One big thing that people forget when traveling out of the country is that traffic doesn’t always flow in the same direction. Although North Americans are accustomed to driving on the right side of the road, one sixth of the world’s population is driving on the left. That one sixth includes countries such as the UK, Australia, Japan, and India. If you’re planning on traveling to any of these countries, it’s important that you learn how to drive on the left side of the road. Here are seven tips for driving on the left side of the road to keep you safe while you travel:
1. Get some practice somewhere quiet
When you first hop off the plane and get into your rental car, don’t drive yourself right into the middle of a big city. Perhaps take a cab or bus to a quieter area of town and grab a rental car there to avoid having to drive from the airport. Once you get the car, take it for a spin in a parking lot or in a residential area. If it’s your first time driving on the left, chances are it’s going to take some time to get used to the flow of traffic. It’s worthwhile to just sit in your car for ten minutes and watch the flow of traffic and get the whole driving on the “left” thing jammed into your head.
2. Stick with an automatic car
A big mistake that tourists make is renting a manual car (usually due to the cheaper price). Not having to change gears will allow you to focus more on other functions of the car, such as the windshield wipers, lights, and GPS. Remember that If you do rent a manual car, you’ll have to switch gears with your left hand.
3. Familiarize yourself with your new ride
The center of a big city is not the place to learn how to use your windshield wipers, lights, or radio. Take some time to learn all of the controls before you take off onto the main streets. Driving on the left side of the road is already a challenge itself but having to use your left hand for your wipers, lights, and so forth makes it twice as difficult.
4. Take a driving lesson
If you intend to stay somewhere for a long period of time, take a short driving lesson with a local. Not only will you learn how to drive on the left side of the road, but you’ll also learn traffic laws that differ from your own country. An hour or two of class would suffice and could prevent an accident in the future.
5. Prepare yourself for roundabouts
Roundabouts are a common characteristic of European roads and Americans nor Canadians are used to driving on them. Take roundabouts slowly and always make sure to yield to any incoming cars. The flow of roundabouts is the opposite, so always make sure to go around them to the left (clockwise).
6. Passing on the highway
If you’re a slow driver, stay out of the right lane that is used for passing. Slow traffic needs to stay on the left. Remember, just like driving in North America, try to stay with the flow of traffic. If someone is on your tail, move over. The same common rules of courtesy apply to countries that drive on the left side of the road also.
7. Follow the leader
Ever get caught up in a bad snow or rainstorm and followed the person in front of you because you didn’t know where you were going? This trick also works in countries that drive on the left side of the road! You can follow another drive that is headed in the same direction as you to ensure you’re using the correct lane. Don’t be aggressive and speed past cars, use them to your advantage to help guide you.
Learning to drive abroad is always an adventure and will come easier to some than others. Some may ask, “what do you need to drive abroad?” The answer is: common sense and practice. The above tips for driving abroad and hacks above will really help you learn how to drive on the left hand side of the road. Becoming skilled in both left hand and right hand driving will give you many more opportunities to explore the world.