I always cursed driving in the UK until I drove in Portugal. My first experience and practice drive was round the roads of a holiday complex in Albufeira. Everything felt the wrong way round and back to front. For example when I instinctively reached for the seat belt on the right hand side I found myself just grasping at thin air. Whoops! It also felt strange changing gears with my right hand instead of left, plus every time a car approached from the other direction – I ducked. Not good for inspiring passenger confidence! Driving in Portugal, for me, was the equivalent of a white knuckle ride. I gripped the steering wheel so hard I physically shook with terror. Roundabouts were definitely a challenge as were junctions. The only time I felt remotely confident was driving in a straight line. All this before I had to start worrying what everyone else around me was doing. I was a nervous wreck.
That was then…
I now feel more confident, and as I turn the key in the ignition my whole persona changes from relative calm to the devil incarnate. The survival tips I now share with you are a must for your sanity.
Always work on the basis NEVER assume anything
- Concentrate on the road at all times. You will need psychic powers to survive.
- If the driver in front of you is indicating to turn right, he may indeed turn left. Don’t assume he is going to turn in the direction indicated. He may just drive straight on.
- Constantly check in your rear view mirror for the maniac who will overtake a line of traffic and then carve you up as he nips in front of you at the last minute. Hand gestures will be exchanged when he ‘squeezes’ in narrowly missing the approaching articulated lorry as it hurtles past. So be prepared to break or swerve – probably both. More hand gestures and obscenities as he motors off at speed. You will learn to multitask – drive, curse and hand gestures.
- Look out for lorries, cars, scooters, bicycles, burros and carts, pulling out from side turnings. Don’t assume they have seen you or they have even bothered to check for oncoming traffic.!!” You will learn to swerve instinctively to take evasive action.
- Don’t forget whilst looking in your rear view mirror and observing side roads to look at the road in front. Hit the breaks! Drivers will screech to a halt without warning. No signal. Maybe some break lights if you’re lucky. Pheww! Frogs are blessed with all round vision I believe, but we are not.
- When you pull out gingerly to pass a stationary vehicle with said driver (see above) totally oblivious to the chaos behind – check your mirror as an impatient driver from six cars back will probably decide he does not want to wait his turn. You will learn to just sigh and accept their impatience
- Approach the brow of a hill or blind bend with caution. Local drivers are notorious for over-taking on both. They were obviously born with X-ray vision. Who in their right mind would overtake when they can’t see oncoming traffic? If you are not blessed with 9 lives – buy some on Ebay - you will need them.
- Motorway driving also has its moments. For example, when you are in the outside lane overtaking a stream of traffic you may look in your rear view mirror and there will be a Mercedes an inch from your rear bumper frantically flashing his lights at you, to move out of the way. Inpatient he will expect you to evaporate into thin air. Don’t be intimated.
- Beware of pedestrians. They present the most danger during the ‘Terrorist’ season. (This is the name we have bestowed on the tourists as they terrorize the locals). Many tourists come on holiday and leave their road sense at home, as they walk four abreast the road, or just step off the pavement without looking. Lean on the horn to wake them up. Hot tip – when you buy a car test the horn. Don’t buy one with a pathetic beep – you need a fog horn!
- Roundabouts – remember they work anti clockwise not clockwise. Drivers don’t use lanes on roundabouts and they don’t signal. You will definitely need to develop all of your physic powers to guess which direction they are heading so you can take evasive action.
- Parking is great fun. NOT. Your car will get scratched and scuffed resulting in colorful scars from other people’s paintwork. Hot tips – park between the best 2 cars you can find in the car park, if not avoid parking near cars that would look more at home in the scrap yard.
- Finally, when you make a mistake – adopt the Portuguese shrug and a nice smile.