16 tips for Driving in USA (California) for tourists



Heading for a road trip to the USA?

Read these tips first!

If you need an itinerary to plan a road trip, check out our road trip from LA - Vegas - San Francisco here.


1) You do not need an international license
As long as your license is in English, you should be able to use it for driving in the US. Singapore license are valid in the states.

2) Drive on Right side of the road
For travellers from Britain and its ex-colonies ( Such as Singapore) will have to adjust driving on the right side of the road. As the steering wheel is on the left instead of the right, there is a tendency to keep close to the right. Do be on alert for this

3) Turn right on red
You do not have to wait for traffic to turn green for you to turn right. Unless specific, you are allowed to turn right on Red

4) Speed in Miles not km

Going at 65 miles might look deceiving slow compared to 80 km per hours. However, if you do your conversion, that is an easy 105 km per hour. Do not be fooled by the 'low' speed


5) Watch out for big traffic and other hazards

Trailers are aplenty on the highway. Watch out for them.

6)Prepare your route before your trip

You may get the occasional fog or adverse weather condition when you travel. Always prepare your route beforehand and seek an alternative route if necessary. During the recent California Fire, parts of Highway 1 was closed to traffic. Be aware of such diversion and the implication on your trip

7) Prepare for Long Drives

A day drive could last as long as 8 hours. For those not accustomed to driving long haul, you might want to orientate with shorter journeys before embarking on the longer rides.

8) Parking varies from states to states
Depending on where you are heading, parking does come with a price. Parking in LA is reasonable, but parking in San Francisco can cost you an arm or a leg.

9) Get a GPS
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Even though you could rely on the phone, there might be an occasion where there is no phone network. To mitigate the blindspot, get a GPS. To save cost, purchase a refurbished unit from Amazon. It will be at a fraction of the price compared to renting one.

10) Watch the Fuel Gauge
For those not accustomed to the long drive, a 6 hours consecutive drive over 350 miles would usually require at least one top up for the tank. Do watch the Fuel Gauge

11) Make Pit Stops
Pit Stop: Historic Route 66
On paper, it may look like a 5 hours drive if you choose not to stop. From experience, pit stops are necessary to freshen up and relieve oneself for the long ride.
Peggy Sue

12) Pump at the local brand

Local pumps are cheaper than branded pumps. Both get you to the same place. In fact, opt for the cheapest pump price. After all, it is a rental and not your car.

13) Prepare cash for tolls and Parking
Parking are done by meters and there might be the rare tolls on highways. Either case, be prepared for it. Tolls are found when you enter San Francisco from LA.

14) Go the scenic route

If time is on your side, always try to take the scenic route. After all, what is a road trip without the sights?

Lake Hollywood Park
A must for road trippers in the US is a drive on Route 66. Although much of the Route 66 has disappeared, you can still find a part of it on Historical Route 66. We passed by the route en route to Grand Canyon.
Route 66

15) Get a bigger car 

If you are heading for a road trip, it would be wiser to get an MPV or an SUV. These cars have bigger luggage capacity. The rides on the cars are also higher, giving you a better view of the road while driving. Our recommendation, ditch the sedan or the sports car and go for practicality instead.

16) Go for public transportation in San Francisco
Golden Gate Bridge
When driving between states, a car makes sense. However, in some parts such as San Francisco, you are better off with public transport. Parking can be exorbitant (USD 70 for overnight parking!) and cases of thefts in cars are rampant. Driving in San Francisco can be challenging compared to other states due to its hills as well.


You are better served with Public Transport. For a tour around the city, we recommend the Big Bus San Francisco that takes you to major tourist attraction around town.

Book your Big Bus San Francisco tour here.

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