Signaling turns with windshield wipers – driving on the left in Tasmania

“This is my first time driving on the left, I’ll let you go first,” I said to the women picking up the rental car next to mine at Hobart Airport in Tasmania.

“Oh, that is nervous,” she said.

My nerves were unduly frazzled. As friends advised, it wasn’t so bad. Australian rentals are primarily automatics so I did not need to juggle a manual.

Regular flow of traffic was remarkably uneventful. My surmise that the place for mistakes would be deserted spots was correct. My two near-misses were at ultra-low speeds in national parks. One I pulled out of the Feycinet National Park visitor center parking lot and took the right turn to the near lane, fortunately the oncoming car coming round the blind bend was also going slow and probably thought, “Idiot in a baseball cap, must be a Yank.”

Australia 007

Cruisin' Tassie style

Other was slowly descending a narrow muddy park road, back seat had a elderly Slovenian long resident in Tasmania on a lift down to the Mt Field National Park visitor center. I was in the center in case of sliding. When an oncoming car approached I naturally veered to the right, exactly where he was veering. The Slovenian said, “I see you’re not Australian. Your tendency is to the right.”

On the narrow Tasman roads I erred to the center, not quite having a sense of alignment due to the new perspective.

My biggest issue, which two days did not overcome, was signaling turns with the windshield wipers.

IMG_0389

Hairpin turns were a bit nerve-wracking and I erred to the center

Next up is needing to combine left and a manual, next week’s trip up to Ayers Rock should be ideal, hardly any traffic out there. I want to get in shape for my Ireland road trip in late November.

Note: Tasmanian drivers are very slow and cautious, often going under the speed limit. The exception are the wild taxi drivers in Hobart who nearly clipped me several times in car and on foot. Beware.

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  • Looks like fun. I remember when I first moved to USA how hard it was. The rule I kept telling myself was to keep myself on the center side of the road. If I saw the curb next to me I knew I had it wrong!

  • I had my first experience driving on the left last week too in Cairns. My jaw dropped when I took the very first turn out of the rental facility and went right into a roundabout…..and then 5 or 6 more roundabouts. I have enough trouble navigating roundabouts driving on the ‘right’ side of the road. In hindsight, I understand why they have the roundabouts because it actually makes it easier for those used to driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road but it was stressful nonetheless.

  • Chris

    Got a good laugh from the title. I know exactly what you mean. You adapt pretty quickly, but after 3 months in Perth, I still would hit the wipers instead of the turn signal.

    On my second trip, and it’s much easier, but it’ll probably take me a week to get back to normal when I get home.

  • MichaelP

    Lol, been there, done that! When I got used to it I switch to a Ford Focus that had the switches on the “normal” side!!

  • aptraveler

    Really funny, the title says it all especially to those of us who went through a similar experience. I hope that you got a manual instead of an automatic transmission; it will make the experience even fonder! Great pictures Stefan, especially of Wineglass Bay.