If you are going to be behind the wheel of a new rented car, and in a strange foreign land where you have never driven before, what should you do in preparing to drive?
Just not so long ago, I was in Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia, located just north of Singapore. As those of you who have traveled widely to Asia would know, the traffic on the roads in most of the Asian countries is heavy throughout the day, and many times driving habits take precedence over traffic rules and regulations, especially when the searing tropical heat bears down on cool heads, and raise tempers!
Before me was a small locally produced Malaysian car - the Perodua Kancil- named after the tiny deer that can run swiftly through the Malaysian jungles.
And I need to use that car, to brave the heavy traffic of the day to move to the next nearest city of Shah Alam to attend to a business meeting.
Alien to the area, alien to the car- what should I do?
Indeed, when you are confronted with such a situation, what should you do?
Keep cool - and PLAN your journey, and use the car intelligently.
For instance, perform the very, very basic inspection on your car before you even use it. This means:
1. check the tires and their pressure
2. check the engine oil and their brake fluid
3. check the battery
4. ensure the brakes are functioning ( there's nothing like to take it for a short slow ride to put it to the test! )
Plan your journey- for instance, do not be afraid to ask directions and record them down so that you can always refer to the notes. Plan the timing of your journey - so that you can always drive during the slower traffic periods, away from the maddening crowds in the rush hour traffic. Protect yourself especially your eyes from the glaring tropical sun by wearing light sunglasses. Be properly attired. And wear shoes! The last tip on wearing shoes may seem funny, but when it is perennial summer in the tropics, many visitors, especially those who come from the cooler temperate countries would be tempted to wear only sandals!
And when you go on the roads, observe the speed limits. Do not push your vehicle to the maximum speed limits especially where you are driving along strange highways and where traffic jams are a norm.
In my personal case, I was astonished to see cars doubled parked along busy suburb shopping areas and feeder roads while I cruised my way to my destination. I wasn't sure whether that was allowable, as the double parking of cars in two rows converted the road into a narrow one way path, leading to congestion at many parts. It sure was a "revelation"!
But in a strange land, where you are not the expert in local traffic rules, it is best to play it save. Drive defensively and plan your travel to ease your journey, and you will enjoy that ride.