insurer, and any other numbers you might need in an emergency, and keep a written record as well as putting them on your phone in case the battery dies. In the case of a minor accident it’s a good idea to try to get some photos of the scene, as well as the other vehicle’s number plate, as any of this information can be useful.

Driving to a new country doesn’t mean that you need to get fluent in a new language, but it can help to learn a few key phrases, and being prepared is of course essential to the process. As long as you are respectful and know the rules of the road, you shouldn’t run into trouble, and can enjoy your exciting road trip travels with confidence.


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