Contact Us   Site Map
Airline Mismanagement

One third of the world's population, in 73 different countries, drive on the other side of the road.

If you travel to Britain, Australia, New Zealand, India, or any of these other countries, you too may find yourself needing to drive on the other side of the road.

 
 
Travel Planning and Assistance
Road Warrior resources
How to Book and Buy Travel
Scary, Silly and Stupid Security Stories
Airline Reviews
Airline (Mis)!Management
Miscellaneous Features
Reference Materials
About the Travel Insider
Search
Looking for something else? Search over two million words of free information on our site.
Custom Search
 
Free Newsletter

In addition to our feature articles, we offer you a free weekly newsletter with a mix of news and opinions on travel related topics.

 

 View Sample
Privacy Policy

 
Help this Site
Thank you for your interest in helping this site to continue to develop. Some of the information we give you here can save you thousands of dollars the next time you're arranging travel, or will substantially help the quality of your travel experiences in other, non-cash ways. Click for more information
 
Reader's Replies

If you'd like to add your own commentary, send me a note.

 

Driving on the Other Side of the Road

The difficulty of right-hand drive cars is magnified if they also have a stick shift. Choose an auto transmission.

 

 

Keep right! This instinct is drilled into us from when we first start to drive a car, and must be temporarily unlearned if in a country that drives on the other side of the road.

But safely driving on the other side of the road involves a lot more than just keeping left instead of right.

This article tells you what you need to know to most comfortably and safely adjust your driving to the other side of the road.

Different, but not necessarily Difficult

If you can drive a car in your home country, then of course you can also drive a car on the other side of the road in Britain or anywhere else. There is a very obvious thing to remember, but also a more subtle point to also grasp.

Obvious : Keep Left!

Yes, this might seem obvious, and the good news is that, most of the time, it is very difficult to forget. When you are driving on a road with other cars, it is easy to simply copy what all the other drivers are doing.

But.

If you turn a corner onto an empty street, you will have to force yourself to remember to turn to the left hand side of the new street. It is very easy, when doing an instinctive action such as turning a corner, and when there are no visual clues to remind you, to forget and end up on the right (but wrong!) side of the road instead of on the left side.

Similar situations can occur in other circumstances, such as when driving in and out of car parks, or leaving the freeway and merging onto surface streets.

Subtle but Vital : Lane Position

This is very important, and if you overlook this, you run the risk of mounting the curb, destroying your suspension, and side-swiping other cars.

This issue has to do with the fact that not only is the car being driven on the other side of the road, but you have also changed where you sit in the car - you are not now driving from the left hand seat but from the right hand seat.

When you drive a car back home, on the right hand side of the road, you are driving it from the left hand seat, and most of the car is to your right. This means that, instinctively, you position yourself in the left hand side of your lane, and by keeping yourself slightly to the left of the center of the lane, the entire car is centered in the lane.

But when you are driving from the right hand seat, the opposite situation applies. If you still instinctively keep yourself on the left of the center of the lane you are driving in, then instead of this resulting in the car being nicely centered in the lane, instead the car will be severely shifted to the left, making it quite likely that the left side of your car will be outside of the lane (ie wheels mounting the curb or going off the road surface, and the whole car potentially side-swiping vehicles that are parked on the roadside or which are driving in the next lane over.

This is the most important - and most difficult skill - to master when changing from driving on the right to driving on the left. It is difficult because it is an instinctive habit that you probably didn't even know you had.

Remember that the car is now off to your left, and so drive in the lane so that your personal position is to the right of the center of the lane.

Getting Help

If you have any passengers traveling with you, ask them to please remind you any time they think you are straying out of position in your lane, or anytime you end up on the wrong side of the road by mistake.

They'll probably do this anyway (!) but by encouraging them to do so, no-one needs to feel embarrassed or awkward if you do momentarily forget yourself (an amazing number of air accidents occur because one pilot was too embarrassed to correct the mistake that the other pilot was making!).

Being a Pedestrian

I find being a pedestrian even more difficult than being a driver. The key thing to remember, as a pedestrian, is that the cars are coming to you from the other direction.

Another habit we've learned is that, when crossing a road, we look left before stepping off the curb. When the cars are driving on the other side, you need to change this habit and now look right (as well as left!) before stepping off the curb.

Other Issues

The cars will have the driver's controls on the other side of the vehicle, of course. But, mercifully, the accelerator and brake pedals will be in the same order as in your car at home - accelerator on the right and brake on the left.

If you have the choice, try and avoid getting a car with a manual stick shift, and choose an automatic, even if it costs more money to rent. The stick shift will probably still be in the center of the vehicle, but you'd be using your left hand to control it, and it can add too much to the total complexity of mastering a different car, in a different country, and on the other side of the road!

If you're driving a car with a stick shift that is mounted on the steering column, this will be pointing in to the center of the car, so you'll still need to use your left hand to operate it.

Beware of driving jet lagged. Try not to take a long flight to your destination and then immediately get into a rental car at the airport upon arrival. Give yourself a day or two to adjust to the new time zone and to recover from the long tiring flight before you start driving (several clients of mine who ignored this advice had accidents within minutes of getting in their rental cars!).

With a bit of care and caution, you'll quickly find that driving on the other side of the road is easy and enjoyable. Just remember that you'll need to retrain yourself to drive on the right when you return home again!

Reference Material

No-one seems to have an absolute complete list of all countries that drive on the left or right sides of the road. Here is one list and here is a second list.  For the sake of over-completeness, here's one more such list.

For More Information About Driving in Britain

Our Driving in Britain series has four main pages plus two additional pages about other important issues to do with driving in Britain.

The pages are :

An Introduction to Driving in Britain - tells you the basic essentials to do with driving in Britain.

Driving Techniques and Issues - about one lane roads and motorways (freeways), speed limits and enforcement.

Miscellaneous Considerations when Driving in Britain - All sorts of other things, ranging from the price of petrol to drink driving and seatbelt rules.

How to Drive around Roundabouts - for information about driving around the roundabouts that are prevalent in Britain (and elsewhere too).

We also have a page about How to Drive on the Left (Other) Side of the Road (this is the page you are currently on) which sets out some helpful tips and pointers for how to make this as easy as possible.

And, not so much about driving, but still an important aspect of driving, see also our page about where and how to park your car in Britain.

 

If so, please donate to keep the website free and fund the addition of more articles like this. Any help is most appreciated - simply click below to securely send a contribution through a credit card and Paypal.

 

Originally published 10 Jan 2003, last update 08 Jul 2017

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 
Related Articles
Steam Train Excursions
Cruising the English Canals
Guide to Salisbury
Traveling to Scotland's Islands
How to Choose the best London Underground Fares
How to Travel around Britain by Train
All about London's Five Airports
Driving on the Other Side
 
 

 


Your Feedback

How Would You Rate this Article

Poor
Average
Good

Was the Article Length and Coverage

Too short/simplistic
About right 
Too long/complex

Would You Like More Articles on this Subject

No
Maybe
Yes

Back to Top