If you come from the United States, Canada or Europe, one of the first things that you will notice is how truly horrid some of the driving is around the world. I have been to over 60 countries in the last few years on all six occupied continents and can say that the state of driving in most parts of the world is abysmal. And quite dangerous.
Here are some of the countries I have been to where the driving is the worst, and then I am going to give you some tips on how to handle it.
Vietnam might just take the top prize for worst driving of the places I have been. I must admit my personal bias in this regard: it isn’t just the driving in Vietnam that drives me batty. It is the honking.
Frankly, the driving isn’t much worse than the other places on this list. True, there are more motorcycles and scooters here, which dart around like bees looking for a juicy flower, through their unpredictability and maneuverability make them highly dangerous. It is the incessant honking that takes Vietnam to a new level of annoying. They honk constantly and for everything.
Mexico is perhaps the worst driving location I experienced in Central America, which is saying a lot. I saw more accidents here on the side of the road than almost anywhere I have been. I asked a local about what it takes to get a driver’s license there, wondering how difficult the test was, and they said “what test? You just show up with money”. That explains a lot.
Africa as a whole is yet another collection of bad drivers. There, I saw more flagrantly dangerous driving than any place I have been. Saigon or Cairo or Mexico City might have far more traffic, but there at least you get a feeling that some of them know what they are doing, in their unique way. In Africa, all bets are off. They will pass cars on the left side, going up a hill in the fog on a right hand curve – in other words, when they can’t see a thing of the oncoming traffic.
A few basic tips to deal with bad driving around the world:
Never sit in the front of a bus. There are too many stories of head-on collisions that I have heard to ever be willing to risk sitting near the front of the bus, otherwise known as the 'ejection rows'. Sit in the middle or the back. It may not be entirely safe there, but it is a lot safer than going through the front windshield.
My two taxi tips are to use only licensed taxis and also, just don’t look. Licensed taxi drivers might not drive any better than the rogue ones, but you at least stand a far better chance of not being ripped off or robbed with licensed ones. Plus, you can only hope the driving is slightly safer. As to the not looking – its best for your peace of mind and your stomach to not be looking at the craziness as it happens.
Lastly, please don’t do a lot of rural driving on motorcycles or scooters. You may have an image of a lovely rural area where you can slowly take in the scenery and snap up loads of pictures, but although the driving may seem wild in an overpowering way in the cities, it is even worse in the rural areas. At least in the cities, the speeds the cars are traveling are somewhat limited. In the country, all bets, and rules, are off.
Do not be too afraid of the driving around the world. At least, please don’t be so afraid that you avoid things like bus travel or moving around a bit. But at the same time, be wary of ways to protect yourself from the dangers of ill-trained drivers around the world.
Michael Hodson was an attorney in the United States for ten
years before he sold be practice in 2008 and set off on a quest to circle the
world without the use of a single airplane. After successfully completing that
journey, he has just kept up with his overland
travel and can be found at his blog Go, See, Write.