For anyone who has ever driven a car abroad I commend you. Although I’ve been driving since I was 16, when it comes to vacations, cars are generally not a form of transportation we use. We did have a rental car while on Maui, but that was due to the fact that with the exception of the capital of Honolulu, one needs to get a car if they want to go anywhere on any of the Hawaiian islands. I didn’t fly all that way to simply remain at our hotel the entire time. I wanted to go out and see Maui, which we did thanks to our brand new Mazda 6 rental car that we lucked into with an upgrade. (We were the first people in it and the car had only 20 miles at the car rental lot.) D did all the driving while we were there but that was because two drivers on a rental car costs more.
A couple of years ago I had to fly down to Houston, Texas for a couple of days and being the Lone Star State, a rental car was in order. Although nothing traumatic happened to me while driving around the country’s fourth largest city, I still endured plenty of wrong turns, missed exists, and highways so large and with so many different traffic patterns, I would break out in a cold sweat were I ever to see them again.
We’re still trying to decide on a destination for this year’s “big trip” and a couple of ideas revolved around locations in Europe that would require a rental car. Although automatic rental cars can be had when abroad, since most of the world’s population drives a manual, automatics are obviously not as readily available and cost more. I know how to drive a manual so we wouldn’t have to worry about car rental places being sold out of automatics or spending more of our budget on a car; the problem is I am extremely scared to drive in a foreign country. I’m aware that with the exception of the British Isles, driving patterns are the same. It has more to do with driving in the “unknown” where I don’t speak the language and where I’m not familiar with what certain signs mean. Anything can happen when you get behind the wheel of car whether you are at home or abroad; however, the major difference is that were something to happen, the consequences could potentially be a lot more difficult and time consuming to contend with.
When D and I drove to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls a couple of years ago, the signage was still in English as we were in Ontario, an English speaking province, and yet because of America’s need to be different from the rest of the global community, speed limits were not in miles per hour, but kilometers per hour. Not being entirely familiar with the metric system, it is slightly disconcerting not knowing immediately what the posted speed limit is and whether you’re obeying or going extremely over it.
Although there is so much of the world that I would like to see that is not in a major city, I almost feel that I’ll see it when I’m traveling with a group so I wouldn’t be required to do the driving. I know not driving somewhere severely limits what you can see and experience but this is one travel phobia I have yet to overcome.
For those of you that drive when abroad, does it ever frighten you? Are there major differences between drivers of your native country and the drivers of those in the country you’re visiting?