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The Ultimate Guide to Driving Overseas

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Just throwing this out there in one thread. I've read a few different threads about driving in other countries and I wondered what kind of list we'd end up with if everyone provided their thoughts and suggestions about driving in the various countries around the world.

For me, it's very sedate and fairly limited. I've driven in Australia, New Zealand, PNG, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Canada.

My perceptions:

England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland - All fine. I liked the way drivers stay out of the overtaking lanes when not actually overtaking. London a bit hectic and some of the narrow country roads need careful attention. I also struggled with reading some of the Irish Gaelic signs.

Canada - I was very impressed by the courtesy of the Canadian drivers. Things like merging was very logical and sped the whole process up, unlike here where it's almost criminal to let someone in, in front of you ;). Once I located the steering wheel over in the passengers seat, I didn't seem to have any real problems.

New Zealand - Very much a "Driving Miss Daisy" country. Once out of the cities a laid back sense of driving through the country and the windy roads seems to mean no road is traversed quickly. Apart from the lower speed, very similar to Oz and all round an enjoyable experience.

PNG - A bit different to Oz. No speed limits and regular carjackings mean you may have to deal with drivers thinking they're in "Days of Thunder". On the other hand, many PNG nationals drive at a snails pace and that may be in the overtaking lane....or not! Many cars are very poorly maintained and working indicators, headlights and tail lights are not to be expected. Regularly, the windows are broken and replaced with black plastic taped in place so you can never assume other drivers can even see you, given broken rear vision mirror repairs are also not high priorities. You can turn left through a red light provided you give way to oncoming traffic but you may only turn right at an intersection with arrows if the green arrow is lit (even if there is no red arrow). Drunk drivers are a hazard as drink driving laws don't appear to exist in PNG or if they do, not many worry about them. Driving should always be done with windows up and doors locked due to the every present (but fairly minimal) risk of a carjacking. It has been known for street vendors to spit buai (betle nut) into the face of rude drivers/passengers which possibly may transmit some nasty aliments including tuberculosis and hepatitis which are fairly prevalent in PNG. The rule is to be polite and friendly, but keep the window up. Roads can be a poorly maintained so care is warranted and petty theft if an ever present risk. Don't leave anything in the back of a ute as it's very common for a national man, woman or entire family to jump in the back for a lift (this form of transport actually works exceptionally well, they'll climb in the back then tap on the roof when they want to get off) and anything of value is likely to disappear (including shopping, luggage etc). If driving through villages, drive slowly and show respect. Drivers who speed through a village is likely to cop a rock through a window. Always leave enough room between your vehicle and the one in front so you can get out quickly if necessary. Importantly, if in an accident drive to a secure compound or a police station if you can. Do NOT get out of the car. If anyone is killed.....an eye for an eye is widely practiced in PNG.....take heed.

If anyone is keen to add to the list, please feel free to do so!
 

Happy Trails

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'Don't hit the car in front' is the guiding principle in seemingly chaotic conditions and actually works quite well.
 

harvyk

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USA - At least in LA, speed limits where optional, do the speed of the traffic flow on the freeways. Turning right on red lights is allowed and expected, except in New York where doing do = a fine. There is little signage to state thats what is allowed. You'll often see 4 way stop signs. Whilst I'm sure there is a give way to the right law, in practice treat it like both a stop sign combined with traffic lights been out. (aka eye contact)

Cook Islands - you'll need to actually get a cook islands license, which costs around NZ$20. To get it all I needed to do was ride the motorbike from the hireplace to the nearby tree and back without falling off. After that I was given a piece of paper to take to the cop shop to get my photo taken and pay my dollars. You'll need to do similar for a car license.

Actually driving there is easy, although you do need to be careful since they do have a very high accident ratio there.
 

drron

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US 4 way stop signs are easy-whoever gets there first has right of way and usually they will wave you through.If a line of traffic at each stop sign then each line has a turn in order.I have found the Americans the politest of drivers except in Boston.
 

knightman7

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Id be interesting in reading anyone's experiences with driving in Italy. I've always flown or trained around but a mate of mine had convinced me to go on a driving holiday around Italy and France next month. Any tips would be appreciated!!
 

Archphoto

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  • If they flash their lights at you when you're waiting to turn in front of them (u-turn, right hand turn), they aren't going to stop.
  • If they flash their lights when you're on the expressway or highway in far right-hand lane, it means "Get out of my way - you're driving too slow!" (even if you're sitting on 130kph!)
  • Be aware drivers will dart in front of you as they zig-zag across 3 or 4 lanes of traffic - always be aware of your surroundings and anticipate an idiotic move, could save your life (or a nasty repair bill.)
  • Don't be afraid to push your way (slowly) into a lane if there's a traffic jam (if you wait for them to let you in, chances are man will probably have landed on Mars before they do ;)).
  • Beware of motorcycles without tail-lights (especially on unlit highways) when driving - more often in the country than the city.
  • Beware of motorcycles riding towards you on the LH verge - it's quicker for them, than doing a u-turn.
  • Allow 2x as long to get from A-B than you think especially with rain, holiday weekends and Fridays; those seem to bring out every car registered in Bangkok!!!
  • Don't be afraid to be assertive when you drive, it's actually "organised" chaos; but don't be an a***hole and drive like you own the road.
 
