By Spreet Aulakh on October 26

How to prepare for driving abroad for the first time

Driving abroad can be a daunting experience for many people, with the main cause for anxiety being the act of driving on the right-hand side of the road. If you’re planning on hiring a car abroad and have some worries about driving in a foreign country, continue reading for some tips to ease your concerns.

Picking up your hire car

Driving a new vehicle in an unfamiliar city or town can be a stressful experience, therefore you want to make sure that you feel as comfortable and confident as possible before you set off. Once you have picked up your hire car, familiarise yourself with the vehicle before you drive off in it. Get in, adjust the seats and mirrors, locate the gear stick and other essential controls (indicators, lights, windscreen wipers switch etc.) It is important to do this or else you may find yourself falling into the trap of attempting to find these things mid-journey when you really need them.

Driving on the right-hand side

As we know, in Ireland, motorists drive on the left-hand side of the road in right-hand drive vehicles. Therefore, having to experience the absolute opposite when driving in certain foreign countries, is likely to cause some serious confusion.

The biggest obstacle when driving abroad on the right-hand side of the road is remembering that you are driving on the right. One way to make that memory stick is by repeating the phrase “I need to drive on the right-hand side of the road”. Although at first this may sound like a silly thing to do, verbal repetition is a proven method of memory formation and it could save you from having a nasty accident!

As you are getting adjusted, here are a few things to consider:

- If you are seated on the left-hand side of the car, you will be operating the gearstick with your right hand. Be mindful when shifting gears as there is a chance you may select the wrong gear by mistake.

- Although the gearstick and driver’s seat may be on the opposite side of the vehicle than what you are used to, the position of the pedals however remain the same.

- Resting your left elbow on the window in a left-hand drive car should help you maintain the correct driving posture needed.

Since vehicles will be driving on the opposite side of the road to what you’re used to, you’ll need to familiarise yourself with the different road systems, such as:

- Turning into a road - In Ireland, performing a right-hand turn is considered dangerous due to the fact you are crossing a lane of oncoming traffic. In Europe and America however, the opposite is true, where left-hand turns are more dangerous.

- Roundabouts - Unlike in Ireland, in particular countries, when approaching a roundabout, you need to give way on the left and drive around it anti-clockwise.

- Emerging from a side road - Habit will tell you to look right when emerging from a road, but when abroad, don’t forget to look left first for oncoming traffic. If you happen to be driving in France or Belgium however, you should look right, as priority is given to vehicles in side roads to the right of a main road.

- Narrow lane driving - In the case you need to let another oncoming vehicle pass, pull up on the right-hand side of the road.

- Motorway/dual carriageway driving - In Europe, you join the motorway on the right side and the overtaking lane is on the far left. It is advised to remain on the far right-hand lane (slow lane) on dual carriageways and motorways until you feel fully confident overtaking.