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Driving in Great Britain: Keep Left

It comes as no surprise that Europe remains the favorite destination of overseas-bound Americans and that England is the most popular country, with almost 4 million visits last year. We know it's not for the food. Could it be familiarity with the language?

One thing Americans are not familiar with in Britain is the driving, which is, of course, on the other side: other side of the road, other side of the car. The Virgin Islands, Jamaica, Kenya, South Africa, India, Japan, Australia, and some other countries also have driving on the left side.

There's nothing to it once you've had some practice—but if you've been in this situation, you know how nerve-racking it was the first time you experienced it.

Here are some ways to cope.

  • Avoid driving the moment you step off the plane—especially in the morning. It's one of the busiest times of day, and jet lag causes fatigue and confusion.
  • Request a car with automatic transmission. Shifting gears with the left hand adds to the initial difficulty.
  • If possible, start on roads that require little navigation, like freeways with light traffic.
  • Be alert and calm when turning, the most difficult part of driving on the other side. Always look both ways several times before making a turn.
  • Getting back on the road after a stop can be particularly risky. Be extra vigilant, and don't let that pint of ale with your pub lunch contribute to calamity.
  • Drive near the center of the road, and take hints from the driver in front of you.
  • When you get into traffic circles (called roundabouts in Britain), stick to the inner lane and go around as many times as you need to until you're ready to exit.
  • Learn international traffic signs beforehand. You can obtain a booklet from your local automobile association, or call the country's tourist board
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