Self-drive holiday - what to watch out for.
Hertz Asia Pacific
Thursday, 29th June 2006
A self-drive holiday is about freedom on wheels to go where you want and do what you like - at your own pace and with peace of mind.

All in the privacy of your choice of vehicle and in the company of your loved ones. It is not about speeding to cover as much distance as possible or rushing to see as many places as you possibly could. It is about how much you enjoy.

Forget about scheduled departures and early wake-up calls. When you are in the driver's seat, you take control of your adventure. Planning in advance is always advisable. Do some pre-trip research. It saves you time and you are well prepared to get the most out of your trip when you arrive at your destination.

Pre-trip planning:

  • Assess your needs
    Where would you like to go for your upcoming self-drive holiday? Who are you travelling with? When are you going? Would you prefer to go D-I-Y? Or purchase a self-drive holiday package from your travel agent? Look out for travel fairs organised by airlines, tourism organisations and travel agencies. They are great platforms to check out what's new in the marketplace, grab special offers and pick up your travel brochures/ guides/ maps!
  • International Driving Permit (IDP)
    Get yourself one. It prevents inconveniences when renting a car or driving in a foreign country where English is not a common language. Countries like Germany, France and Japan require one.
  • Maps
    Arm yourself with good, current maps, especially if you plan to go off the main roads. Check out your point-to-point route options online at websites like travel tools at mapquest.com, travelmate.com.au and www.hertz.com .
  • Rain or shine?
    Check out the latest local weather and pack your clothes accordingly.
  • Right or left-hand-drive?
    Right-hand drive (drive on the left-hand-side of the road): Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and United Kingdom. Left-hand drive (drive on the right-hand-side of the road): Korea, Taiwan, Canada, USA, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland.
  • Local traffic conditions
    Make sure you are familiar with the local traffic laws and common road signs. For e.g., there are roads throughout Melbourne that are known as "fairways". Yellow lines and tram signs along these roads give trams priority at certain times.

    Traffic lights in USA turn straight from RED to GREEN to indicate "go", and then to AMBER to advise you RED is about to appear. A simple flashing YELLOW light means, "proceed with caution". A flashing RED means come to a complete standstill. Pull over and stop when you see a police car flashing lights behind you. Stay in the car and wait for the police officer to approach you. Getting out of the car is seen as a form of retaliation and the police will react accordingly.

Picking up your car :

  • Additional drivers
    Ensure that he/ she is listed on the Rental Agreement. There is no coverage for damages by drivers not registered.
  • Drive upon arrival?
    Unless you are familiar with the host country's conditions, try to avoid immediate long-distance driving after arriving. Have sufficient rest and acclimatise to local weather and road conditions.

Before you hit the road :
  • Vehicle features & controls
    Take your time. Familiarise yourself with the headlights, windshield wipers, hazard warning lights, heater and other controls. Know where they are and how they function before you hit the road – do not be afraid to ask for assistance if needed.
  • Emergency roadside assistance
    Ensure that your car rental company provides 24-hour emergency roadside assistance and that your emergency phone numbers are within easy reach (not in the car boot). Arm yourself with a cell phone (with extra batteries) on long-distance trips.

On the road:
  • What to wear?
    Wear comfortable clothes and non-slip soled shoes and have a pair of sunglasses to minimise sun glares.
  • Road ethics
    When in Rome do as the Romans do! Adhere to the local speed limits and traffic laws.
  • Driver fatigue
    Fatigue can be as dangerous as drink driving or speeding, and contributes to many fatal accidents on long stretch of highways. While driving, exercise your eyes by reading road signs or shifting the focus of your eyes to different parts of the roadway. Leave a small gap in the window for circulation of fresh air. Try to ensure that at least 1 other person you are travelling with can drive – alternate drivers to relieve boredom. Otherwise, STOP every 2 hours to stretch your legs, get a caffeinated drink and some fresh air.
  • Fuel stops
    You should plan ahead for fuel stops. Some petrol stations do not operate around the clock and have limited credit card facilities. Have a chat with the locals and find out where best to top up your fuel and replenish water/ snacks.
  • Bush fires or flood
    Try to check road and weather conditions on a daily basis. There could be unforeseen conditions (e.g. temporary closure of highway due to forest fire). Give yourself more time to plan for alternative destinations or routes.
  • Lost out there or vehicle breakdown
    Do not leave the vehicle under any circumstances – a missing vehicle is easier to locate than missing people. Do ensure that your rental car company provides information on breakdown service, preferably one that provides 24-hour breakdown service.
    • Tyre blowout – ease your foot off the accelerator, keep a firm grasp on the steering wheel and pull off the roadway.
    • Brake failure – if your brake pedal suddenly sinks to the floor, pump it to build pressure. If that does not work, use your emergency brake. Shift your vehicle into a lower gear to slow down.
    • Steering failure – ease your foot off the accelerator, turn on the emergency flashers and come to a slow stop. Brake gently to prevent vehicle from spinning.
    • Stuck accelerator – Hook your toe under it to free it. If it does not become free, shift your vehicle into neutral and brake gently to slow down.
  • To stop or not?
    Do not pick up hitchhikers, under ANY circumstances.
  • Bumped from behind?
    Do not pull over and stop, especially in a secluded or dark area. Drive to the nearest public area and call for police assistance. On the road, watch out for wandering animals (cattle, wallabies, wombats etc.) especially at dawn and at dusk. Take note especially when driving on country roads at night in cold weather – animals such as kangaroos lie on the bitumen road surface, which holds the warmth of the sun.
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