Traveling the world by car- pros, cons, and useful tips

Traveling the world by car- pros, cons, and useful tips

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Traveling by car is one of the most convenient ways to explore the world. You have the freedom to choose your own itinerary, your own schedule, and in some cases (or if you are more adventurous)- your own place to spend the night. You can jump in the car, and the whole Earth is in front of you! Or maybe it is not as easy as it looks like? Let’s get deeper into this question.

Exploring the Earth

Our planet is full of images, colors, landscapes, and a lot of beauty. And every traveler has this passion to explore all of this. Although every point of its surface has its own charm, there are certain points called “travel destinations”, “places to see”, “points of interest” or the more popular of them- “landmarks”. But what is beyond these points?

While many tourists aim only at these points of interest, some travelers are interested in what is “between them”- not only points but routes that connect the points. This is a whole new level of traveling- in this way, travelers can penetrate much deeper into the geography of the Earth.

You can roam around our world by various means of transportation- by plane, by train, by bus, by ferry, by car, by motorbike, by bicycle, or just on foot. Unfortunately, no transportation way can reach every point on the surface of the Earth- water, land, plains, mountains, glaciers, deserts, etc. If you want to wander on all of these types of surfaces, you have to change your way of transportation.

Wandering around the world by vehicle
Wandering around the world by vehicle

Ways of transportation

All of these means of transportation have their pros and cons. Planes are fast and can fly over all of these types of surfaces, but only from above- you can’t see almost anything. Trains and buses are not as fast as planes but they are limited to travel only on certain roads (or railroads).

Ferries and boats are designed only for the water surface. Motorbikes and bicycles give you much more freedom, but they are too slow- you would need much more time to explore a larger area of the Earth.

And how about car driving?

Explore the world by car

So, you have your car (it can be your own car, a car of your friend, or a rental car). If it is an RV or just a van, it can be even your “moving hotel” too. You have your time and your budget. The world is in front of you. You prepare your luggage and just go. But can you really explore the whole world by your car?

If you start your driving trip from the US or Canada, you can explore these two countries (except for most of the middle and northern parts of Canada, and of course, without the Canadian Archipelago). You can go further south into the countries of Central America, but only on the continent. And you have to stop in Panama, in the so-called Darien Gap- an area with rainforests, swamps, lakes, and no roads.

Or, if you start your trip from Europe, you can easily explore Europe… but only Europe (easily). Yes, you can proceed further into Asia- through Turkey and Iran, or Russia. However, it requires a much more adventurous state of mind, because such travel can be more difficult and even dangerous.

By car on off-the-beaten-path
By car on off-the-beaten-path

Countries with closures, restrictions, or other problems

Some countries would be closed to you. For example, you can’t enter China (actually, you can, but it is complicated). Other countries are closed simply because their land borders are closed (for example- the border between Syria and Israel).

Similar problems can be found in South America and Africa- mainly border restrictions and regulations, bad roads, and in Africa- local conflicts. Concerning Australia, Indonesia, and every island, the limit is obvious- the ocean.

Combining different ways of transportation

In other words- only by car, you can freely travel only in some parts of the world, not the whole world. To extend your travel range, you have to use ferries or cargo ships. Or, of course, you can just leave your car at home, go to another continent (or an island) and rent a car there.

To travel on off-road and wild terrain without roads, you have to leave your car (yes, by 4×4 vehicle you can partially penetrate to some point, but this still has its limits) and proceed by bike, camel, horse, canoe, or just on foot.

Your "wandering hotel"
Your “wandering hotel”

Different traffic directions, traffic chaos

Another problem can be the different driving directions- in most countries, you drive on the right side of the road, but in some countries, the traffic is on the left side (like the UK, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and more). It can confuse drivers who haven’t gotten used to switching different sides of the road. Add to this the usually chaotic traffic in most of the exotic countries, and driving there can become a serious challenge.

Crossing the borders

And of course, the borders between countries, autonomous regions, or restricted areas with their checkpoints, and all the required documents, permits, etc. Sometimes it can be easy (just with some queue waiting), but sometimes can be difficult, requiring months of obtaining the necessary documents in advance. And sometimes crossing can be impossible.

However, there is an important document that can resolve some of these troubles. This is the International Driver’s License which “opens” more borders in front of you and your car.

An important document
An important document

International Driver’s License

You should have your own local Driving License. But it doesn’t mean that every other country would recognize it. So, you may need an International Driver’s License, called also International Driving Permit (IDP).

Yes, usually, if the official language of the country you drive is the same as the language of your Driving License, you would not need an IDP. But if the language is different, an IDP is advisable. Various countries have different rules about it and you can check in advance whether you need an IDP or not.

The IDP doesn’t replace your original local Driving License. Essentially, it only “translates” it in several languages. So, when you drive in countries that require IDP, you still have to bring your local Driving License too.

Obtaining an International Driver’s License

Today, you can easily get International Driver’s License. There are options to choose an IDP for 1, 2, or 3 years. You can also choose a digital + printed version, or only a digital version (cheaper). You can follow the process quickly, then just track your order until you get it.

More documents and money

So, an IDP could significantly resolve some troubles when you drive in various countries in the world. But there is more- insurance, road tolls or vignettes, etc. You have to prepare all of these documents in advance, to avoid fines or other troubles. You don’t need all of the documents above if you travel by bike, but a car is different.

And of course, you need fuel, and fuel needs money. So, you have to plan your budget in advance. Traveling by car can be quite expensive for a solo traveler, but usually, a cheaper option if you travel with your family or friends.

Damage and accidents

One of the worst things that may happen during your driving trip is the car damage. It depends on where it may happen- if it is in a city, you can easily bring it to a car repair service. But if you are in the middle of a desert… that’s a problem.

You definitelly don't want this
You definitelly don’t want this

So, it is always good to educate yourself at least on the basics of car management and if possible, to bring some spare parts and other useful things with you. Depending on the damage, it would not necessarily resolve the problem but still can increase the chances of repairing. I would advise drivers to check their cars in a repair service before a long trip- if there are hidden problems, they can prevent more serious damage in advance.

But that’s not the worst. The worst is a car accident with injuries or even lives lost. Yes, you should have your insurance and it can help later, but it can’t prevent an accident. So, follow the traffic rules everywhere and always be cautious!

The pros of traveling by car

On the other side, let’s remember the pros of traveling by car. You have full freedom on your schedule. You can go where public transportation doesn’t go. If you drive a van, an RV, or another big enough vehicle, you can use it as your “hotel”, as already said. Also, you can enjoy the landscape around you all the time (but you better stop somewhere for photos, don’t drive and look around at the same time!), being protected from the environment outside- heat, wind, rain, cold.

And finally, with proper preparation, by combining a car with other means of transportation, you can still reach the farthest frontiers on our planet!

Check some books about going on a journey by car driving:


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Traveling the world by car is a great adventure. But it can bring some troubles. Read below about these troubles and how to avoid them. Traveling the world by car is a great adventure. But it can bring some troubles. Read below about these troubles and how to avoid them.

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