For most people that do not have a lot of driving experience it is completely normal to be a little overwhelmed when behind the wheel for the very first time driving abroad. This is especially complicated when you need to drive on the other side of the road (or car). It is also possible that there are other rules and regulations that have to be respected. Many things have to be taken into account and the trip planning phase should not be taken lightly even when you're not driving abroad.
The problem with most travelers that will drive for the first time in another country is that they do not plan ahead of time. Car maintenance is important and they may see their local mechanic like Pickerings Auto in Arvada, CO to get their car checked out, or just rent something when they arrive. This is not enough. If you are going to be driving abroad for the very first time, here are some tips that will surely help you out.
Get Used To The Car
Even if you are driving your own vehicle, when you are in another country you want to get used to the experience. Just think about how it would be to suddenly have to drive on the other side of the road. This is stressful. If you're driving abroad in a vehicle with the steering wheel on the opposite side than you are accustomed to it is even more stressful, such as when you have to change gears with the “other” hand.
In order to build confidence, practice by driving around a parking lot before getting out on the road. This allows you to get used to the new car and even practice the use of the new auxiliary controls, like headlights, indicators and wipers. It's important to quickly know where something is when you reach for it.
Rent Automatic Cars
These are particularly useful for the nervous driver because of the fact that you cannot really stall them. There is no clutch that you need to worry about. This means you can be relaxed and stay focused on actually driving. The left leg is going to always rest and you will have fewer things to worry about.
If this is the first time driving an automatic car, rent one where you live before you travel so you can get used to the experience. This allows you to quickly and easily adjust once you get to your destination. Many rental places my only have manual vehicles and it might be a good idea to learn before you leave instead of assuming an automatic car will be available to rent. Driving abroad in a strange place is not a place to learn how to drive stick.
Know The Law
It is surprising to see how many drivers believe the law is always the same. Although there are so many laws that are exactly the same and road signs can teach you about some of the speed limits, laws do differ a lot from one country to the next. It is important that you conduct good research.
Think about the side of the road you will have to drive on, and check and see if you need specific documents or equipment carried inside the car. Also, make sure to follow local car seat regulations when traveling with children. If you plan to drive through many countries, you'll have to check the laws in all of them.
Use The Slow Lane
Feeling a little anxious as you're driving abroad is completely natural. The same thing happens when experiencing dual carriageways for the very first time. What you should do is to go at the current pace that you are fully comfortable with. For many drivers this actually means using the slow lane, especially during the first couple of days.
Staying in the slow lane allows you to get used to everything until you are fully confident that you can drive in the fast lane. When you are particularly nervous, just wait for bigger traffic gaps before making any lane changes.
Get A GPS
One of the most common problems when driving abroad is getting lost. A very simple solution is to use a GPS. You can simply buy one or get one from where you rent the car. The GPS is going to help you find all the main attractions and can easily prevent all potential arguments over all directions. Don't assume your cell phone will work when you're driving abroad, it's very easy to get into places without cell phone towers.
Do Not Drive When Tired
It is always important to be alert as you drive but you might not really consider this when you are at home since you know all the roads to perfection. As you drive a car you are not familiar with, or you are in another country, you have to be even more attentive.
Concentration is important even for the shorter journeys. Remember that it is better to simply take a nap at a service station and then grab a cup of coffee than to drive tired.
Also see our article: "IS A WOMAN CONSIDERED MORE OF A BAD DRIVER VS. A MAN? MYTH BUSTED".