Updated May 25, 2021.
Wouldn’t world travel be so much easier if everyone drove on the same side? Maybe! But what’s the fun in that? I’ve driven on the left a few times in my life, and ridden in a car driving on the left even more often. It’s really not so bad! You’ll be shocked at how quickly you get used to it, but to help you prepare in the meantime, here are a few tips and tricks to keep you on the correct side of the road!
*Some of the links below are affiliate links with JR Pass in Japan. This means that when you book your JR Pass with my links, you’re getting the best deal available and supporting my small business at no additional cost to you!
1. The Driver is Always in the Middle
This is the best advice I got from someone before the first time I drove on the left: the driver is always in the middle. So if you start drifting to one side or the other, just remember that the driver is supposed to be next to the middle line, no matter what side of the road you drive on–both at home and abroad!
More here: Your Guide to Rental Cars
2. Speed Could be in Miles or Kilometers per Hour
In the UK, speeds were always in miles per hour, or MPH. In most other countries where driving is on the left, speeds are in kilometers per hour, or km/h. Ask your rental car agent to be sure!
3. The Blinker is on the Right; Windshield Wipers are on the Left
For me, this is the most frustrating part of driving on the left! For the whole 10 days we were in New Zealand last August, I kept turning on the wipers when I wanted to use my blinker! I did eventually get used to it… just in time to turn in the rental car. But the next time we rented a car in a left-driving country, I was prepared! You can be, too: blinkers on the right, wipers on the left.
4. Follow the Leader
The easiest way to know you’re doing it right is to follow someone who knows what they’re doing! So let the traffic be your friend, and follow the leader.
Keep reading: 5 Essentials for International Travel
5. Look Right, Look Left, then Look Again
There is a LOT to be aware of when driving on the opposite side of the road than what you’re used to. Don’t let yourself get flustered, don’t panic, just look around you! Look right first, then left, then right again. Then left and right again if you need to!
More here: How to Plan Travel with a Group
6. Take the Roundabouts Nice and Slow
There is only one way around the roundabout–no worries! But it can feel wrong at first. Just take it slow, follow the leader if there’s someone in front of you, and go around to the left! It might also help to Google road signs for the country where you’ll be driving before you go.
7. Make it a Team Effort
I have found that driving on the left works best for me if there is someone in the passenger seat doing the navigating. You’re sort of naturally on high-alert when you feel like you’re driving on the “wrong” side of the road. With everything else you’re doing–looking in every direction, remembering which side your blinker’s on, watching for pedestrians, checking your blindspot, etc., etc., etc.–it’s helpful to have someone else studying the map for you!
More here: What to Know About Your Travel Buddy
If you’re going solo, take a few minutes to pull over and look at your directions or map when you’re not sure what your next move is supposed to be!
Prefer not to drive at all? Check out the trains and public transportation options! You can get almost anywhere on the train in the UK, and I never would have been able to see so much of Japan without my JR Pass and the Bullet Trains!
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