Travel can often involve driving in foreign places, sometimes even on the “other” side of the road to your home country.
The freedom of driving around a new place is amazing… it gives you the ultimate flexibility to get around and see places not accessible by public transport.
Just so you know, people drive on the left-hand side of the road in most countries which were once British colonies including Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, India, South Africa, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Jamaica, Kenya, Singapore, Thailand, Cyprus and the Caribbean. Rumour has it that this was historically because British horseback riders used to ride on the left-hand side of the road so that they could greet passers-by with their right arms (ref). Generally, everywhere else in the world, people drive on the right-hand side of the road.
If you’re interested, this website provides a list of which countries drive on which side of the road.
What it’s like
Driving on the “other” side of the road to your home country can appear extremely dangerous and daunting when you’ve never done it before. Even getting into the passenger side in a foreign country can throw you off if it’s the opposite to what you’re used to.
In saying this, bringing yourself to drive in a foreign country is totally worth the initial discomfort and it will feel second nature in no time.
Tips for driving safer and easier
Here I’ve put together my top tips for driving on the “other” side of the road which I have done many times before.
- Know which side of the road you need to be driving on before you start driving (seems obvious I know but it’s essential). And know what unit of measurement is being used – kilometres or miles.
- Get an automatic car – it’s less to think about – just do it! Also, familiarise yourself with all the features of the car BEFORE you start driving so that you don’t get distracted. This includes indicators, air-conditioning/heating, music, headlights and mirrors. Also will help you mentally slow down and not rush into your journey and increase the risk of an accident.
- Stay 100% focused – eliminate distractions. If you have someone else with you, ask them to stop talking at the start so that you can concentrate. Get them to be your co-pilot and assist by talking you through what you’re doing, and stop you from getting distracted. Make sure that you watch the road, surrounds and keep an eye on what other drivers are doing well ahead.
- Talk through what you’re doing in your head or out loud – especially when turning corners at intersections.
- Have a good navigation system such as Google maps or Wayz so you can be directed to the right place, it will also redirect you if a wrong turn is made. It’s a great way to reduce stress and subsequent mistakes (this includes making sure you have a local SIM and phone data – trust me, it’s totally worth the money)
- Make sure you get insurance, accidents are way more likely when driving in a foreign country… I know from experience…
- Start driving in a quiet area if you can… just while you get the hang of road placement
- Be patient and understand that you will make wrong turns etc… It’s all part of the journey
- But don’t worry, after a short while driving on the other side of the road will become second nature! However, you may become complacent so be aware of this.
A note on international driving permits… they translate your licence into different languages so they can be helpful in foreign countries and they are also a useful form of extra ID. Make sure you also bring your original licence.
Before I leave you there is one more thing that is often overlooked when in a country that drives on the other side… crossing the road as a pedestrian! It can be much more dangerous than you would think so make sure you look both ways, even on one-way streets, and cross with caution (especially if you’ve had a few drinks).
Do you have any other tips for driving on the other side of the road? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.
Thank you for reading and happy travels.
aLarkin Abroad xx