The best (and worst!) countries for driving abroad

Hannah Norton

Jan 2, 2024

Whether you’re planning a road trip or want to visit a country’s key cultural hotspots, one of the best ways to see a new place is by car. However, the thought of driving can be intimidating in a foreign country – especially if you have to drive on the opposite side of the road, and there’s a different highway code.

In addition to unfamiliar roads, there are so many factors associated with driving that are out of your control – from road quality, through to other dangerous drivers. With 1.35 million fatal accidents across the world every year (equating to one casualty every 24 seconds);1 it’s always crucial to ensure you and your passengers’ safety, whether you’re driving at home, or abroad.

With that in mind, we decided to find out the best (and worst!) countries in the world for driving in. To do this, we analysed several factors, from road fatalities through to congestion, petrol prices, and more.

As experts in car insurance, we also get into what to do with your car insurance policy for your own car at home while you get set for an international holiday.

These are the best countries for driving abroad

So, which countries scored the best for driving, in terms of both safety and cost?

1. Spain

Spain is officially the best country for driving abroad in, and for good reason! Not only does it have the third lowest car hire costs, at around AUD$48 (GBP£25) for a week, but it also has the fifth best levels of road quality, with a score of 5.7/7; and the ninth lowest number of road accidents, at 3.9 deaths per 100,000 people.

Whether you opt for an Andalucian adventure full of flamenco and fantastic food, or a trip along the Basque Country and Pyrenees for hiking and some of the best views in the country, there are loads of amazing road trip opportunities in Spain.


2. Canada

Canada makes it into second place, with its vast empty roads ideal for international drivers. Petrol costs at the time data was collected (13 November 2023) were just AUD$1.943 (GBP£1.01) for a litre (the third cheapest on our list!), and Canada has the fourth lowest congestion levels, taking around 14 minutes to drive 10km.

With 8,040 searches over 12 months for “Canada road trip”, it’s a popular destination for a reason – and there are great drives no matter where you stay in the country. Head from Calgary to Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper, for beautiful mountain and lake views, before ending up in Whistler; or visit the east, and drive from Toronto to Quebec, stopping off at Ottawa and Montreal along the way.


3. USA

With the lowest petrol prices, at just AUD$1.512 (GBP£0.79) per litre, and the second most road trip volume at an impressive 19,200 searches over the year, the USA makes it into a very respectable third place for international drivers.

Sure, car hire costs are on the more expensive side, at an average of AUD$349.44 (GBP£182) for the week, but you have so much choice when it comes to roads to pick. You could opt for the classic Route 66, stretching from Chicago to Santa Monica; the Pacific Coast Highway, from Port Townsend, Washington, to California’s San Diego; or tour the deep south, visiting Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and more.


4. UK

The UK is the fourth best place for driving when abroad, with the highest volume of searches for road trips, at 19,800; as well as the fifth lowest number of road accidents, at 3.21 deaths per 100,000 people.

Whilst congestion levels are highest on the list, taking an average of 36.3 minutes to drive 10km, once you’ve left the major cities, you’ve got less of a chance of getting stuck in traffic. If you’re considering a road trip in the UK, you can drive around the picturesque Peak District or Lake District, or drive the Atlantic Highway, connecting Bath to Falmouth.


5. Portugal

Portugal makes it into our top five, with the fourth best road quality on our list, with a score of 5.99, alongside the fifth cheapest car hire costs, at around AUD$67.20 (GBP£35) for a week.

If it’s beautiful beaches you’re after, then hire a car in the Algarve, to find the best sandy shores, whilst stopping off at Vilamoura so you can soak up the atmosphere at its glamorous marina, or enjoy a spot of golfing in Quinta do Lago.

Alternatively, you could drive down the coast from Porto to Lisbon, which boasts plenty of pretty stop-offs in between.

Europe fares very well, with Sweden, Norway, Italy, Switzerland, and Austria making up the top 10 best places to drive abroad. However, if we look at the different factors analysed; we can see Australia has the lowest congestion levels, taking 12.3 minutes on average, to drive 10km, followed by the Netherlands, at 12.8 minutes.

When it comes to road accidents, Norway and Switzerland have the fewest, with 2.12 and 2.25 deaths per 100,000 people respectively; whereas the Netherlands and Switzerland have the best quality of roads in the world.

These are the worst countries for driving abroad

At the other end of the spectrum, these are the places to be more careful if you’re on the roads, as they’ve come bottom on our ranking.

1. Serbia

Serbia takes the crown as the worst place to drive abroad – and whilst part of it may be down to the fact that congestion levels aren’t available, it doesn’t score well amongst other factors either.

Not only does it have the joint second least searches for road trips, at just 140 (the only place to score lower was Czechia, at a measly 120), but it also has the second worst levels of road quality.

Saying that, petrol is cheap, at AUD$2.581 (GBP£1.34) – but you may choose to consider travelling between cities by bus, as opposed to hiring your own car.


2. Romania

In second place is Romania, with the worst road quality levels on our list, at a score of just 2.95, as well as the second largest number of road accidents, at 10.29 per 100,000 people.

Congestion levels are high, taking around 27.3 minutes to drive 10km; but it’s a budget option if you’re looking for a cheap road trip, as it has the lowest car hire costs (AUD$32.64/GBP£17 for a week), as well as the fourth lowest petrol prices when data was collected (AUD$2.289/GBP£1.19 per litre).


3. Belgium

The third worst country for driving abroad according to our research, is Belgium, and for good reason. Car hire costs are the fifth highest, at approximately AUD$349.44 (GBP£128) for a week, and road qualities are poor.

