If you’ve never hired a car outside of the UK before, hopping behind the wheel on the “wrong side” can be a confusing experience. And if you’re taking your own car to the continent, driving off the ferry on the “wrong side” of the road can be just as daunting. So here are some tips to help you navigate foreign roads safely.
Watch your speed
Remember that speed limit signs in Europe are in kilometres per hour, not miles per hour. So when you see a road sign saying “130”, it’s not an excuse to floor the accelerator!
Of course, 130 km/h (just over 80 mph) is significantly faster than the limit on UK motorways, so if you’re not used to driving quite so quickly, stick to a speed you’re comfortable with and that is consistent with other road users.
On some French roads you’ll see two speed limits – the higher limit is for dry conditions, the lower limit applies in wet weather. But if it’s less than two years since you passed your test, the wet weather limit applies at all times.
If you’re driving in Europe, you’ll need to take some essential documentation with you. In addition to a full UK driving licence, you should keep your Certificate of Motor Insurance handy, together with your VC5 vehicle registration document (the original, not a copy). The law also requires you to pack a reflective waistcoat and a warning triangle, plus you’ll have to modify your headlamps with a beam converter kit. But don’t worry, you can pick up a kit containing all these European essentials for less than £30.
French law also states drivers should carry a twin pack of breathalysers, but rather bizarrely, there’s no penalty for not having one. So if your Euro travel pack doesn’t include a breathalyser, there’s no need to worry.
If you’re considering a fly-drive holiday to the USA, there are a couple of things you should know about American roads. Firstly, if you on a multi-lane freeway, it’s perfectly legal to “undertake” - so don’t be surprised to find cars whizzing by on both sides. It can be a little disconcerting at first, but you’ll soon get used to it.
The other main difference to UK driving is the “free right at red light” rule – which means if you come to a red light at an intersection, so long as the road is clear, you’re allowed to turn right. Just make sure you come to a complete stop first.