Hiring a car at least puts you in a vehicle suitable for local roads but add getting used to an unfamiliar vehicle to acclimatizing to local conditions and nobody can see you are a foreigner so they don’t know to make allowances. Insist that the hire company let you take over the car somewhere where you can safely familiarize yourself with the controls and adjust the mirrors. If they can’t, pull over as soon as you can to sort yourself out.
You must find:
- how to adjust mirrors and seats
- the horn
- the lights
- the indicators
- the headlamp flasher
- the parking brake, if it’s not the obvious lever
- how to engage reverse
- the childproof door locks (to activate if you have children and turn off if you don’t)
- how to use any automatic door locking systems.
Some of these things may sound unimportant, but you do not want to find out that the horn isn’t where you thought it was when someone is about to step into the road in front of you and even in a sunny holiday destination you may still need lights in daytime. For example, lights are a legal requirement when entering a tunnel in many countries. Nobody wants to start a holiday with a fine for something as simple as that.
Don’t be surprised in a car with the steering wheel on the opposite side to what you are used to if it takes a while to get the interior mirror adjusted and for the driving position to feel right. It will take time to get used to everything being on the wrong side and even then you still grab the door pocket instead of the gear lever or parking brake if you try to do it in a hurry.
Drive with caution at first because you are not used to judging distances from this side of the car. Ask passengers to warn you if you get too close to anything, though their flinching is usually a good indicator.
Though you are now on the correct side of the car for the road, so overtaking is easier, remember that your view of the road is different so bends will feel unfamiliar and you may find judging speed and distance hard at first.