Perils of driving alone abroad

editorial image
Have your say

Blogger Trish Burgess writes for the Free Press

When we hire a car abroad it always falls to my husband to do the driving. Dougie tells me you get used to the gears, mirrors and seat being the the wrong place, but I would much prefer to be the map reader.

It seems I’m not alone. Having discovered that 24% of the UK population prefer their partners to drive when they are abroad, Skyscanner has introduced free lessons to help nervous Brits with left-­hand driving.

The lessons are being arranged on July 12, in Brixton. This happens to be my birthday but woe betide my husband if he thinks this will cut the mustard as a good present.

Driving on the wrong side of the road is just one aspect of hiring a car which causes stress: road conditions, navigation and the car itself lead to adrenaline surges in the Burgess family.

I remember a little car we had in Tuscany which took us past a ‘No Entry’ sign in Pisa into a pedestrianised marketplace. People were gesticulating wildly: that’s odd, we thought, until 
we sailed past the leaning tower.

The 4x4 we hired in Iceland was no match for some of the gravel roads which left me feeling like I’d had a whole body workout with a Slendertone machine. How frustrating that it should suffer a puncture on a tarmaced piece of road.

In Portugal we thought we had grabbed ourselves a great bargain with our online deal. As we shuffled out of Faro airport we headed towards the swish air­conditioned rental offices only to be sent away in the direction of a corrugated iron hut.

Dougie queued up to see two cheery, sweaty chaps in vests whilst Rory and I, melting in the oppressive heat, tried to spot which car might be ours. Yes, the one with all the dents and a big crack in the bumper was ours.

As there was no alternative, we carefully checked it over, took photos of the damage then tentatively drove it away.

Not sure how we missed the bald tyre but, with a deep sigh, my husband sought out the spare: it had a huge gouge in it. Being hours away from the airport and unable to summon up the strength to have a fight with the men in vests, we stuck with the bald tyre and only ventured away from the apartment on short jaunts to the supermarket. It was on one of these jaunts that the glass from the wing mirror fell out and landed on the ground in tiny pieces. Ever resourceful, I headed for the toiletries section of the supermercado and bought a cheap make-up bag. Dougie removed its mirror and taped it into place.

No one would ever notice. They did.

Thankfully all went swimmingly in Austria last year...until a speeding ticket arrived in the post two weeks after we returned home.

“When did we break the speed limit?” Dougie exclaimed.

“Don’t ask me,” I replied. “I wasn’t driving.”

l You can follow Trish on 
Twitter @mumsgoneto and read her blog at