Road trips

The Mix's top tips for planning the perfect road trip. Hello horizon...and bum ache. Lots of bum ache.

friends in car

Life's a journey, not a destination dude...

Hiring a car

The three essentials for a road trip are: driving license, cash and credit cards. To hire a car/van etc. you’ll need not only a license (preferably yours) but also a damage deposit. Most rentals won’t accept cash and maxed-out credit cards aren’t much good either as the deposit is often as much as one-tenth of the vehicles value. It has to be a driver who covers the cost for this too, not a passenger.

Choosing your vehicle

A road trip by definition means driving all day, every day for hundreds of miles, and you will kill each other if you’re rammed in. Pay a little more so you can spread out. The space means you’re less likely to have someone’s radioactive socks rammed under your nose (never a pleasant experience) and you’ll have room for all those new clothes and tacky souvenirs you’re bound to pick up.

Planning your journey

Get a good map and avoid rush hour. It’s no fun sitting in six lanes of traffic as you try to crawl out of a city at the start of your journey. Do check all the things you should but never do at home too (stuff like tyres, oil and water). If you’re not technical make them show you at the rental garage.

Half the fun of a road trip is also stopping where you feel like it so don’t book hotels in advance. Stop where you feel like it and if the hotel/guesthouse has an empty car park make sure you barter hard for a better rate – they’re probably empty.

Marking your car

This sounds ridiculous but give your car an identifying mark. Hopefully not a four foot scratch as you’re backing out of the rental garage but something like a ribbon on top of the aerial. That way, you won’t spend 25 minutes trying to open someone else’s van after every trip to a mall/national park/hotel/supermarket.

What driving license do I need?

If you’re licensed to drive in the UK, and 18 or over, you’ll need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive outside the EU (and some countries in it). This is recognised around the world and allows you to drive abroad providing it’s accompanied by a valid UK driving licence.

Does that apply to dirt tracks in Papua New Guinea?

In every case it’s worth checking out the specific licence requirements for the country you’re visiting. In Thailand, for example, it’s illegal to get behind the wheel without a shirt on. You’ll find specific details in any popular travel guide, or on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website.

Where do I apply for an IDP?

You must apply for your IDP before leaving the UK. They can be post-dated from three months before your departure date, but allow at least 10 days – particularly if you’re applying by mail. Application forms are available from selected Post Office branches, or from driving organisations such as the AA, RAC and Green Flag.

What do I need?

  • A passport size picture.
  • A photocopy of your driving licence in full.
  • A photocopy of the page from your passport that shows your picture, name and age etc.

And finally

Be safe: Be very wary about hitchers and try and stop every four hours to switch drivers. You might think you’re OK and can go on but it’s best to take no chances, especially if you’re driving through the night. Always have someone in the front passenger seat too, riding shotgun. It makes it more interesting for the driver and they can also point out little things you might be doing wrong too, like, er, driving on the wrong side of the road.

Three places in the world you really wouldn’t want to take a road trip:

  • Bombay: India has highest per capita vehicle death rate of any country in the world, with its capital city dodgem-car central.
  • The Isle of Man: At 13 miles wide and 33 miles long your options for long drives are a wee bit limited. More half-day trip than road trip.
  • Mexico City: The most dangerous city in the world for violent car crime. If you fancy a car-jacking (usually by releasing a starving rat into your car) or just a good old ‘traffic light’ robbery, this is the place for you. In the last five years violent car crime has risen 100% and the government has even turning to Los Chomos, vigilante traffic police, to try to help. It hasn’t worked.

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015

Photo of roadtrip friends by Shutterstock