Anyone spending a period of time abroad, on holiday or for work, will doubtless mull over the idea of renting a car and driving. In some instances, having a car is actually very useful, as it gives you the freedom to travel to many different places under your own steam. However, driving in a foreign country is often fraught with danger.
Some cities in South East Asia are chaotic. For example, driving in Bangkok is not recommended. The roads are gridlocked most of the time and the signs are rarely in English. It would take you forever to drive from one side of the city to the other, so unless you want a car to explore your resort area, it is best not to bother. You are much better taking a taxi or looking into rental bike Bangkok.
But don’t let this put you off! If you are truly determined to drive in a city like Bangkok, here’s what you need to know.
You Need Nerves of Steel
If you are a nervous driver or not that experienced, don’t even think about hiring a rental car in South East Asia. Traffic is the stuff nightmares are made of and nobody will give you any leeway if you get lost or are not sure what to do at a busy intersection.
The Rules of the Road
Be aware that the rules of the road are very different in South East Asia. In many cases, there are no rules to speak of, but be prepared to give way to larger vehicles. Trucks, buses, vans, etc. always have right of way at junctions and roundabouts. Don’t pay much attention to traffic lights and never assume it is safe to go when the traffic light is green.
You need a lot of confidence to drive in South-East Asia – even in rural areas there are numerous hazards to watch out for, including stray cows and potholes.
The Legalities of Driving in South East Asia
It may feel like the Wild West at times, but you will have to prove you can drive before you rent a vehicle. Apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP) before you travel and carry it with you at all times. Take your driver’s licence from home too, as an IDP is not valid without it. An IDP is also a useful form of identification, which can come in handy if you get caught up in any trouble while out on the road.
Even with an IDP in your wallet, you may find local police are dismissive if they stop for an alleged traffic violation. Basically, it’s an excuse to fine you. Always carry some cash on you just in case you get stopped.
When renting a car, you will need to show your IDP. Renting a motorbike or scooter is different and many operators don’t ask to see an IDP. Be aware that you need to be 18-years-old to drive in many parts of South East Asia.
Always rent a car from a reputable company. This increases the likelihood that the vehicle is actually roadworthy.