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Thread: How hard is it to drive on the left?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
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    How hard is it to drive on the left?

    We are thinking of going to Dominica next winter and they drive on the left. If anyone has done that on vacation, how hard is it? I don't expect they have much traffic there, but still...

    I find it hard to downhill ski after a day of XC, but my wife does most of the driving and she is more adaptable than I am.

  2. #2
    I've driven on Grand Cayman (also a left-driving island), and didn't find it hard. At least there, I think they fully expected people to screw it up: there were very large signs as you left the rental car lot ("Drive on the LEFT!!!") and along the main airport roads ("Are you driving on the LEFT side?"). Combine that with slower-paced island life, limited traffic, limited traffic control devices, and it wasn't hard. It wasn't super easy, but I'd do it again without any concern.

  3. #3
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    When I rented a car in London for the first time several years ago, it was mind-blowing driving away from the Hertz office, which was on a downtown traffic circle. It got better after that and the real danger was after I started to get comfortable and would react instinctively to situations, usually in the wrong direction. There are so many things you don't consider like how to enter, leave or drive around in a parking lot. That wouldn't stop me from doing it again.

  4. #4
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    I drove on the left in Ireland. The left takes some mind bending but the lack of signage was more difficult. Plan on GPS of some kind if you think you might need it.

  5. #5
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    We took a motorcycle tour of New Zealand. The rental bikes had big arrows on the tank pointing left. We just followed a guy from England the first day and after that it wasn't too bad. You have to becareful in cities though, especially on foot. I almost got run over stepping off a curb after looking left for oncoming cars. You have to look right when crossing the streets. Good luck. Do it!
    Life's too short to use old sandpaper.

  6. #6
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    I have on a couple of occasions. Except for a few moments when stress was high I remembered to stay on the left. The over riding problem for me was the change in visual relationship from sitting on the right hand side of the car. This caused me to drive way too far to the left at first and remained a problem that required effort to constantly be mindful of. The visual relationship to oncoming traffic is the same and made it seem like I am too close and needed to pull left to avoid head on collisions. Fortunately we survived with only a now funny story or two to tell. At my age now I don't think I'd do it. And, I agree with Bob about crossing streets. Habits die hard.
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  7. #7
    I would consult the very enlightening thread about shopping carts for more info.

  8. #8
    I didn't find it hard to adjust. The locals can always tell when a driver is from the US....they'll be driving along on a sunny day and their windshield wipers will go on when they are about to make a turn. (The turn signal stalk and wiper stalk are switched as well). When they see that they tend to give you wide berth! For the first day or two I made a point of leaving the radio off and asking SWMBO not to chat...just to help concentrate.

  9. #9
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    Redacted - seemed wise.

    Sam
    Last edited by Sam Murdoch; 05-13-2019 at 8:49 PM.
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  10. #10
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    Ha! I've driven a lot in England, Scotland, and some on the Grand Cayman island. My wife always "lets" me do all the driving.

    It can be tricky at first! In the Caymans a local told me most of the wrecks are with first-time visitors looking the wrong way before pulling out onto the road. Motor scooters are popular there too and the guy said there have been fatalities. It's been a long time since I was there ('80s") but then there was only one real road.

    I had zero trouble adapting quickly in Great Britain for many trips - all it took was staying aware of the difference. Then on one trip my wife rented a car with stick shift instead of an automatic. Now I love standard shift transmissions, have one on my diesel truck now. But the combination of the left side of the road, shifting with the left hand, and multi lane roundabouts in the middle of London shot my stress levels through the roof! No problem cruising out in the country or even through tight streets and roundabouts in the small towns. And the road signs were in English!

    It's far more "interesting" driving in the towns and mountains in Italy. The signs are in Italian (or in German or both, depending on the location) and trying do decipher them while negotiating some of the roundabouts in busy areas was fun. (Especially since Italian drivers don't seem to like to poke along like me!) Without a good GPS it would have been even more fun. But even then I got good and lost at a detour. (I really need to learn to understand Italian.)

    I have no idea about Dominica - never been there. From the map it doesn't look too bad, some winding roads. Just watch the roundabouts! (Don't forget the international driver's license, if required there.)

    JKJ

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Paul F Franklin View Post
    I didn't find it hard to adjust. The locals can always tell when a driver is from the US....they'll be driving along on a sunny day and their windshield wipers will go on when they are about to make a turn. (The turn signal stalk and wiper stalk are switched as well). When they see that they tend to give you wide berth! For the first day or two I made a point of leaving the radio off and asking SWMBO not to chat...just to help concentrate.
    Yes, it all depends on how much you've had to drink. Geisterfahrer! I wonder if they keep statistics on how many of those are foreigners. The beverages in other countries can be unexpectedly stronger.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by John K Jordan View Post
    It can be tricky at first! In the Caymans a local told me most of the wrecks are with first-time visitors looking the wrong way before pulling out onto the road
    John, you reminded me that on the Caymans, at least, they license plates of rental cars are yellow (vs white) as a warning for other motorists to watch out for the "bad drivers"!

  13. #13
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    No experience yet. But compared notes w/ my nephew who drove in New Zealand and he says it's mostly no problem on the roads. It gets trickier in cities, where one-way streets and lots of cross traffic screw up the simplistic "stay left" rules you have learned quickly. The only place he always felt lost was parking lots. Too many situations where your instincts are required and are wrong.

    Do take care to only drive while alert so you don't revert to your habits. There was a horrible crash, several dead, in NZ when we were there that was attributed to a tourist in a rental RV, at night, after a long overnight flight, zoning out and drifting right causing a multi-car head on collision.

    Quote Originally Posted by John K Jordan View Post
    ... (Don't forget the international driver's license, if required there.)
    If you need one, I can report they are painless to get, at least here. AAA offices are the official outlet in US. I downloaded and filled out the form and our local CSAA affiliate branch had me in and out in about 10 minutes for the US fee of $20. (They comp'd me the passport sized photos because I'm a member and it could have been longer if there was a line.)

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul F Franklin View Post
    I didn't find it hard to adjust. The locals can always tell when a driver is from the US....they'll be driving along on a sunny day and their windshield wipers will go on when they are about to make a turn. (The turn signal stalk and wiper stalk are switched as well). When they see that they tend to give you wide berth! For the first day or two I made a point of leaving the radio off and asking SWMBO not to chat...just to help concentrate.
    Don't have to be in a drive-left country to get crossed up. My van's gear shift is were my wife's Prius' wiper control is located. First thing we do when I drive the Prius is dry rub the windshield. (Fortunately the van is smart enough I didn't trash the transmission the time I switched back, it started raining, and I "shifted" to reverse to turn the wipers on.)

  15. #15
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    Aug 2010
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    Driving on left not a problem unless you get a stick shift, then you will have some fun. Biggest trouble I had was in parking lots.

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