Different countries have different traffic and driving regulations. As a tourist, it is only fair that you familiarize yourself with what awaits you before traveling. This is especially important if you plan to hire a car to easen your movement in a foreign city or town.
Driving in a foreign country isn’t hard. But, things could easily take a turn for the worst for unprepared drivers. We are all too familiar with some of the frustrations we experience on the road. In addition to slow drivers, litter on the highway, bright lights and slow traffic; not knowing what to do or how to maneuver around a new city could easily get you extra stressed.
There are, however, a couple of things that you can do to ensure that this doesn’t happen. We all want to have a good time away from home. Exploring a new place behind the wheel shouldn’t be challenging or overbearing. Here are a few important concerns that you should keep in mind:
1. Apply for an International Driver’s License
In addition to having your local driver’s license, carry with you an international driver’s license. If you don’t have one, apply.
An International Driver’s License is acceptable in all countries that are signatories to the Convention on Road Traffic (1949). It is also recognized by those not in compliance. It is a necessity in some countries and car rental agencies across the globe.
The license is important because it contains additional information about your identity. This comes in handy in case of an emergency. It translates the information provided by your local license into different languages and adds onto that some vital statistics.
It is important to note that in certain situations, the lack of a particular piece of information could lead to problems such as forfeiture of a car, detention or unnecessary penalties.
2. Driving on the wrong side of the road
About 35% of the all the countries in the world drive on the left-hand side of traffic. These countries span across Europe, Africa, Asia, South America and the Caribbean Basin.
Driving in a country whose traffic flows on the opposite side means that you’ll need to pay extra attention. You might need to concentrate more when it comes to making turns and maneuvering round-a-bouts.
In most countries, however, the roads are marked for you to make the right choices. Before taking turns or driving around tight spaces, take a minute and remind yourself. Or better yet, give your traveling companion the mandate of reminding you to stay left or right.
Always remember that cars will have their steering wheels on the opposite side of traffic flow. In addition, hire a car with an automatic gearshift to make matters less complicated. This will ensure that you don’t forget to change gears with your other hand. Also, avoid driving at night or when you’re exhausted. You might just forget to stay left!
3. Familiarization with International Road Signs
There are countries out there that use different alphabets from the ones we’re used to. Fortunately, thanks to the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals, most of the road signs we have today are standardized.
This means that you might find most of your local road signs in a foreign country. What’s important, however, is that you’re capable of recognizing the meaning behind each pictograph.
Road signs will vary according to types. They include warning/danger signs; priority road signs; mandatory signs; information, facility and service signs; prohibitive or restrictive signs; direction, position as well as indication signs. Most of these are uniform and simple in design. They have very little variation from country to country.
To familiarize yourself with them, take a look at your local guidebook or map.
4. Language Differences
Before getting to the more complicated aspects of language differences, it is important to realize that distances and speed limits are measured differently. In the United States, for example, distances are expressed in miles. Majority of the world’s population, however, uses the metric system – meters and kilometers. For familiarization purposes, 0.6 miles make a kilometer while 1.6 kilometers make a mile.
When it comes to variation in official and national languages, there are a few things foreign drivers can do to facilitate communication.
The first is learning the basics. If you plan to stay for a short period of time, learn how to greet people in their local language. You don’t have to be fluent. In case of an emergency, however, knowing how to ask for directions or to give a warning could go a long way.
Secondly, you can use visual methods to communicate. We are all visual learners. You could use pictures to avail your instruction or message. Having cue cards and signs could be a great way to supplement your basics.
Thirdly, make use of technology. Google has one of the most reliable online tools that help to break language barriers. It is basic and simple to use. In addition, it teaches how to pronounce words in different languages.
While trying to communicate, never assume that you understand everything that is being said to you. Always ask for clarification to ensure that you have everything right.
5. Learning from local drivers
If you’re not sure about something while driving along the highway, take a second and observe what local drivers are doing. It might be that you’re not sure about that turn or how to maneuver a round-a-bout. Observing how others drive around could provide you with a solution.
However, as you try to learn, don’t let anyone harass you. If someone wants you to drive much faster than you’re comfortable with, pull to the side and let them pass. Do the same if someone flashes their lights at you. The last thing you need amid all the confusion is an altercation.
6. Avoid Distractions
Listening to loud music as you drive will impede your ability to react appropriately to honking vehicles, ambulances and approaching trains. This and other activities such as getting dressed, eating, reading, using headphones, fiddling with your radio, talking on the phone and talking to passengers only take you further away from safe driving.
Multitasking delays your ability to respond rapidly in the event of an unexpected outcome. Even though you’re not likely to get pulled over for trying to talk to your passenger, the last thing you want to do is to cause chaos in another country. Furthermore, in some places, some of these actions are illegal.
With these important driving aspects in mind, your time as a tourist and driver should be stress-free. Be it for work, vacation or visiting purposes; touring another country is an opportunity to have a good time away from home. Why not learn a thing or two about safe driving to make your experience more memorable?