5 Tips for Driving on the Left Side of the Road

You’ve got your confirmations in order and reservations booked, but you’re visiting a country where you have to drive … on the other side of the road? Truth be told, around 25 percent of the world drives on the left (or “opposite”) side of the road, so you’re bound to bump into this situation at some point.

Now, I’m not much of a driver, but I lived in the United Kingdom for 5 years and took enough road trips that I can give you pretty good advice on the topic. Here are my top 5 tips for driving on the left side of the road.

1. Read up on driving rules before you go

Don’t just scan the 30-word introduction from your Lonely Planet guide that cheerfully tells you to stay to the left. Do a little homework on driving in your vacation dreamland — nobody wants to become a traffic statistic.

For example, did you know that there are still some single track roads in the UK? (Yes. They are not fun.) And would you know what to do on a single lane bridge in New Zealand?

Given today’s era of blogs and online newspapers, you won’t have trouble finding out what you need to know, so do yourself a favor and google it.

2. Don’t get a manual transmission rental car

You might drive a manual transmission at home, but cars are a little different in each country, no matter how similar they might look. Go for the automatic — even if it costs more, even if it’s a slight bruise to your ego. As a tourist, you’ve got enough to think about without having to retrain yourself to shift with your left hand.

3. Do a parking-lot test first

When you get into your rental car for the first time, ask the attendant if there’s somewhere you can sit and get your bearings. If you’ve landed at an airport, space might be at a premium, so look for something like a large airport hotel. You’ll want to take a minute, calm your nerves, and familiarize yourself with your car and where everything is. This also gives you the time to make sure you’ve got your directions sorted so you can focus on the road.

4. Cities are not your friend

It’s a universal fact that cities can be intimidating, especially if you are driving on the left side of the road, so sometimes it’s best to just avoid driving there altogether if you can. Park the car and take public transportation. Or, if it all seems too much, find a tour guide to take you instead. (We won’t judge. Promise.)

5. Slow down and smell those roses

Don’t overschedule the trip. You don’t know how long drives will take or whether you’ll encounter traffic jams. Rushing also leaves you less time to recover from mistakes if your mind wanders, so slow down. Instead, factor in some breathing room to pull off and take a photo or explore a small town that’s begging for attention.

Above all, remember: it’s not a vacation if you’ve spent a week in an adrenaline-fueled road rage. Enjoy the experience of driving on the left and laugh off any goofs as part of the story you can tell when you get home. And please, get home safely!

For more tips, check out our driving abroad page. Or leave your own tip for driving on the left side of the road in the comments below!

Check out Andy’s website, Plum Deluxe.

Facebook Fans Report How They Spend Tax Refunds

Ahhh, April 15. A day meticulously prepared for by accountants, relished by the IRS, and dreaded by taxpayers … unless those taxpayers are receiving a refund check. Then, suddenly, Tax Day seems a little less stressful. Last year, we offered tips on smart ways to use your tax refund, so this year, we thought we’d ask you to tell us how you actually use it.

In honor of Tax Day, we asked our Facebook fans to post the wildest ways they’ve spent their tax refunds. Turns out a lot of them are pretty responsible with their money, but we’re glad to see a few of them had some fun. Take a look!

The most common responses

  • “Tax refund? What tax refund?” – Sorry guys, we didn’t mean to rub it in.
  • “Insurance from Esurance” – It may not be fun or crazy, but we do love hearing about how responsible our customers are!

The fun stuff …

  • “A Magic 8 Ball” – We hope it gave you all the answers you wanted to hear.
  • “My banjo” – Do you know how to play the Beatles’ “Tax Man”?
  • “A Segway” – Now we’re talking …
  • “A marriage license” – Awww!
  • “An iPad®” – You know, you can use Esurance Mobile on your tablet … just sayin’.
  • “A half-sleeve tattoo” – Any images of Uncle Sam hidden in there?
  • “An Alienware M15x” – That definitely constitutes a fun splurge.

… and the not-so-fun stuff

  • “Marital aids” – We’re rooting for you 2!
  • “A new clutch. I know you’re thinking, ‘Whoa, that one there, she lives on the edge.’” – Haha, you read our minds!
  • “To have my taxes done” – We hope you didn’t spend your entire refund on tax help …
  • “Gas” – Hear, hear!
  • “College courses” – Now that’s just plain smart.

Do you have any crazy tax refund stories? Leave a comment below!

Are Celebrity Drivers Just Like Us?

In case Us Weekly hasn’t convinced you, let me, as a citizen of Los Angeles, confirm this polarizing point once and for all: celebrities are just like us! They take their recycling out to the curb. They walk their dogs. And, sometimes, they even eat a full meal.

Contrary to popular belief, though, they also make driving mistakes just like us. And although it’s easy to assume celebs produce their very own brand of special, 5-o’clock-shadowed, 2-percent-body-fat driving mistakes, I can vouch that these slip-ups are not much different from our own.

And who am I? Well, as someone with a car, a Netflix subscription, and access to the 405 freeway, I’m what you might call a bit of a, ahem, celeb authority. So, based on my strong magazine-flipping thumbs, here are the 7 celebrity driver screwups that prove celebs really are just like us.

Running red lights

Ugh. Sometimes it seems like these entitled stars do whatever they want — including running red lights.

And there’s always a bevy of excuses: I’m heading to my premiere! I need to be at the recording studio! I’m late for Yogalates! But no matter the excuse, there’s just no acceptable excuse for running red lights.

