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Overseas driving mishaps and how to avoid them

And why asking for directions equals meeting the locals

It was the end to an argument that had about as much point as Waiting for Godot, but was infinitely more clichéd. “Alright,” he conceded. “I’ll pull over and ask for directions.”


Unfortunately, every second word out of the mouth of the Killarney local we did finally ask seemed to be ‘Bertha’. So we smiled and nodded, willing him away. And then his horse stuck its head through the window and tried to eat the steering wheel.


Now I’m not sure where Irish car hire insurance policies stand on the horse teeth marks issue, so I spent the time I could have been in the pub cleaning the steering wheel as though it were a leprechaun’s pot of gold.


And the stories get worse. I’m still not yet able to disclose what happened that got me on the roof of a campervan armed with blu tack and cotton balls in a hippy’s driveway in Armidale at 3am. Or the time Pringles almost caused an accident en route to Connecticut. Or when a group of Filipino locals had to physically lift our jeep out of pothole so big you could see Satan hard at work.


Driving overseas can be equal parts liberating and dangerous. I mean how are you to know that in the landlocked state of Tennessee, USA, that it’s illegal to shoot a whale from a moving vehicle?


“Always check the road rules before travelling,” Travel Insurance Direct travel safety specialist Phil Sylvester says.


“You can save yourself a lot of unnecessary hassle.”





Hiring a car

Always check where you can take the car before you drive off. Many rental companies prohibit cars being taken on ferries, off sealed roads or into Eastern European countries. Punishments may include fines and even being charged with attempted theft.


Road rules

Throughout Europe if you’re on a motorway or on the Autobahns, you’ll be fined if you are not displaying a sticker (available at petrol stations for just a few Euro). And it’s amyth that there’s no speed limit on the German Autobahns. About 55 percent of the motorways are subject to a conditional speed limit (including minimum speeds).



What counts as drink driving varies from country to country. Legal limits commonly range from a zero tolerance policy (UAE for example) to 0.08 (such as in the UK and Bhutan).  But rules vary, such as in Japan where police have the power to penalize drivers if they ‘think’ they’re driving drunk despite coming in under the legal limit. 



Despite what the scooter rental shop says, licences are essential for tourists in Southeast Asia. Sometimes a home country licence will suffice, sometimes an International Driver’s Permit will be necessary, and in some cases a test for a local licence is required.

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Written by: Gaya Avery
Published: 11 November 2013

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