Just got back from a trip to Italy with a bunch of friends. It was great fun, got some sun and some needed R&R.
For this trip though I agreed to driving one of the hired cars. I’ve never done that much driving abroad before. It was a baptism of fire as well. The motorway driving was fine – long straight roads no problem. But the winding mountain roads were a different ball game all together. Steep inclines and declines, hair pin bends, sometimes in between houses in tiny little towns that barely fit a car through, sometimes I drove on gravel that hardly resembled a road; and then doing it all again in the pitch black because we got lost!
So after this latest excursion, I now feel pretty qualified to comment on what its like to drive on the opposite side of the road – in the mountains of Italy at least.
Mistakes will be made
First of all there are a couple of things that will happen. At some point when you try to get into the car, you will likely open the passenger door in thinking you are getting in the drivers side; I took this a step further and actually sat down in the passenger seat and closed the door, all before I realised I had no steering wheel in front of me (For F*ck Sake).
Next you will try and change gears with your left hand – obviously they are on the right now. This ultimately means you are going to attempt this sort of pathetic fondle of the left door handle. And then it will happen again, and again and again. Don’t worry though this will go after about 20mins.
Sweet, so we (you, me – yes all of us) are driving along now. We are following the cars in front; indicating every turn; leaving plenty of space; letting cars enter and exit our lane at leisure. Why don’t we drive this well back home? Our driving ability has increased ten fold. Smashing it, go us!
Then a wrong turn is taken. Yep this will happen. Either the navigator has a momentary lapse in their concentration or the damn sat nav is not clear enough. Either way no need to panic. You don’t know these roads. So you just keep on going and let it all reroute.
Shit! The re-route has taken us to a roundabout. Everyone always says the roundabouts are hard. You want to go left, but now you must remember “go right, go right!”
But hey its ok, you see all the other cars going the correct way for these roads so you follow them. No biggie.
Someone asks to stop at a shop to pick up some bits. You park up in the car park and go in. You’re feeling pretty good at this point. You have been driving in a foreign land. Your driving better than you have in years and you’re smashing these roundabouts like its no ones business. Well done you!
Back in the car and we leave the carpark. Indicating to get back out onto the road and… you just messed up. Thats right. You are on the wrong side of the road. With no cars to follow, old habits die hard. Suppose you deserve it for being a little cocky. No one likes a show off.
So when this happened to me, I had the delightful pleasure of blocking another car that was trying to indicate to enter the car park. I know, ridiculous. The only thing I could do was force my way onto the road and apologise as I drove past.
And then, this happened on about another 3 other separate occasions – repeat offender over here. Thankfully there were no other cars around and I only had the passengers nag me that I was on the wrong side.
But that is pretty much it to driving abroad.
It’s not rocket science, its the same thing you do back in your home country. So if you are ever finding yourself in this situation, don’t sweat about it. Simply, follow everyone in front of you. Make sure you have enough gas in to account for all the wrong turns and just apologise when you find yourself repeatedly breaking the driving laws.
And if you think all those windy roads I mentioned at the beginning sound like fun. They are. Well for about the 20mins. But when you have been in the car for an hour or two and you’re tired. Then it’s not so great you just want to get there.
and the Good
But the views are worth it though. 😁