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jastel

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Another USA rule in many states is the move over for Emergency vehicles rule.
If Emergency vehicles with flashing lights (police, roadworkers etc) is parked on the side of the road you must change lanes, one lane over (away from) them or dramatically reduce your speed.
A sensible rule until you have a semi swerving into the fast lane in front of you.
 

tuapekastar

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Repeating a few things but here goes. My OS driving is limited to UK, NZ and US (and a little underage illegal stuff in SIN :) ).

UK is OK. Lot more traffic than here. Keep out of 'fast' lane unless you are going very fast (80 - 90 mph plus) and do not hang there unnecessarily (same as you should do here).So many idiots (right lane freeway hogs) here in Oz would not last 5 minutes in the UK. On minor roads which are single lane each way cars overtaking seem to allow a lot less room for oncoming traffic than they do here - a little unnerving at times.

NZ is almost identical to here. Have driven many thousands of kms there and the only thing worth passing on is to sometimes allow more time than you would think between places as the roads can be windy. That is not to say they are bad at all, and the extra time required is not significant.

US was approached with trepidation by me due to different side of the road driving, but a mantra learnt here (right is tight, left is loose) when referring to turns, served me well. Just go with the flow with the traffic and show common sense.
 
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opusman

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Driving in Italy is fun (particularly in an Alfa Guilietta!). In the countryside there's no problem at all as there's not much traffic apart from the motorways. In Rome the traffic can seem daunting but what I learned is that even though it appears chaotic, most drivers are actually quite careful and (within reason) patient. There's far less horn honking in Rome than in Melbourne. Just pay attention, go with the flow and try to be considerate and they'll generally return the favour.
 

RooFlyer

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UK: Beware the double round abouts (effectively a figure 8). Madness. Double articulated busses manage to straddle the join in the '8' then stop.

Argentina. Speed wins. If some-one comes up behind you, wanting to pass, there is a defined sequence of signals:

* Flash lights: Move over, I want to pass

* Flash lights and beep horn: Move over, I'm coming to pass right now.

* Flash lights and a continuous sound of horn: if you don't move over, we will soon be occupying the same co-ordinates in space and time. GET OUT OF THE FRIGG'N WAY!


Note for pedestrians in Canada. Don't even look as though you want to cross the street, except at lights. Traffic will likely stop for you, even if you don't particularly want to cross right then; don't wave cars on. They won't go until you cross. The exception is in Montreal. There, every pedestrian is worth 25 points.


Advice given to me Apartheid era Sth Africa, Jo'burg: When stopping at the r-r-r-robots (??? Oh, they mean traffic lights) leave 2 car lengths in front of you. Why? If there is a car jacking attempted, you have room to pull out quickly and escape. When visiting a business/office down town call ahead so they can have the doors to the under-building garage ready to open on your approach. Stop on the streets? - are you crazy, man?


Saudi Arabia. Absolutely anything goes. ANYTHING! For instance, 4 cars abreast stopped at lights (on RH side of road, as they drive on the left). When lights turn green, the RIGHT-MOST car could easily hang a left and cut across the other 3 lanes. Rule: when approaching a crest on any road, including freeway, slow down and get to the side. Every chance that ALL LANES over the crest will be occupied by trucks coming towards you, attempting to pass each other. Don't try to drive into the holy cities of Mecca or Medina if you aren't a Muslim. Take note of the diversionary, warning signs in about 20 different languages directing you onto what is colloquially called by the locals as the 'infidel bypass'.

The roads are good. if Australia had Saudi's roads, the road between Mt Isa and Townsville would be a fenced, 2 or 3 lane each way freeway.
 
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JohnM

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Id be interesting in reading anyone's experiences with driving in Italy. I've always flown or trained around but a mate of mine had convinced me to go on a driving holiday around Italy and France next month. Any tips would be appreciated!!
Absolute piece of cake - done it heaps of times - because everyone knows what they're doing (unlike Australia, especially PER which, hands down, has the world's worst drivers :evil:).

But use a GPS to ease the stress of uncertainty. I have my own loaded with every country I go to. I think it makes it easier because I know exactly how to use it and understand the voice so it means I'm away from the rental car desk immediately.

Best motto: drive decisively.
 

PLANT

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Hostie have best advice for USA...... Keep your passenger in the gutter..... Still nearly crashed in LA and Canada but hey
Dubai only thing slowed me down is the ding ding constant sound of the rental when over 110km.... Speed cameras are at least set 10kmh over speed limit..... Driving like on a go kart track is survival and bongs in mouth are optional.
Nz long road near mt hut are were the police like to pick up tourist testing the rentals.
 

JohnM

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My best fun city experiences:

Old town Valparaiso, Chile.
Central Marrakech and Fez, Morocco.
Downtown Naples, Italy.

