Hiring a car on holiday gives you a great deal of freedom, allowing you to get off the beaten track and fit more sightseeing into your holiday. However, if you’re a British holidaymaker, driving while abroad can present many challenges. Only about a third of the countries in the world drive on the left, so unless you’re visiting Australia, or parts of South Asia or Southern Africa, you’re probably going to have to learn to drive on the right. So how do you get used to this change?
1. Make your first trip somewhere easy
Don’t make your first journey on the right-hand side during rush hour on the autobahn or through a traffic-clogged city centre. Some countries have terrible reputations for having poorly maintained roads or locals who don’t obey traffic laws, so it’s worth knowing the safest and most dangerous places to drive across the world. British travellers may want to learn to drive somewhere quiet, and where locals are used to confused tourists on the roads. The Canary and Balearic Islands, islands around Greece, and Spanish coastal areas tend to be quite tourist-friendly, so it’s worth hiring a car and getting some practice before you commit to an epic road trip.
2. Know the local laws
It’s important to have a quick read-up on local traffic laws and familiarise yourself with any unusual or unique road signs. Remember, not all countries will have signs in English, especially once you get off the beaten track, so you may want to download a translation app on your phone. If you take your own car, you may need to carry certain items, i.e. in France you’ll need to carry a warning triangle, fluorescent vest, first aid kit, fire extinguisher and more. If you’re caught without them, you can get fined.
You should also read up on local customs that aren’t officially law, but drivers will expect you to know. For example, if you drive in Turkey, you’ll find people beep their horn at you a lot, especially if you hesitate for more than a second, and tailgating is quite common. Other drivers aren’t trying to be threatening, it’s just how they drive.
3. Get the right insurance
Getting the right insurance is very important when driving abroad, and you shouldn’t assume that your travel insurance policy will cover everything. Even if you take your own car overseas within the EU, you may not have a great deal of cover, and your breakdown cover may not extend to destinations abroad. You should look at options for temp cover for the duration of your holiday so you have the best possible level of cover.
4. Choose a suitable hire car
Driving on the right is a little easier if you have a left-hand drive, and if you hire an automatic then you also don’t need to worry about gears. If you have the option of hiring a GPS, then this can help too, as you can focus on the road rather than directions. Stick to a car that’s similar to your vehicle at home, as this will mean you’ll already be used to this size and style of car.
While driving on the right can be nerve-wracking, it’s a handy skill for travellers as it opens up so many more destinations around the world.