The most sensible thing to do when embarking on a holiday abroad which involves driving is to do some basic research before leaving home. It's not much fun arriving at a foreign airport in the middle of the night and not knowing which side of the road you should be driving on. You should also find out whether you need a special driving permit of any kind, which you need to obtain before departure from your home country.If you have pre-booked your rental car, read up on the types of insurance available through that rental company and what they all cover. There can be a baffling array of choices and while you won't want to pay for more than you need, you certainly won't want to find yourself with insufficient cover in the event of a theft or an accident.It's worthwhile investing in a decent map, but failing that, at least make sure that you pick up a local map from the car rental office, sufficient to find your way to your hotel or to join up with the route you want.
It's worth checking the Internet for information on driving wherever you're going. Some countries have a Highway Code available for purchase but at least make yourself aware of likely speed limits, particularly on motorways or freeways.Be aware of local differences. In Spain, for example, there is an instant cash fine for minor motoring offences such as failure to wear a seat belt, crossing the solid white line in the centre of the road and speeding.
If you aren't carrying sufficient cash, you will probably be escorted to the nearest cash machine while your spouse (or other valuables) is held hostage at the police station.In countries where traffic police carry firearms, do not make the mistake of reaching suddenly into your glove box or inside pocket in order to provide your documents. These guys have very suspicious minds and you're quite likely to find yourself looking down the barrel of a gun.There are two schools of thought as to whether it is good to advertise to the locals that you are a foreigner, thereby alerting them to the fact that (a) you may not be used to their road system at all and (b) you probably don't know your way around. In the 1960s and 70s the UK had a scheme whereby you could pick up a "Visitor to Britain" sticker for your vehicle. Unfortunately, in some places, advertising that you're a tourist makes you a target for sneak thieves at least and at worst, car-jackers.
Whatever happens, don't get in a fight with anyone.If you inadvertently cut someone up, hold up your hands, smile ingratiatingly and look apologetic. Don't respond to angry horn-hooting with finger signals or other signs designed to inflame the situation further.If you break down on a motorway, either call the assistance which comes with your car rental, if any, or wait for a cruising police vehicle.Don't get out of your car and don't accept help from strangers unless you have to.
If you do so, choose someone on their own - they're less likely to fool you with some scam.Be suspicious of everyone and keep your doors locked. Even the woman asking if you know where the hospital is could well have an accomplice reaching into your car for your valuables, while your attention is diverted.Be prepared and be careful and your motoring abroad should be trouble free..Michael Russell.Your Independent guide to Driving Tips.
By: Michael Russell