Travel

Driving Abroad: 6 Tips for Planning and Safety

Driving abroad can be intimidating and stressful – especially if you’re visiting a country where everyone drives on the opposite side of the road. But learning to overcome this fear and challenge can be rewarding. Driving will give you the opportunity to visit the countryside, where you won’t find public transportation. It also allows you to explore at your own pace.

With that said, the importance of planning and safety cannot be overstated. Here are six tips for driving abroad.

1. Change Some of Your Driving Habits Before You Leave Town

If you’re going to be driving on the opposite side of the road, you may want to make some adjustments to your driving habits now and changing your mindset.

For example, whenever you come to an intersection, come to a complete stop and look both ways. If you’re an American traveling to Ireland, traffic will be coming from the right side, which is not something you’re used to. If you get into the habit of looking both ways, it will be easier for you to learn and get accustomed to watching for traffic on the opposite side.

If you think that you can just fly abroad and start driving like you do back home, you are sorely mistaken. You could easily get injured in an accident or injure other drivers and passengers.

2. Learn the Rules of the Road

If you plan to drive abroad, one of the best things you can do is learn the rules of the road. When I visited Italy, I didn’t think it would be a big deal to drive because they drive on the same side of the road. While many of their rules are the same, I found myself baffled by some signs and even wound up making a wrong turn onto a narrow street only made for pedestrians.

That trip taught me the importance of learning the rules of the road before driving in another country.

Laws vary from one country to the next. Knowing and understanding these laws is important. Yes, you’re a visitor, but that is no excuse to be ignorant of the law.

3. Consider Using Multiple Modes of Transportation

If you plan on visiting cities and then the countryside, you may want to consider using multiple modes of transportation during your trip.

Driving in busy cities can be stressful, especially if you have to drive on the opposite side of the road.

Many European cities have excellent public transportation systems that can get you where you want to go. In fact, most major cities around the world have great public transportation options.

While you’re visiting cities, take advantage of public transportation and wait to rent a car until you’re ready to head out into the countryside. Taking this approach may save you some money, and it will definitely save you the stress of having to drive on busy city streets.

4. Give Yourself Time to Get Used to the Car

Before you head out onto the open road, take some time to get used to the car. If you can, try practicing driving in a quiet car park. This will help you get used to the vehicle, being on the opposite side of the car and using the auxiliary controls, like the headlights, wipers and blinkers.

Keep in mind that if you rented a manual vehicle, you’ll be changing gears with the opposite hand. You can save yourself some frustration by renting an automatic vehicle, but the cost will be significantly higher.

5. Take Your Time

Don’t rush or become flustered by other drivers. Stay in the slow lane until you feel more confident. Going at your own pace will help you stay more relaxed when you’re behind the wheel.

Don’t be put off by the driving habits of others. The driving style may be more aggressive than you’re used to, but remember that other drivers on the road don’t know that you’re a visitor and new to their driving style. Don’t respond to gestures. Just stick to the slow lane and stay calm. If you have to – and it’s safe to do so – pull over until you can regain your composure.

6. Don’t Overdo It

If this is your first time driving abroad, you may want to take it easy. Don’t plan a long road trip the first time you’re out on the road. Drive for shorter distances until you feel more confident behind the wheel.