If you’re going on vacation and are going to need to be driving abroad, there will be a lot of things you are going to have to bear in mind. Driving laws and practices differ greatly depending on which country you are currently in and in places like Australia, the driving laws can differ simply depending on the state you are in. I’ve traveled around quite a bit and have had to drive in most of those countries and so here are my tips if this is your first time driving abroad.
You probably already drive pretty well, but that’s in an American car on American roads, but if you go to a country that drives on the left, it can be extremely alien as you will have to learn to use the wrong hand for the gear stick (although it’s safer to get an automatic) and driving on the wrong side of the road just feels weird in general. Although not many countries drive on the left, there are still some major countries that do, for example:
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- The Caribbean
Do your research on the country you’re travelling to as they may require you to carry specific documentation with you. Don’t check the local rules, but the ones for tourists. In Britain, for example, people who live there don’t need to carry any documentation when they drive (not even driving licenses), however tourists will need to. You don’t want to end up in trouble with any local fuzz because you don’t have what you need.
In the US and the UK, driving is quite a polite affair, there is little beeping, and people like to let other people out at junctions and so on, however in many countries it’s more of a free for all. A blast of a horn could mean ‘thanks’, ‘feel free to pull out if you wish’, ‘get out of the way’, ‘you’re an idiot’, or ‘I’m going to run you off the road’. It’s hard to learn this stuff before you go, so the best advice is to not let it faze you when you’re out there, otherwise it might put you off completely. If you allow yourself to get flustered, it could lead to an accident or crash, and I doubt the country your in will have as competent a legal system as a home grown car accident attorney.
A GPS device is a Godsend when on vacation. You wouldn’t know how many times I have gotten lost in the Alps or the Australian Outback before GPS became standard pretty much everywhere. You will probably need to ask your hire car company whether they will include one beforehand as it isn’t always standard for them to do so.
If you’re traveling to Australia, feel free to take the biggest car you can find, as the open spaces mean you won’t get in a sticky situation, however if you’re travelling to Italy or the UK, for example, you will want a smaller car. Some countries are so old and become industrialized so long ago they didn’t really plan the streets for giant 4x4s. Make sure you have a car suitable for the country you are driving in.
Well, those were the issues I most had trouble with when I first started driving abroad. Hopefully, this helped and you won’t end up lost half way up the Dolomites.