Tourists need to be alert when they’re driving in foreign places… foreign to you, that is. If you’re an European in the U.S. or an American in Europe or South America or Australia, things will be different.
You need to familiarize yourself with international road signs. Most are pictographs, and that’s a good thing, because if you were driving in Greece, they’d all be Greek to you otherwise. OK… that was a bad pun, but you get what I’m saying. Do a little research for driving in foreign places.
Review what those signs mean. Most guidebooks and maps list them, but you don’t want to be looking in the book to find that the white horizontal slash on a red sign means “Do Not Enter” just as you have driven down the street!
What are the driving customs? What are the signals to pass or not pass? Watch what the local drivers are doing and take hints from them when you’re driving in foreign places. Back to Greece, when the truck drivers were telling us it was safe to pass, they stuck their left arm out…. now in the U.S., that’s the old arm signal for turning left. It took us a couple of days to figure out that they weren’t turning, just waving us around.
When driving on the freeways/ autobahns/ autostrasses with multiple lanes, don’t just cruise along in the fast or left lane. Europeans really do use the faster lanes for passing. Our European friends are always surprised to find slower drivers just staying in any lane of the freeways and never moving over for faster cars… Americans should take a lesson here.
You may be driving on a different side of the road than you’re used to. Drivers on the right may have a slight edge, but throughout the world it’s pretty evenly split for who drives on the left and who drives on the right. If you’re driving on the “wrong” side of the road for you, you’ll need to pay even more attention.
Drive carefully. Don’t let local drivers press you to drive faster than you’re comfortable. If someone flashes their lights at you, pull over, and let them pass. They’re used to passing little old ladies on those two lane roads…. just pretend you’re a little old lady! Don’t let your ego get in the way, they’ve had more practice.
Remember that speed limits and distances will be measured differently. Around the world, most distances are metric, as are speed limits. The U.S. persists in using miles. The average speed limit on U.S. freeways is 65 mph (miles per hour)…. that translates to 105 km/h. Speed limits are posted, so that’s easy. For distances, use roughly 0.6 mile per kilometer…. or 1.6 kilometer per mile.
Toll roads and road fees are a whole category unto themselves.
Many outback roads in Australia are only one lane wide. If you meet oncoming traffic, you’re expected to drive with one wheel on the road and one off road. If you can’t do that, simply pull over… but don’t expect locals to do that… they’ll just drive on through.
We have never been asked for an International Driver’s License, even though we have often read you should have one. Bottom line…. read up on the rules of the road for driving in foreign places, and just go have fun.
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