During our recent trip to Mallorca, we decided to hire a car for the day but for us this meant driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. Luckily for me, Andrew is the driver in our duo. Here he shares his top tips for first time driving on the right hand side of the road.
A trip to beautiful Mallorca was exactly the kind of retreat required after years without a proper break but being the kind of person who gets restless easily, just sitting on a beach waiting for a tan to happen just isn’t entertaining enough. Sure, riding a bike could take you to the next town but a car gives you true freedom to explore and get to those places off the beaten track. Although I’ve been driving for 15 years, before now I’ve never had the opportunity to sit on the wrong side of the car and drive on the wrong side of the road, and boy was it an educational experience. So if you’re thinking about doing this, here are a few tips to keep you going.
Take your time and get to know the car
Moving to the other side of the car doesn’t feel like it should be a huge deal but everything is backwards. You have to change gears with the wrong hand; you look a different way to see the rear view mirror and where there should be a door, there’s another seat. It’s all a little weird. My first act was to reverse straight into another car (gently I might add). I looked up and saw nothing so assumed it was clear. I didn’t quite register that when I looked up, I didn’t even look in the mirror. You might be in a rush and want to see places but it’s best to go through the old fashioned -mirror signal, manoeuvre, steering wheel, gear stick, how on earth do I open the windows – routine before you get started
Changing gears is not easy
At first, when the time comes to change gears, you may find that you punch the car door with your left hand as the instinct takes over, or maybe that’s just me. Your right hand just isn’t used to changing gears and probably doesn’t have the light touch required to find 1st, or reverse. Really make sure you know where reverse is. It differs from car to car and sometimes you might need to use it quickly when you see that there are two cars coming towards you from either side of a junction. An unfamiliar hand and an unfamiliar car can lead to slight panic so just take your time and look at the gear stick for the handy guide as to where it goes. You may find yourself cursing the bad gear box at times but rest assured, the gear box is fine – it’s all you.
Don’t drive alone
Over the years of driving, you’ve developed great spacial awareness of exactly where parked cars are, how much room you need to give when overtaking and generally where the car sits in relation to the outside world. That’s all gone when you move chairs and the whole world is backwards. You’re brain is already focusing on all the familiar but different processes you have to go through so it’s really useful to have a second pair of eyes to tell you when you start veering slightly and to shout “KERB!” when you’re veering a whole lot.
Don’t use a sat nav
You might think that it’s helpful to have a device that tells you exactly where to go but I’d argue that it’s a completely unnecessary distraction when you’re brain has to focus fully on the task at hand. With mirrors in different places and having to really focus on what way to go around roundabouts, the last thing you need is something that will draw your eyes away from the road ahead. It’s probably best not to put the radio on either. Avoiding distractions is the name of the game as the last thing you want is an unnecessary accident to ruin your holiday.
Other than those, it’s great fun. Doesn’t add stress at all. Best thing you can do on holiday. Definitely….or maybe just get a bus.
Have you ever had a go at driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road?
Andrew is a film and tv writer, founder of The Spoilist and most importantly my travel buddie and husband to be. Though typically writing on sci fi and blockbusters, Andrew has joined me on tours of Austraila, short breaks in both the Canary and Balearic Islands and countless day trips and weekends away.