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Nervous about driving on the "wrong side" of the road

Sandy, Utah
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Nervous about driving on the "wrong side" of the road

we are planning a trip to Scotand for spring of next year and initally thought to do a package deal, however the places I am interested in are rarely on the preplanned packages (clava cairns, culloden, callansh, to name a few). so we are now looking into a tour itinerary from Secret Scotland so we can drive ourselves, however we are really nervous about driving there! am i blowing it out of proportion? i have dreamed of this trip for so long and i would hate to take a packaged trip and not see the things i am really excited about and then regret it. any advice? thanks!

Vancouver, Canada
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1. Re: Nervous about driving on the "wrong side" of the road

No two visitors will have the same experience of driving on the left, but this is what i've found.

Driving and sightseeing can be tiring. Take breaks frequently, and don't plan to spend 10 hours a day behind the wheel. If you and your travelling companion - Mr S I take it - are both willing to trade off driving and navigating, so much the better.

Get to know the road signs, markings, and expectations that are part of driving in the UK. The Highway Code is available at many bookshops, but to get you started, have a look here: https://www.gov.uk/highway-code

Single track roads mean just that: one lane of tarmac for all traffic. They are a bit hair-raising at first, but keep in mind that there are plenty of marked passing places; use caution and good driving skillls and all should be well.

Paper maps still have their use.

If your mobile phone will work in Scotland then buy a Sim card there and ensure your phone is charged. You may not need to use it, but it's a handy thing to have in case of emergency.

Ensure you put the correct fuel in the car. At the petrol station unleaded fuel will be dispensed from a pump with a green handle; black handles are for diesel.

Keep a few coins at hand for pay and display car parks.

If the weather is fine then driving through the Scottish countryside and stopping to sightsee can be wonderful. Have a go and enjoy your holiday.

Russell, Kansas
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2. Re: Nervous about driving on the "wrong side" of the road

If I can do it, anyone can. I drive a stick shift every day so I am good on that, but if you are unfamiliar, ask in advance for an automatic. They are not common there. Shifting with your left hand isn't difficult if you already know what you are doing. Just be aware that the roads are somewhat narrower and in some towns, people park halfway up on the sidewalk.

Away from the cities, like where you want to go, you will find driving a joy. There are a zillion things that will catch your eye and you will want to stop and explore.

Sydney, Australia
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3. Re: Nervous about driving on the "wrong side" of the road

My experience when I started driving on the right in Europe was that the first few hours are terrifying and a lot of concentration is needed for the first few days.

Oakham, United...
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4. Re: Nervous about driving on the "wrong side" of the road

When we drive on the 'wrong' side, in France, the only time there's any problem is pulling out onto the road onto the wrong side. This usually happens on a quiet road with no signs to remind you - maybe you stopped to look at the view, or to get some fuel. The actual driving bit is, surprisingly, exactly the same as you're used to! Sometimes junctions 'feel' wrong, but lane markings, signs etc. don't usually leave much doubt about where you're meant to go.

Stowmarket, United...
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5. Re: Nervous about driving on the "wrong side" of the road

I always find the first 20 mins of driving on the wrong side worse, then it becomes second nature, but I always get confused when i get home.

The worse is using the channel tunnel, you drive onto it on the left, 30mins later you drive off on the right.

You will be fine, though I will just say this, beforeyou come make sure you understand how roundabouts work.

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6. Re: Nervous about driving on the "wrong side" of the road

As it says in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Don’t Panic!

To follow on from kansasbeck, ask for an automatic when organising the car and this will give you one less thing to worry about.

MartinC has a point and it is usually pulling out onto a road which will give you most trouble, so take extra care if you stop for fuel, or a break and especially when you leave your lodging for the night. There’s nothing wrong with putting a visual reminder for yourself to drive on the “wrong” side of the road somewhere on the dashboard, a post-it note or somesuch.

I don’t know if you have found it, but there is an excellent website called Undiscovered Scotland filled with all manner of useful information including a section on Driving and Roads. Have a look



One thing I would advise is not to allow traffic to build up behind you and if you notice this happening do allow people to overtake wherever it is safe to do so.

It’s worth remembering that Scottish roads are most likely going to be much slower than you are used to and the following site will help with drive times, but do factor in time for comfort stops and photo opportunities. Although the good folk at Secret Scotland should already have taken this into account.


Out of curiosity I notice you are interested in Clava, Culloden and Callanish and wonder if you are inspired to visit Scotland because of the Outlander novels? I think the adventures of Jamie and Claire have encouraged many a visitor to these shores. But whatever your reasons for wanting to come to Scotland, enjoy!

Stowmarket, United...
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7. Re: Nervous about driving on the "wrong side" of the road

Being on wrong side of car is usually a good reminder.

Bucks, UK
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8. Re: Nervous about driving on the "wrong side" of the road

It's surprisingly easy and, once you've been doing it for 30 minutes or so, you will feel a lot more confident. If you can, avoid picking up your rental car in a busy town centre, this will make the first few miles of driving a lot easier - airport locations are usually a better place to collect a car, and you stand a better chance of getting an auto if that's what you require.

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9. Re: Nervous about driving on the "wrong side" of the road

I went last year for the first time with my mother, and we had a wonderful time! But for me it was also the "wrong side" to drive on so here's my reflections on it:

Picking the car up on the airport to drive in to Edinburgh at 10 pm might seem like a good idea while looking at the map, but it's really not. First time driving on the left side, at night time, going in to a big city is utterly stupid. Waking up early the day after still shaking from last night, and getting in to the car and finding your way out of said city - in daylight with loads of traffic - is certainly no fun either.

Other than that, once you're out on the country roads, you start easing into it.

So. 1. Pick up car outside big city. 2. Know that distances will take a lot longer than you anticipate. 3. Keep mantra "left side, watch the signs" in your head the first day. 4. Let cars pass you as much as possible. Scots are used to their roads and tend to want to go a little bit faster than you do.

You will manage though it is a bit scary at first. But honestly, once I got home I actually missed driving on the "wrong side" of the road :)

Oh, one more thing! If you have (as someone else also suspected) read the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon I can say this: Culloden is a sad place to visit. But fantastic. I'm not going back, once is enough, but you don't want to miss it. The Clava cairns didn't do much for me but it was a nice drive and close to Culloden field so you might as well check it out. Due to travelling taking so much longer than expected we never got to Isle of Lewis, but a friend of mine did and liked it. Beware: Fill up your tank before getting to the islands. Petrol stations are rare out there, and if you get there on a sunday not a thing will be open for business. Can be good to know.

Have a nice trip!

London, United...
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10. Re: Nervous about driving on the "wrong side" of the road

If you rent a car, you need to specify that you want automatic. Sometimes you get manual if not requested.

I've been driving both sides here and there in different countries and found it not difficult to follow either side. The key is follow the traffic and stay closer to the center to the driver side. In the UK, people tend to keep the legal speed (due to speed cameras) so you might be okay. As others suggested, go slowly to adopt the local traffic for 20 minutes or so.