Just like us? You betcha. According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), an estimated 165,000 people are injured annually by red-light runners. And they can’t all be trying to avoid having their photo snapped.

Failing to use mirrors

We’re probably all aware of the checklist to go through before merging into traffic:

1) Turn signal
2) Adjust mirrors
3) Look over shoulder
4) Go

Sadly, many stars have the fender bender-ish tendency to get hung up on step 2 and gloss right over step 3. But, really, who can blame them? When they check their mirrors and see those pearly whites, olive complexions, piercing peepers, and disproportionately large heads looking back, how can they help but get infinitely lost in the beauty — even at the cost of some other poor sap’s taillight?

Just like us? I’d say so. How many times have you seen someone applying their mascara or watching their kids in the back seat?

Hollywood stops

For those who think I’m using a slang term for rolling through a stop sign, I’m not. No, what I actually mean is that irritating moment where a celebrity driver pulls over without warning and plants his or her manicured hands into the cement along the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Look, beating rush hour in Hollywood takes long enough as it is. Have some consideration and wait for a Saturday, okay?

Just like us? Well, maybe not exactly like us. But close — we’ve all been stuck behind the non-signaler, the fifth-time’s-the-charm parallel parker, and the oops-I-need-to-get-off-the-freeway-but-I’m-in-the-left-lane exiter.

Road raging without a stunt driver

A major issue for movie stars is forgetting to leave their adrenaline-filled, action-junkie personas on the set when the workday is done. Understandably, it’s easy to get confused. When the cameras are rolling, they feel indestructible. And when it comes time to barrel roll a Bugatti under a semi, they kick their feet up with a chai and let the stunt double do the dangerous work.

Flash-forward several hours, out in reality, and I guess it’s no surprise Liam Neeson is always riding my bumper, honking insanely, and yelling, “Just try me, sucker!” Poor guy. He just doesn’t know any better. Eventually he cools downs, but I always feel bad.

Just like us? Oh yeah. According to the DOT, the most common form of road rage is aggressive and excessive speeding — and speeding leads to nearly one-third of all fatal crashes. (If you’ve been guilty of road rage, we have some calming quotes from Buddha to help you simmer down.)

Crazy chemical treatments to keep cars looking young

So many stars begin their driving careers saying the right things — that they’ll do it au naturel and “avoid auto body image disorders.” They promise to age their cars gracefully, with nothing more than an occasional power wash and fresh tank of unleaded.

But as the years go by and they need to stand out among all the younger models, they find themselves caving in. It starts with adding premium gas and some extra layers of wax. Then, before you know it, their fuel is mostly Botox and snake serum and their rims are being polished with cashmere.

Just like us? In this economy?! Heck no! (But in our dreams … yes.)

4 Car Insurance Questions from Facebook — Answered

We get a lot of (often colorful) comments on our Facebook timeline … and we love it! But, along with those comments, we also get quite a few insurance questions. As my ninth-grade history teacher used to say, “If one person has a question, it’s likely that others are wondering the same thing.” So to satisfy some of those inquiring minds, we asked our knowledgeable customer service reps to weigh in.

Do I always have to pay my deductible?

The deductible is the portion of an insurance claim that you agree to pay, and it’s “deducted” from what’s paid out by your insurance company. Every claim is unique, but there are 2 common reasons why your deductible would not be subtracted from your claim payout.

The first is if you’re involved in an accident where the other person is at fault and you file the claim through their liability insurance. In this case, the at-fault driver’s insurance company will pay for your claim and no deductible would apply.

The other is if you have a repair that costs less than your deductible. For instance, if your deductible is $500, but your repair costs $350, you’d (logically) pay for the price of the repair.

Should I buy comprehensive and collision coverages?

In most states, if you finance or lease your car, comprehensive and collision coverages (also known as physical damage coverage) are required. In other cases, it’s more of a personal choice.

The question you should ask yourself is whether you could afford to replace your car if it’s totaled. If not, you should consider buying the protection and choosing a deductible that you’re comfortable paying if there’s an incident.

Why are car insurance terms only 6 months?

In most states, car insurance policies are valid for 6 months — and that can be a good thing for drivers. Why? Because it means your insurance company is able to recalculate your premium at the start of each term to ensure you’re always getting the most accurate price.

Another benefit of the 6-month term is your ability to compare car insurers more often without any penalty. Most insurance companies charge an early termination fee. If your term lasted one year and you were unhappy with your current company, you’d be stuck for 12 long months. No, thank you!

My policy is about to expire. When should my new one begin?

If you’re switching car insurance companies, you’ll usually be asked when you want your new policy to begin. Since policies typically expire at 12:01 a.m., you’ll have only one minute of coverage on that last day. And a gap in coverage, even for just a day, can lead to higher car insurance rates.

To avoid this situation, set your start date for the same day that your current policy expires. If your current policy ends on May 31, for example, your new one should begin on May 31.

Send us more questions

Have insurance questions for our experts? Leave them here or on our Facebook page and we’ll try to answer as many as we can! And be sure to check out our in-depth and jargon-free car insurance tips and info!

Infographic: The Odds of a Ticket or an Accident

Dash cams are becoming increasingly popular. And all those car crash videos appearing on the internet have us thinking about the likelihood of getting into an accident (among other things).

This infographic examines the likelihoods of a few driving (and non-driving) situations, like getting into a car accident, being pulled over, and receiving a ticket after getting pulled over.

Of course, these numbers vary by city and state. But you as a driver have the ability to improve your odds, so play it safe and save that text for later!

What are the odds infographic