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Driving in Asia...Would you? Do you? Where? Where not?

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I have been having an interesting debate with Kathie and Thursday about the pro's and con's of self driving in Asia.
To seek further opinions and to stop hijacking dbarks thread on transport from Siem Reap to Bangkok, I thought I would start a new Thread on the topic.

I will cut and paste, below, parts of that conversation to save me some time, but do refer back to the original thread just in case something is taken out of context... only If you are interested of course.

THURSDAYS..."Not driving yourself in Asia has nothing to do with terrorism, and everything to do with the state of the roads and the behavior of your fellow-road users. Even when it's legal (in China you need to be an expat and jump through a bunch of hoops to be allowed to drive), and can find someone to rent you a car, in much of Asia you'd be a fool to try, especially when there are so many alternatives. (I'd consider driving in Malaysia, and I hear that Japan isn't too bad).

State of the roads - anything from rutted/potholed mud/dirt on up. Fellow road users - note I don't say drivers - depending on the country some subset of: pedestrians, pedestrians pulling carts, cyclists, cyclists pulling carts, motorbikes (usually overloaded), donkeys/horses/bullocks/camels pulling carts, stray cows, elephants, tuk-tuks/rickshaws/songthaews, cars, minibuses, big buses and lots of big trucks. Most don't have lights, and none have any idea of staying in lanes, assuming any are marked in the first place.

Nerve-wracking if you don't have an accident, and potentially disastrous if you do. And good luck navigating in some places. Since usually there is plenty of public transport, or you hire a car and driver for not much more than a car, there's no reason to think about driving yourself."

ME...."I love the freedom of driving in Asia and I dont consider myself a fool. There are certain places that I would avoid it, and Cambodia may be one of those, but on the whole, the road conditions in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore are quite good and well signposted. The roads are certainly no worse than in places like central Australia.

If you keep your wits about you, drive slowly and give way to everything including stray cows and elephants, you will survive."

"I agree that the roads in the three countries you mention are pretty good to very good, shanek. But you can't take a vehicle across the border from Thailand into Cambodia, and even if the road from Poipet to Siem Reap has been improved, it's still not in great shape. Thursdays description of the "traffic" along Cambodian roads doesn't do the chaos justice."

ME..."Yes Kathie, as I mentioned, even I would be likely to give Cambodian driving a miss.
I was replying more to Thursday's general comment about it being foolish to drive in Asia, apart from Japan and Malaysia.
I have driven in the 3 countries that I mentioned as well as Bali and Sri-Lanka, which was pretty "adventurous" and would consider doing so in Vietnam and Korea.
Yes Asian road conditions are different and you will need to alter your driving practices and show plenty of patience. I do not encourage the nervous or inexperienced to try it, but for the free willed amongst us it can be a liberating experience and should not be discouraged. Some of my fondest memmories of Asian travel have been had whilst self-driving."

KATHIE..."Sri Lanka?! I can't imagine. But better you than me. I also wouldn't consider VN, but perhaps that's because I spent my time there in the cities where you take your life in your hands by crossing the street!

Thursdays comment was about "much of Asia," and I'd agree. Also, remember that this is dbarks first trip to Asia. If you've been to the country you are visiting before and feel you could drive, and know the legal issues involved (especially re: liability in the case of an accident) fine. But for someone who has never been to Asia, I think it would be foolhardy to recommend self-drive."

THURSDAYS...."If you've driven in those places, more power to you. But to suggest that this is something that most visitors to most Asian countries should consider is a bit much. A lot of people get freaked out about road conditions in Asia when they're just being driven, never mind doing it themselves. And then there is the issue of what happens if something goes wrong."

ME...."City and country driving is very different, obviously. I feel alot less comfortable driving in Sydney or New York than rural Sri-Lanka.

dbarks, regardless of whether it is your first or tenth trip to Asia, it is more about your driving experience than Asian experience.

It will be different, that's a given. Fundamentaly though, your aim is to steer without hitting something, which doesn't differ no matter where you are. It is far more imposing watching other people do it than doing it yourself,IMHO. I trust my own ability more than some of the over-tired bus and taxi drivers in Asia.

If you feel confident in your driving ability, go for it. Certainly in Thailand. I may be labelled a fool for saying so but it is your choice, dont listen to others. Take caution, make sure you are insured and enjoy the pleasures of being totally independant in a foreign land."

What do you think?

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