Travel website Jaunted recently posted five tips for folks who rent cars in countries where drivers must navigate on the “wrong” side of the road. Those of us in North America must get used to driving on the left side of the road in Britain, Ireland, and several other countries.
In my opinion, three of the five tips Jaunted offers fall into the “any idiot” category: Take it slow and do lots of checking, watch the turn signals, and stay on your side of the road and in the slow lane of superhighways. And one tip—get a co-pilot (backseat driver or kibitzer) who can keep reminding you where to turn—would irritate more travelers than it would help.
But I agree strongly with one of Jaunted’s recommendations: Rent an automatic. When you’re coping with mirror-image traffic patterns, you need to keep your concentration on your driving, especially in complicated situations such as roundabouts where you have to downshift. Shifting gears—with the wrong arm, no less—is an added distraction you don’t need. Even though I’m comfortable with stick shifts in most parts of the world, I always rent an automatic in Britain.
And I would add another tip to Jaunted’s list: On your first try, stay out of big cities and off busy superhighways. Find someplace where you can get the feel of wrong-side driving without endangering yourself or others. I once described my first foray into wrong-side driving as “15 minutes of stark terror, followed by hours of boredom.”
Recognize that wrong-side driving is something of a challenge. But it’s a challenge you can overcome. Don’t let it prevent you from enjoying the pleasures of motoring through the British countryside or exploring New Zealand’s spectacular South Island.
Do you have any tips for driving on the other side of the road? Share them in the comments below.
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