Adventures in Driving

I was visiting Amanda at Teaching Wanderlust and she wrote about advice for driving in Venezuela.

It made me think of some of my experiences driving when I lived in Panama, Peru and Japan and visited in Greece. My husband was the one driving most of the time, but I was along for these rides. Here is some advice for  you:

In Panama and Peru:

  1. Always have some spare change with you. You will need to pay the guys who “clean” your windshield when you stop at intersections. You will also need to pay the guys who “guard” and “wash” your car when you park it.
  2. Keep windows up if it is Carnival- to avoid getting drenched by a reveler throwing water in. In general, keep windows up to avoid robberies.
  3. Check the news before you leave so you can change your route if a demonstration is going on.
  4. If you should drive through the countryside at night, avoid stopping where you might be surrounded by a pack of dogs. And watch out for trucks with a load of old tires- one may fall off and hit the road, then bounce onto the hood and roll over the roof of your car.
  5. If you live in a guarded building with parking, brush up on your parking skills, because you will have the smallest parking space imaginable, and your neighbors’spaces will be right on top of yours.
  6. Sometimes it is easier to take a taxi, but be prepared to bargain for the fare. And educate yourself about what that fare should be, because the driver will try to trick you into paying 2 or 3 times as much thinking you don’t know any better.

In Japan:

  1. Don’t drive too close to the edge of the road or you might have to get out to lift the wheel out of the “benjo” ditch (use your imagination and you can smell what is in it and why you really want to avoid it).
  2. When you come to a traffic light at night, turn your headlights off until it turns green.
  3. If you want to act like a native, put wax on your car when going on a long drive. Then when you are stuck in traffic, you can get out and shine your car.
  4. Don’t forget to stay on your side of the road if you are used to driving in the US, because the right side is the wrong side.

In Greece:

  1. If there isn’t a lane where you want to go, just start driving as if there is and create your own lane. The markings on the road are only a suggestion.
  2. If your vehicle breaks down, stay calm. A local garage will fix it and charge you a ridiculous price. So ridiculous you will laugh with relief (after paying and driving away, of course).

Coming back to the US:

  1. Remember to drive on the right side of the road, which is the right. (Don’t look over at the stop sign and ask yourself why it is on the wrong side).
  2. Remember you will have to follow the rules of the road- do not make up your own.





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7 Responses to Adventures in Driving

  1. This is such well-written advice for places in which I have never considered driving. In my mind I am seeing these foreign roadways and shaking my head. These wise words would definitely be most helpful!

  2. Alice Nine says:

    Oh I love this! I relate to many of your points having experienced them in my travels. US drivers are really quite sane in spite of what we often think. That water being thrown on you… we have a hilarious family story about that one. Well, it wasn’t so funny at the time for some. My wildest ride was in the back of a pickup perched on top of bags of veggies and rice with some chickens… going way to fast on a narrow road that followed a mountain ridge (drop off on both sides) in Thailand.

  3. lindabaie says:

    Oh my, I don’t have as much experience except traveling fast on the Autobahn was very scary, and in the back roads of Mexico, you cannot stop on the side because there is no side, only a drop-off. If you need to stop, you stop on the road and hope no one hits you. You’ve had quite amazing adventures, Diane! The pack of dogs doesn’t make me want to visit Panama or Peru!

  4. cvarsalona says:

    Diane, I will have to keep these tips in mind if I ever venture to these destinations. My scariest ride ever was from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Being in the passenger seat gave me the feeling that I would fall over the cliff, never to return. I think I closed my eyes or cried most of the time.

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