When you book international car hire, you might expect that the road rules in your destination country differ and that you’ll probably have to drive on the other side of the road. What you might not anticipate is that this will also involve driving on the other side of the car.
Here are a few tips to keep you on the straight – and correct side of everything when driving overseas.
1. Driving on the left-hand side of the car.
This takes some getting used to. Accept in advance that you will probably spend a fair amount of time climbing into the passenger seat before remembering that the steering wheel is on the other side. To make this a little easier on yourself, take a brightly coloured scarf to tie to the headrest – this will give you a visual reminder of which side to get in every time you approach the car.
2. Changing gear with your right-hand.
The gear positions will still be in the same place, but navigating them smoothly and efficiently with your right hand takes a little practice. To minimise gear-crunching or mistakes, rehearse your gear changes while sitting stationary in the car, or better still, whether you collect your rental at an airport or city-centre spot, head to a car park for some practice laps. Do not under any circumstances be tempted to reach across and change gear with your left hand.
3. Remember to drive on the right!
This is perhaps an obvious one, but nonetheless it’s one which is easy to forget. Take a few post-it notes and stick them on the dashboard as another reminder of which side you should be driving on. Most of the time, drivers quickly adapt and it’s not a problem, but when the roads are empty, the radio is playing your favourite song and your confidence has grown a little, it’s easy to lose concentration and drift back to the side of the road you’re used to. Stay alert, don’t drive tired, and make this one particular point, something that everyone in the car is responsible for.
4. Turning at Junctions and Roundabouts
This will perhaps require a little more thought than most aspects of driving on the other side of the road. Take your time. Roundabouts are likely to be your biggest challenge, but fortunately, a lot of international countries have far less of them than we do. Pay attention to the direction of traffic and follow what the car in front of you does. Once you’ve overcome the first one, the rest will be easy.
5. Be Patient and Enjoy it!
You will make mistakes. However, remaining alert will mean they’re quickly rectified and adapting to driving on the right is easier than you think. Research the region you’ll be in before you travel for specific road rules, stay calm, and you’ll find that it quickly becomes second nature. After you’ve done it once, you’ll be renting a car in any and every country that you visit in the future – being independently mobile when on holiday is one of the greatest freedoms you can give yourself so hit the open road and enjoy it.