Best fun country experiences:

Iceland, grand circuit.
Norway - beware roads that suddenly narrow and huge oncoming cars at breakneck speed.

Easy-peasy:

USA/Canada
W Europe
Argentina
Chile
Britain
Morocco
S Africa
NZ

Saudi Arabia sounds awesome :p.
 

blackcat20

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US 4 way stop signs are easy-whoever gets there first has right of way and usually they will wave you through.If a line of traffic at each stop sign then each line has a turn in order.I have found the Americans the politest of drivers except in Boston.
Agree with the polite factor; if you find yourself in the wrong lane on the freeway when your exit comes up, they're usually pretty keen to allow you to move over. The stop sign thing works really well too. Pity drivers here cant be that polite and sensible.
 
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PointyEnd

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CHINA- if you want to change lanes, indicate and muscle your way in. If you wait, you'll be waiting forever. Also, the Chinese use the horn a lot!! I used to think it was because I was doing something wrong but they use it to say 'Hey, I'm changing lanes/ close alongside you/ behind you/ I'm here'. You get used to it.
 

Fantic125

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In the towns make sure you keep to the speed limit (usually 50kmh) as many have speed cameras scattered throughout. From experience it's usually only a 20 euro fine if you do get pinged.
On the autobahns if its a speed unrestricted section, rule on thumb is;
kerbside lane (right lane) trucks and slow vehicles up to 100 to 120kmh,
center lane 120 to 160 kmh,
left lane (overtaking lane) 160+kmh and move back into the center lane once you've passed the slower vehicles, or as soon as possible if you have something faster coming up behind you. If they flash their lights at you you're not getting out the way quickly enough.

Key rule is drive to the weather and traffic conditions; if its wet they may not necessarily slow down a great deal but they will increase the distances between the cars.

Speed restricted sections on the autobahns are usually where they are doing roadworks (drop to the posted limits), going through tunnels (slow down and turn lights on) or where an entry or exit ramp joins the autobahn (usually posted at 120kmh).

Don't try driving in India. Even some of the guys I know who lived there most of their lives but have been in Australia for a few years refuse to drive when they go back for a visit. :)
 

dajop

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Manhattan, NYC: Nowhere near as bad as it might seem. Navigation easy, as other than downtown most streets are numbered, and most are one way so you can be on the left side of most roads without worrying about a head-on. Just worry about what's happening in front of you, not behind. Of course driving is not the optimal way to get around the city, but is useful for excursions out of the city.
 

AdMEL

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My observations from having driven in most states in Australia (including a little off the beaten track), NZ (north and south island), US (several states, including NY), Canada, England, Scotland and Wales:

Australia

Generally pretty bad drivers, with varying levels of bad depending on which state. In Victoria, too much emphasis on speed cameras and low speed limits (I agree with lower speed limits in residential, school and shopping areas). In Brisbane, merging onto freeways was atrocious when I lived there in the 90's, though this seems to be becoming a lost skill everywhere. No idea of keeping left. Generally not very polite. Too much variance in speed limit, with no logic, especially in Victoria.

NZ

Varies, depending on whether north or south island. North island has a lot more traffic, which tends to slow things down. Much less variance in speed limits and much more reasonable speed limits (most roads outside cities/towns still have a 100km speed limit, even on windy mountain roads). For me, a much better place to drive.

England, Scotland and Wales

Much more courteous and disciplined than Australia. Generally drive faster. Too many roundabouts!

US

Once you get used to driving on the other side of the road, easy. As others have mentioned, drivers much more courteous and speed limits are a guide only (though I did get busted doing 85 mph on the freeway outside LA, where the speed limit was 65). Annoying having to prepay fuel, with Australian credit cards only working on the pump about half the time. Also need to pay attention to fuel grade at service stations, as unlike Australia, there is no consistency - many have a grade of fuel lower than most cars require (85, with most cars requiring a min 87). Also on this subject, different fuel grading system - we use RON, they use an average of MON and RON, which is a lower figure.

Canada

Similar to the US, but I only drove a day over the border to Niagara falls.

In summary, all of the places I've driven outside Australia were easier than driving in Australia!
 
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In Taipei city it's pretty much like any other big Asian city, major roads are relatively packed a lot of the time, with scooters and motorcycles weaving through wherever they can. Be careful when opening your door, you don't want to collect a passing motorcyclist. Horns used very little considering how bad the driving is, it's quite acceptable for someone to turn right from the inside lane, across 2 lanes of traffic. It is also acceptable to turn left a good 4-5 seconds after the seeing the red light.
Once you get out of Taipei, you're really don't know what to expect. Freeways are pretty decent, save for a few drivers with death wishes weaving in and out of lanes at high speed. On smaller country roads be prepared for overtaking into oncoming traffic, red lights purely for reference only, motorcyclists riding side by side chatting, no use of helmets, and no use of headlights at night (cars and motorcycles - some people believe that driving with lights off saves gas).
 
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