Can I Drive as a Tourist in Texas?

Driving in Texas as a Tourist

Texas is the second-largest state in the United States and has an area of 695,662 square kilometers. In 2020, it had a population of 29,145,505. It welcomes a lot of tourists every year, which positively affects the state's economy until Covid struck. In 2021, it had a total of 1,721,584 visitors. In 2019, Texas had made a revenue of $83 billion from travelers, which dropped to $56.9 billion in 2020 because of the pandemic.

Easy movement is usually required when visitors come to Texas from other states in the US or outside the US, and they plan to stay for a long time in Texas. They may need to drive around, and depending on the situation, it may not be feasible due to local laws. Some states in the US allow tourists to drive; however, the requirements for out-of-state and international tourists are different.

Requirements for Driving in Texas

Like other states in the US, Texas has its driving laws and requirements. Failure to meet these requirements can get you a ticket as a traffic offender. A valid Texas driver's license must be in your name to drive in Texas. The car you are driving must have a valid registration, insurance, title, and other supporting documents. However, there are exceptions for tourists as they can drive in Texas under some conditions.

All cars driving in Texas should stick to these requirements; if they do not, they will get a ticket when pulled over. Getting a ticket or a citation when you get pulled over in Texas means an invite to court. The process can be very time-consuming, and if not handled properly, you may lose your license. To avoid these extremities, abide by the driving rules in Texas.

For international drivers, it is essential to know that we drive on the right in the US and overtake traffic on the left. Most counties in Texas have a "right on red" rule, meaning that when the traffic light is red, you can turn right, provided no bicycles or pedestrians are coming along. Always have your driver's license and vehicle particulars when driving. It is prohibited to text, drink, or be distracted while driving.

If you stay long in Texas, you may consider going to traffic school to understand how driving works in Texas. It pays for drivers from the international community to get informed and comfortable with the driving rules in Texas and the US. You can also download an online copy of the Texas driver's handbook for your consumption.

Tourists Driving in Texas

The US has a couple of non-immigrant visas that can allow visitors to stay in the US for a long time - work visas, for example. Travelers for business purposes, study, or work can cause these tourists to stay in the US for a year or beyond. Staying for that long in the US makes it essential to drive, causing movement to be seamless in the US. To do that, some things need to be in place.

There are different requirements for out-of-state drivers and international drivers in Texas. Out-of-state drivers are allowed to drive in Texas for 30 days using their licenses from other states in the US. This will enable visitors from out-of-state to stay in Texas for a while before going back to their base. Visitors coming in from other states with their cars have a grace period of 30 days from your arrival in Texas before they need to get a Texas license plate. Only visitors from out-of-state staying in Texas for more than 30 days with their cars need to get registered.

International visitors can drive in Texas with a valid license from their home country, provided they come along with an International Driver's License or Permit (IDL or IDP). IDP is a document that serves as a form of identification issued in your home country. It is a translation of your driver's license into ten different languages and can allow its holders to drive in foreign countries legally where it is recognized. The IDP cannot be used alone and must always be used together with one's valid driving document from their home country.

The US does not issue IDP to foreigners; hence foreigners who plan to drive in Texas should obtain it from their home country before their travel. Some states other than Texas allow visitors to drive in their state without an IDP, so if you want to drive out of Texas to other states as a foreign driver, you know what to expect. To be safe, hold your IDP everywhere you go. With an IDP, foreigners can drive in Texas for a period of one year from your entrance to Texas. When driving with a foreign driver's license and an IDP, ensure you constantly go along with your passport if you get pulled over. After this period, foreigners who need to drive in Texas will need to obtain a driver's license.

Can a Foreigner Apply for a Texas Driver's License?

A foreigner who has to stay in Texas for more than a year which his IDP permits may need to get around, and they will need a Texas driver's license for that. Texas and some other states in the US allow tourists to apply for a driver's license based on their tourist visa, while others do not. Texas allows tourists with a B2 visa to apply for a driver's license.

To get a driver's license based on a tourist visa in Texas, you will need to provide the following documents:

  • Your passport serves as proof of your identity.
  • An I-94 form, which shows your expected departure date from Texas
  • Valid registration documents for your vehicle
  • Your IDP or driver's license

You will take a driver's test after bringing these documents to the county office closest to you in Texas. A temporary driver's license which expires on your expected departure date, is given if you pass the test. You can drive around in Texas with this license without the fear of being pulled over. Other visa types, such as student visas or work visas, may require additional documents apart from those stated above to secure a temporary driver's license.

Reciprocity Agreements

The US has a reciprocity agreement with other countries where citizens can exchange their home country's driver's license for a US driver's license. Following this arrangement, visitors from countries with this agreement with the US can get a US driver's license without going through the regular tests for obtaining a driver's license. Visitors from Taiwan, Canada, Japan, Germany, France, and South Korea can enjoy this benefit when they move to the US.


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