Transportation and the Car

You might be coming from a city with an extensive public transportation system. You might not be used to driving every day and will require some time to adjust to driving on a daily basis, handling your host family’s car, and navigating the neighborhood.

Even if you may be a great driver at home, you are still a new driver in your host country. This may be the first time you are using certain measurements, such as meters and liters.

Depending on the country you are headed to, this may also be the first time you will drive on the left-hand side of the road. To help you acclimate to driving in your area, you may want to ask your host family to print out maps to get to the most common destinations or program them into a phone or GPS system. Some examples would be the children’s school, the city center, shopping areas, the pediatrician/hospital, the grocery store, the park/playground, or the bus or train station.

  • Ask your host family to show you the location of the children’s safety seat and safety devices. How do you use and install them?
  • Are you allowed to eat in the car?
  • Are you allowed to use the car overnight? Is there a car curfew?
  • How do you put gasoline in the car? What type of gas do you use? Who pays for gas when you are off duty?
  • Where is the emergency brake? Does your host family use it regularly?
  • Drunk driving prevention: Never drink and drive or travel with someone who has been drinking.
  • Where are the turn signals? How do you use the windshield wipers? How do you change the windshield wiper fluid?
  • Do you have roadside assistance (like AAA)? What should you do for roadside assistance?
  • Does your host family have a GPS device that you will use? How does it work?
  • What should you do if the battery dies or the keys are locked in the car?
  • Where are the vehicle’s insurance information and car registration kept?
  • Where should you park the car: a garage, driveway or a certain street?
  • What are the car maintenance procedures and how often are these done?
  • Are there restrictions on where you can drive? For example: not on the highway, only in town, not in a nearby city, etc.
  • Are there rules of the car? For example, no cell phones while driving, no one else is allowed to drive the car but the au pair, or to always lock the doors.
  • Are there any other specific car rules and policies?

Driving Practice

We recommend spending at least 10 to 20 hours with your host parents to practice driving. We also recommend that you separate the driving training into three separate parts.

To start, a host parent should be driving the car with you in the passenger seat, but no children in the vehicle. The host parent should drive you to all of the usual places you will be driving to: the school, playground, or shopping center. Host parents should talk about the car, roads, signs, turns, directions, and so on. This process should be repeated several times together, having you ask questions along the way.

The second part of driving training should be you in the driver’s seat and a host parent as the passenger. You should drive the same routes over and over again, with the host parent giving you constructive feedback. This should happen a number of times, spread out over several days.

The third part of training should be you in the car by yourself, with maps or a GPS system, but with no children in the car. You should drive to all of the destinations repeatedly until you feel secure. This may take some time, but it is essential that you feel confident driving the car in the community.

Here some things to cover during driving training:

  • Driving laws: Ask your host family if there is a place (like the DMV here in the U.S.) to pick up a free booklet with driving regulations.
  • Ask your host family to explain the meaning of road signs.
  • Ask your host family about right-of-way situations, as these differ in other countries.
  • Ask your host family for examples of why a driver might receive a ticket.
  • Remember to wear a seatbelt at all times.
  • Can you turn on a red light in your host country?
  • Highway passing rules also vary by country.
  • There is absolutely NO drinking and driving.
  • What should you do if you are out with friends and there is not a safe ride home? Ask your host family whom you should call in this kind of situation.
  • What if there is an accident with another car? What steps should you take?
  • What if there is an accident with another car, but the owner of the other car is not there?
  • What speed limits should you be aware of?
  • Any additional driving rules?

Next: Work Responsibilities »

U.S. Department of State-Designated J-1 Visa Sponsor
Alliance for International Exchange
The International Coalition for Global Education and Exchange
European-American Chamber of Commerce New York
Global Ties U.S.
International Au Pair Association
WYSE Travel Confederation