Driving on the left side of the road for the first time can be intimidating. If you are visiting Jamaica anytime soon, and plan to drive, then this will be the case. But anyone can get the hang of it with a little practice.
Before you hit the road, there are a few key differences and tips that we have to share with you:
Right-hand drive vehicles
Firstly, most vehicles in Jamaica are right-hand drive. If you rent a car in Jamaica then it will almost definitely be a right-hand drive vehicle. But don’t waste time trying to find a left-hand drive vehicle. In fact, in countries where they drive on the left side of the road, they drive right-hand drive vehicles because it is better suited.
Just take note of a few things that you will have to get used to:
- The wiper blades and turning indicators are on the opposite sides. Just remember that the indicator stalk is always pointed towards the driver’s door.
- The gear must be operated with the other hand. If you learned to drive a manual then you probably learned to do it with just one hand. So it might be difficult to start changing gears with you left hand.
Pick a car you are comfortable with
Be sure to pick a car that you might be familiar with. Or that is easy to use. When you do get the car drive it around for a little and get a feel of the vehicle. If you are not familiar with the car at all before then you can do some research online before so you are confident when you sit in the front seat for the first time.
Let someone else drive first
It is a very good idea to let someone else familiar with Jamaican roads drive you around for a bit and give you some tips. This will allow you to see how drivers and pedestrians on the road behave prior to sitting in the driver’s seat.
Be careful when pulling out of car parks and turning
I’ve seen persons make the mistake before. They think they get the hang of driving on the left side of the road. When all of a sudden they turn into the right lane. You must turn into the left lane now which means crossing traffic at an intersection when taking a right turn as shown in the image above.
This applies not just when driving on the opposite side of the road, but is extremely imp0ortant when driving in an unfamiliar country for the first time. This means driving slowly and staying aware. Don’t allow anyone on the road to push you around no matter how much they toot their horns.
So drive slow and overly cautious. Often local culture and customs influences road behaviour more than the law itself. This leads to speeding and other unlawful behaviours on the road in some areas.
Learn your route
If you are travelling from Kingston to Ocho Rios for example, it is good to check the routes before. This can be easily done on Google Maps. However, when Google maps shows you the available routes for a trip, it is recommended to then ask locals for a second opinion. Some routes are not so friendly to newcomers.
For example, there is the Highway 2000 Route and there is the scenic route which is NOT recommended for internationals because of the difficult terrain. Google often recommends routes in Jamaica that are not the most traveller-friendly. This is why a second opinion is important.
When you have selected the route then get to know as much about it as possible before leaving. This will make your journey much easier.
This is always a must when driving but when driving on the left side of the road for the first time requires extra attention. This means no texting and driving, answering calls, looking too much at the scenery and for the first time, you might want to avoid listening to the radio.
Bring a friend
Having someone with you to help you with directions, caution you and help you feel comfortable in general is a big plus when driving in an unfamiliar setting.
Want to learn more about Driving in Jamaica? Read our full guide here.