Belgium also has the sixth highest congestion levels, taking around 25.5 minutes to drive 10km. However, the country is relatively small, and cities are well-connected with trains, so you can easily get from Brussels to Antwerp in 40 minutes, and from Brussels to Brugge in less than hour, making that the ideal option.


4. Greece

Greece comes in fourth place, with the fourth highest number of road accidents, at 8.31 per 100,000 people, as well as the sixth most expensive petrol prices, at an average of AUD$3.138 (GBP£1.63) per litre.

However, car hire costs are the second cheapest, at just AUD$42.24 (GBP£22) for a week. Many of the key tourist destinations will have tours running to key attractions, so you can easily see all of the sights as part of a group, without having to worry about getting behind the wheel yourself.


5. Hungary

Rounding off our top five list of the worst countries to drive abroad in, is Hungary. It has the joint second least search volume for road trips, at just 140; as well as the fourth worst levels of road quality, at a score of 4.02 out of 7.

The country also has the seventh most road accidents, at 7.74 deaths per 100,000. That being said, Hungary is a beautiful country with breath-taking scenery that’s best enjoyed once you drive out of Budapest. Rent a car, and you’ll be able to discover its vast lakes, thermal spas, and dense forests, as well as the pretty cities of Szeged and Debrecen.

Europe makes up the entirety of the top 10 worst countries to drive in, with Croatia in sixth place, followed by Poland, Finland, Czechia, and Denmark. For many Scandinavian countries, it’s the cost of both car hire and petrol that caused them to fare poorly, although many of these countries scored lowly on road trip search volume too, suggesting that people don’t think of those countries when considering a trip by car.

Top things to know when driving abroad

Whilst there are many things to consider when driving abroad, it’s a great way to visit a new country. If you’re thinking of hiring a car or taking your own, make sure you take these three tips into consideration.

1. Check in advance the documents you need

Different countries have different requirements when it comes to carrying documents when driving, so make sure you research in advance what your chosen destination’s laws are. At the very least, you’ll need to bring your full driving licence, logbook, and car insurance certificate; but you may also need an international driving permit (IDP).

2. Read up on the highway code

Don’t just assume your home country’s rules of the road are the same as the place you’re visiting. For instance, if you’re driving in Spain and wear glasses, you’ll need to have a spare pair in your car; in Portugal, it’s illegal to carry bikes on the back of your vehicle, and if you’re in Romania, you could get a fine if the car you’re driving in is dirty.

If you’re found to not be following the rules by the police, then you could either be fined, or have your car confiscated… not great if you’re on a road trip!

3. Carry small change

Many countries have toll roads that provide a quicker route from A to B. Whilst some of them accept cards, not all of them will, so make sure you carry change with you just in case. In some countries such as Portugal, there are pre-pay toll roads, which is why planning ahead is so crucial.

What to do with your car insurance at home when travelling abroad

If you’re planning on going overseas for a big holiday, what will happen to your car at home? What about your car insurance policy?

Adrian Taylor, General Manager of General Insurance at Compare the Market, notes that it is still important to maintain your car insurance even while you’re away.

“If you pay weekly, fortnightly or monthly and are headed off on an overseas adventure that will last a couple weeks to a month or more, you might not want to be paying car insurance for your car at home when you aren’t even in the same country. But keeping coverage can be important,” Taylor begins.

“It maintains your cover so you have insurance in case something happens when you’re away on holiday. It could also be crucial to maintain cover if you bought a new car with a loan and the bank or lender requires you to have a certain level of insurance,” explains Taylor.

Taylor notes that if you are concerned about paying for insurance while away there maybe options available.

“There are a few different ways of saving money on car insurance if you don’t need the car. For example, if the car is parked safe at home in your garage and not being driven, you might consider dropping from comprehensive coverage to a lower level of cover like Third Party Fire and Theft – so long as you don’t need comprehensive due to a loan or other reason, Taylor says.

“You could also swap to a low-kilometre or pay as you go policy that will charge you less if you aren’t driving the car as much. Read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) and Target Market Determination (TMD) to get the ins-and-outs before you change cover so you can decide what course of action is right for you.”




  1. Global Road Safety Statistics. Brake. 2023.


This dataset ranks 25 countries, based on how good they are for driving in. To do this, 6 different factors were used. Once the data for the factors was collected, the factors were then normalised, to provide each factor with a score of between 0 and 1. If data was not available, a score of 0 was given. The normalised values were then summed, to give each location a total score out of 6. The locations were then ranked from highest to lowest, based on their total scores.

The factors used are as follows:

  • Car Hire Cost – The cost to hire a car from midday Monday 20th Nov 2023 – midday Sunday 26th Nov 2023 in the capital city of each country, using the top recommended car.
  • Congestion Levels – The average number of minutes it takes to travel 10km in the capital of each country.
  • Road Accidents – The number of deaths caused from road accidents per 100,000 people in each country.
  • Petrol Prices – The average price for 1 litre of petrol in each country on 13/11/2023.
  • Road Trip Search Volume – The total number of google searches for “[Country] road trip” from November 2022 – October 2023.
  • Road Quality – The road quality score for each country on a scale of 1-7, with 7 being the highest.

The factors were indexed as follows:

  • Car Hire Cost – Low values get a high score. High values get a low score.
  • Congestion Levels – Low values get a high score. High values get a low score.
  • Road Accidents – Low values get a high score. High values get a low score.
  • Petrol Prices – Low values get a high score. High values get a low score.
  • Road Trip Search Volume – High values get a high score. Low values get a low score.
  • Road Quality – High values get a high score. Low values get a low score.

All data is correct as of 13/11/23. The ranking data shown is a compilation of multiple data sources and may not be representative of real life. All data is accurate with regards to the sources provided. Exchange rate used: 1 GBP = 1.92 AUD (Google).