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Common Driving Concerns in Spanish-Speaking Countries

7 of 7 in Series: The Essentials of Driving and Getting Around by Car in Spanish-Speaking Countries

Driving in a foreign country can be disconcerting. Addressing common driving concerns (like driver’s licenses and road signs) when planning your trip to a Spanish-speaking country is invaluable. That way, you won’t be caught off guard by the differences in driving customs between where you’re from and where you’re going.

Make sure you have a valid driver’s license

Some countries, including Mexico, accept a valid driver’s license from your home country. Other countries may require you to have an International Driver’s License. You can get one from the American and Canadian automobile drivers’ associations, whether or not you are a member. The association itself can tell you which countries require an International Driver’s License.

Know the Spanish signs of the road

Most road signs in Latin America are based on symbols rather than words. This system makes them very easy to understand, no matter what language you speak. In fact, most driving signs have become quite universal; they’re much the same everywhere:

  • A do not enter sign is a circle in a red field, crossed by a diagonal line.

  • A stop sign is always an octagonal red field with white borders. Inside is a word such as pare (pah-reh) or alto (ahl-toh), instead of the English word stop.

    [Credit: PhotoDisc, Inc.]
    Credit: PhotoDisc, Inc.
  • On the highway, left turns and right turns are indicated with signs that have a diamond shape with an arrow bent in the direction of the turn. A turn sign with a diagonal across it means no turn.

Ask at the car rental office whether you should expect any road signs that you don’t understand.

Whether at the airport or on the street, these two questions can come in handy when you need to find transportation:

  • ¿Dónde arriendan autos? (dohn-deh ah-rreeehn-dahn ahoo-tohs) (Where do they rent cars?)

  • ¿Hay oficina de renta de autos? (ahy oh-fee-see-nah deh rehn-tah deh ahoo-tohs) (Is there a car rental office?)

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The Essentials of Driving and Getting Around by Car in Spanish-Speaking Countries

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