Driving in America
During your escorted tour of the USA you will be spending much of your time on the road, so it is important to understand the legal requirements to ensure you are safe at all times.
In addition this page will give you an idea of what costs you can expect to incur while driving; please also see our guide to tipping at fuel stations.
Officially, a full UK driving licence is accepted on its own for a period of up to one year, without being backed up by an International Driving Permit (IDP) which verifies that you hold a valid driving licence in your own country.
In practice, many hire companies, as well as many police officers in the event of an accident or a routine check will not be content unless you can produce an IDP, so we strongly recommend that all drivers obtain one.
This must be done before travelling. An IDP costs £5.50 and is easily available from:
If you have a photocard licence, you must be sure to take the counterpart paper licence with you as well. Provisional UK licences are not valid in the US. Any driving licence endorsement should be declared to your rental company. For most rental companies the named driver must be at least 25 years old (some allow younger drivers at an extra charge) and have at least one year’s experience on a full licence.
Information on obtaining disabled parking permits is available from the US embassy website.
On individual tailor made holidays, depending on your rental company, your vehicle rental includes Vehicle Incident Protection (VIP). This reduces your liability to $700 per incident. At all times you are responsible for up to $700 per occurrence as a deductible excess. It also includes coverage for public liability, property damage and/or personal injuries, limited to the minimum financial limits determined by the US state (or Canada province) in which the incident occurred.
Supplemental Liability Insurance (SLI) can be prepaid at the time of booking and covers the difference between the underlying insurance and up to $1,000,000 against claims by a third party for bodily injury and/or property damage resulting from an accident. There is no deductible excess with the SLI.
An imprint of a major credit card is required while the vehicle is rented.
Driving in the United States
The US has an excellent highway system and rules of the road are broadly similar to Europe. Vehicles drive on the right-hand side of the road and in most states the use of seat belts is compulsory (and is in any case strongly recommended). Highway speed limits are typically 55-75 mph but can vary from state to state, so pay attention to the black on white speed limit signs (you may also see white on black signs, headed 'NIGHT', if a different limit is imposed for nighttime driving). When a yellow school bus stops and its red lights are flashing, traffic travelling in both directions must stop.
If at traffic lights there is a “Right on red” sign, you are allowed to turn right through a red light provided that the way is clear.
Alcohol - It is a criminal offence to operate, or to be in the care or control of, a vehicle, whether in motion or not, with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of more than 0.8mg. Some studies suggest that at this level you can be up to 11 times more likely to have an accident than with a BAC of zero, which is the recommended level for driving. Driving under the influence of alcohol or non-prescription drugs is taken very seriously in the US.
The legal age for drinking or for public possession of alcohol is 21; some states specifically prohibit minors from drinking alcohol while others permit it. In many states it is illegal to carry an open alcohol container in a moving vehicle or in a public place. In some states opened alcohol may be permitted in a parked vehicle if kept away from the driving area and the driver, but check this with your campground on arrival.
Mobile phone (cell phone) use - Is banned in some states, permitted in others and still being debated in the rest. For safety reasons it is very strongly recommended that you do not use a mobile phone when driving. There might also be implications for your motorhome rental insurance.
Seat belt use - Is governed by state, not federal, law. All states have seat belt laws for children, almost all have them for adults and the use of seat belts by all vehicle occupants is strongly recommended.
For state-by-state information on driving laws in the US, visit the Driving Laws America website.
Fuel is known as gasoline or gas. For motorhomes it is always unleaded and generally costs far less than fuel in the UK, being generally cheapest on the Gulf of Mexico coast and more expensive as you go further north, east and west. At the time of writing the average US price was $3.81 per US gallon (equivalent to $1.01 per litre; a US gallon is equivalent to about 3.79 litres). The price can also vary depending on whether you use a ‘full-service’ or ‘self-service’ garage. Credit cards are widely accepted. You have to pay before you fill up, which means deciding in advance how much fuel you want to buy. It is usually easiest to start off in increments of $100, until you get to know your vehicle’s fuel usage.
For current fuel prices by region, please visit the Energy Information Adminstration website.
Tolls/National park entry fees
These are not included in your holiday and you will need to pay them as you go. Tolls may be payable for tunnels and bridges, or for some stretches of road also known as turnpikes. Turnpike tickets issued usually include the time of entry, so that a fine can be issued should your time on leaving the turnpike indicate a speeding offence.
An ‘America The Beautiful’ pass allows entry to National Parks and other recreation lands for the holder and three adults (children under 16 enter free). Over 62s and the disabled may receive a discount. It does not cover, or offer discount on, other fees (such as camping). You can buy the pass online for $80 via the website.
ABTA and ATOL protected
to download the ATOL factsheet for holiday protection information and more...
Please see our booking conditions for information on how financial protection applies to your booking.