Free and easy holidays have and will always be our choice of travel. We loved the freedom it gave us so that we can explore off the beaten destinations, do some hiking, linger a little while longer at places we like or simply do nothing if fatigue kicks in. However, with a job to hold, month-long vacation is out of the question. To fully utilise our limited time, driving on a holiday became our best mode of transport.
Even since our maiden driving trip in United States, we became addicted to driving holidays. This addiction just got stronger after each trip!
The first question that comes to mind for each pre-trip preparation is which side does the destination country drives on. We came from a right-hand drive country. So, what’s the implication for us when the destination country drives on the left?
We have drove in these left-hand drive countries: United States of America, Austria, Spain, Croatia, Slovenia, Portugal, Germany and Italy. For right-hand drive countries, we have drove in Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia. So, what’s our take on driving in a country that drives on the left versus one that drives on the right?
Put it simply, right-hand drive means the driver seat is on the right and the gear box is on its left; while left-hand drive is the reverse. For a manual-geared car, it poses a huge hurdle for drivers since we are mostly trained to coordinate our hands based on either right-hand or left-hand drive and not both.
The good news is, with the introduction of auto-geared car, the above problem has become non-existence. The bad news however is, auto-geared cars are considered a premium breed in some countries (for example Croatia). This means your cost of renting a car can increase two to three fold.
Traffic Rules Differences
Of course, there are more than just the position of the driver’s seat between right-hand drive and left-hand drive. The most important differences lie in the change in traffic rules.
In a right-hand drive, left turn to the first lane and right turn to the opposite lane.
In a left-hand drive, left turn to the opposite lane and right turn to the first lane.
Often, we find this change in rule the most challenging (and probably the most dangerous) for us since we had to constantly remind ourselves not to “fall back to our nature” and turn into on-coming traffics. Being on holiday, sometimes (in fact quite often) we do experience joy and excitement overrun thereby almost turning into the wrong lane.
The Right of Way
At a cross road junction that does not have a traffic light, who has the right of way? For right-hand drive, always give way to the vehicle on your right. For left-hand drive, always give way to vehicles on your left. If you look at the above pictures, this rule is self-explanatory.
Expressway or Highway
In a right-hand drive country, slow-moving vehicles keep to the extreme left lane and overtake on the right. In a left-hand drive country, slow-moving vehicles keep to the extreme right lane and overtake on the left.
We felt this one is the easiest since we practically don’t need any effort to accustom to it. It is definite that there will be slow-moving vehicles and trucks driving on an expressway (or highway). They serves as a natural reminder.
We have shared our experience of left-hand drive in the most simplistic manner so that anyone can understand. In a nutshell, except for the changes highlighted above, there is really nothing more dangerous or complicated when switching your driving sides. Just practice the usual…be patience, alert, cautious and polite (signal early if you intend to overtake or change lanes), then what’s left is enjoy your road trip fully!