One of the most daunting tasks after moving to a new country will most certainly be assimilating to that territory’s driving rules, but with a little research — not to mention practice — you’ll be driving like a local in no time.
Or at least someone masquerading as one.
Research what you need to get a license and insurance
Before you begin preparing to drive in another country, you need to confirm that you can actually drive in said country and will be covered by insurance.
- Check with your current insurance company to see if you have coverage
- Ask if your coverage is valid in the country you will be driving in (if not, see if your rental comes with insurance)
- Call or visit the local motor vehicle agency and ask what is required to get a license
- Make sure to take note of any documents obtaining your license requires
- Research the license requirements online (if there is a language barrier this may be your best option)
Look into getting an International Driving Permit
In order to avoid the hassle of getting a driver’s license in another country, yet another option available to you is an International Driving Permit.
An IDP is valid in over 150 countries (basically any ones who have signed the 1949 Convention on Road Traffic treaty) and also serves as a form of identification complete with your name, photo and driving information in ten languages. Although it should be noted that some countries require the 1926 Convention IDP.
It is also important to note that your IDP cannot be issued more than six months in advance of the effective date and is only valid for 12 months, so plan accordingly.
Learn the traffic rules
After researching what you need to obtain to drive, it’s time to start studying up on the rules of the road.
- Pick up a booklet on the rules of driving and safety at the local DMV or DMV equivalent
- Peruse the rules on that country’s region-specific motor vehicle website
- Determine whether or not you will be driving on the left or right hand side of the road (AKA the prospect that frightens people the most when driving in other countries)
Take a practice run
If you will be driving on the “wrong” side of the road (at least to you) head to a secluded area with little or no traffic to get the hang of retraining your brain to drive.
Start in a large parking lot to get adjusted to the controls and once you feel comfortable with them, take the car out on the road. Albeit a quiet one absent of small children and animals.
Tips for opposite side driving
Since one third of the world drives on the left hand side of the road, chances are sometime in your life you will have to switch your normal driving considerations and get a little uncomfortable.
This will become easier if you:
- Practice, practice, practice (because practice makes perfect)
- Get adjusted to a manual shift just in case, manual users get used to automatic
- No matter which side of the road you are on, always remember: keep the yellow line on your driver’s side
- Practice using the turn signals, windshield wipers, lights and other accessories as these will also be on the opposite side
Bring a buddy and pay attention
Once you are comfortable driving, have your license and insurance, and know the traffic and road safety rules inside out, it’s time to take your skills out on the road.
- Bring a friend to help you navigate so you can focus solely on driving
- Pay careful attention to what you are doing
- Try not to get distracted about what is happening around you, just drive
Hopefully if you are cautious and your real time drive goes well, the anxiety of driving in a new place will slowly fade. Just remember to keep at it and don’t give up hope, the more you practice the more confident you will be in your new ability.