No matter how cool, calm and competent you are as a driver, the first time you drive overseas is always a challenge. You may be driving a different car from usual, conscious of scratching a rental vehicle, trying to get used to the way that people in another country drive – and you may even be driving overseas, on the other side of the road. Here are some tips that should help you when you’re driving abroad.
First of all, you need to make sure that your insurance covers driving overseas. Let your insurer know that you’re going to be driving in another country and make sure that your policy covers that. You may also want to upgrade that policy for extra protection – it’s definitely a good idea to have break-down cover when you’re driving a car that you aren’t completely familiar with.
You also need to remember to take your license with you – this may seem simple, but a lot of people forget!
If you’ve decided to go with car hire, you’ve given yourself a huge amount of freedom over your trip. You can decide where exactly you want to go and when you want to do it without having to rely on sometimes unreliable public transport, and you’ll be able to reach more out-of-the-way spots like restaurants and beautiful scenery that might otherwise have been hard to visit.
It’s important to make sure that you’re familiar with your car as soon as possible. It will be different from your car at home, so it’s a good idea to practise driving when you can – a couple of runs around the airport car park might be a good plan. Another good plan is to get an automatic car so you don’t have to worry about the clutch – and a sat-nav is a necessity if you want to do lots of stress-free exploring. It’s important to figure out how to use your lights and GPS before you actually need to use them – even your indicators may seem like a mystery when you’re on an unfamiliar road and surrounded by cars with a different style of driving to what you’re used to.
A lot of the time, people choose to rent cars with less powerful engines than the ones they have at home. If you’re used to an Audi and your rental car is more like a Fiat 500, it might take some getting used to. Be careful on motorways and freeways as your acceleration speed will be slower than usual and overtaking won’t be as easy. You should also remember to switch down more gears than usual when you’re going up hills.
Finally, remember that people in different countries drive in different ways. There’s no point in stereotyping what various nations are like, but it does mean that as a driver your observational skills are key. Make sure that you drive slowly and that you’re aware of what crossings look like, and do some research on the road rules of the country and their road signs before you arrive.