Road safety in Asia – is it as easy as arriving and driving?

Do you dream of driving the mountain passages en route to Po Toi O, crossing the Tibetan plateau to Lhasa, or coasting along the Hai Van Pass coastal highway? Asia definitely boasts some scenic driving routes that rival their European counterparts. But before you get behind the wheel on your next trip to Asia, keep these important considerations in mind to ensure your safety on the roadways:

Valid Driving Permits

Depending on where you’re travelling in Asia, you may need to present an international driving permit in addition to your Great Britain driver’s license in order to legally rent a car. Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, South Korea, Vietnam, and the Philippines are just a few of the countries that require an IDP 1949 for UK drivers. IDPs can be obtained from AA or RAC Motoring Services prior to your departure as long as you are over 18 and have passed your driving test; the cost is £5.50 plus an additional processing fee. Even if a country only recommends having an IDP, it’s not a bad idea to get one, just in case you are stopped by the local police. China does not accept the IDP or your regular Great Britain driver’s license; instead, you must obtain a temporary driving permit upon arrival.

Traffic Signs and Local Laws

Unless you speak the local language or are lucky enough to be travelling to a country that follows UK traffic signage (Hong Kong, Singapore), you may encounter great difficulties interpreting the signs once you’re on the road. Prior to your trip, familiarise yourself with the local road signs and signals and write down the most common ones to help make the navigation process easier once you’re in the vehicle. The same strategy goes for local laws regarding lane changing, turning, speed limits, and alcohol regulation—make sure you know the laws before you go to avoid getting pulled over and having to pay hefty fines. It’s a good idea to buy a bilingual road atlas and plan your routes ahead of time as well.

Travel Insurance

Driving in Asia’s most populous cities can be daunting, while testing out your skills on narrow mountain passageways and subpar country roadways can be nerve-wracking in a totally different way. Before you get behind the wheel, check with your insurer to see if it provides breakdown and road accident compensation while you’re abroad. If you’re hiring a vehicle, make sure you fully understand any agreement before you sign it. If you feel unconfident in your knowledge or uncomfortable when you see the local driving in action, change your plans and have a licensed driver take you where you want to go instead. It may be worth the extra pounds to ensure your safety on the roadways.