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What should I know before I rent a car in a foreign country?

Although the laws governing car rentals differ in every country, here are some general rules.

First, most countries will accept your valid state driver's license with another form of photo ID. Some countries may also require an International Driver's Permit (available through AAA offices). Check with an AAA travel office before you travel. You don't need to take a test to get an International Driver's Permit; all it does is explain (in a number of languages) the type of license you have, any limitations that apply and when it will expire.

Second, your personal automobile insurance policy may have restrictions or limitations on driving in foreign countries. Check your coverage, including the terms of your credit card policy, before you rent in a foreign country.

Third, in some countries, the police will take your license if you are involved in an accident or stopped for a moving violation, and will not return it until you have paid any applicable fine. Get receipts for all payments you make, and report any mistreatment or apparent scams to the American embassy or consulate in that country.

Fourth, certain European countries track traffic violations with street cameras that photograph cars at intersections. The police trace the drivers using the license plate number of the car and request payment from the rental car company for the ticket. The rental car company is within its rights to collect the fine from you, even if the company is informed of the violation after you have returned and paid for the car.

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