You might have aced your driving test back home after tonnes of hours driving around and you might even be confident you could apply your advanced street-driving skills to one of those town-under-siege scenarios often depicted in the movies, but when you’re on a trip abroad driving poses a whole new set of challenges (trust me, I’ve done enough of it). I lay absolutely no claim to having driven in all the countries in world – I mean I’ve not been to all the countries in the world, yet – but the few countries I have been to have given me quite a bit of insight which could probably come in handy, whichever foreign country you’re going to be driving in because, let’s face it, once you’ve driven in a few, they all become pretty similar.
I’ve also liaised with some mates of mine and fellow travel-buddies who’ve been to some of the other countries I’ve not yet been to, so that experience by extension, if you like, will definitely come in handy as well.
First things first – you should know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. You’ll likely be hiring a car if you’re going to be driving in a foreign country you’re going to visit, and if so, don’t get ahead of yourself by hiring it before you get a feel for what driving might be like in that country. There are likely a different set of road rules to have to adhere to and there’s also the small matter of some countries driving on the right-hand side of the road, which is obviously different to us over here in the UK. At first, it’s weird but you eventually get used to it. For example, there’s the whole turning right and yielding thing in the US if you’re going out there and driving. That’s weird to get your head around and it varies from state to state but it’s wise to do some reading around before you go.
Driving in a place like South Africa was quite a breeze since their road rules are about the same as ours, but wait until you come into contact with the mini-bus drivers – they’re even known by the locals to sort of operate on a totally different set of road rules! In Brazil they drive on the right hand side of the road. A skilled driver can generally adapt to having to drive on the “wrong” side of the road, but that process is best aided by driving an automatic car and there aren’t many of those in Brazil. Additionally, the roads don’t really follow the conventional grid-system as is otherwise the case here in the UK and in a place like South Africa, so in addition to trying to master a left-hand drive manual vehicle which is then naturally driven on the right hand side of the road, you’ll have to contend with other impatient drivers and what appears to be a spiralling road system – especially in the big cities like Sao Paulo.
Just like here in the UK, sometimes you require specialised tyres like winter tyres when conditions get really bad weather-wise, so that’s something else to consider. You don’t want to be driving around with your summer tyres on and lose control of your car and then who knows what may happen.
In some countries you really shouldn’t bother trying to drive yourself, because you will cause or get involved in an accident. I mean have you seen how crazy the roads are in India for instance? It really doesn’t appear as if there are any road rules at all and I have it on good authority that you don’t even need a driver’s license to drive whatever vehicle is available for you to get behind the wheel of. A good mate of mine said pretty much the same applies to Cairo, Egypt, where there are even camels and donkey carts on the roads. Imagine trying to contend with that as well as trying to adjust!