For my US friends, Australia drives on the “wrong side”. We feel the opposite.
My understanding is that up to the 17th century, all rode on the left. In fact, in 1300AD, Pope Boniface VIII stated that all pilgrims heading to Rome should keep left. Napoleon reversed this. Some say because he could. Others say because he was left-handed and others so he could confuse or spite the English! Whatever the reason, most ex Uk colonies plus Japan drive on the left and the rest of the world on the right. Five provinces in Canada used to drive on the left but all swapped by 1940s. Sweden switched from left to right in 1976 and Samoa switched from right to left in 2009, leaving their cousins in Western Samoa still driving on the right.
The humourous jesting has a dark side though. Tourists to the UK, Australia and New Zealand are killed as a result of forgetting which side to drive on. Some tips to consider:
1. Think local
When traveling to a country which dries on the opposite to your usual residence , be vigilant. Continuously think and remind yourself and your children to think about which side cars are driving on. This may save your life when crossing roads on foot, for example.
2. Book an automatic
It is easier to get used to driving on the other side of the road if you are not changing gears ( note New Caledonia doesn’t have any manual/stick shift cars available)
3. Wait 24 hours
Avoid driving immediately upon arrival . Take 24 hours to rest and acclimatise to the new situation. Watch other drivers carefully during that time.
4. Think about where you start
Avoid starting driving in the middle of downtown of a busy city. For example, take public transport out to a suburban lot or pick the car in a smaller village or town
5. Check Controls
Before starting the engine, play with the indicators and windscreen/windshield wipers a few times. There is nothing worse that trying to merge and instinctively switching the windscreen wipers on because they are swapped around! See where the petrol release is. Note that almost every term for a car differ between the USA, the UK and Australia. eg a trunk in the USA is the boot in the UK.
Drive slowly a few times around the car park where you pick the car up from. Practice parking, turning corners and using the car controls
7. Give yourself some room
If you are nervous, keep to quieter roads unto, you are ready. Plan to Travel less distances. Stay on the slow lane. Note that you may find that you gravitate to the part of the road you are used to.
8. Support each other
Driving is stressful. I have seen couples and friends come to blows on international drives. Help each other to stay safe but avoid being overly critical
According to Wikipedia two third’s of the world’s population and 72% of the world’s total road distance carries are in “right side” jurisdictions and the remainder in left. Countries that drive on the left are listed below. Every other country drives on the right.
Antigua & Barbuda
British Virgin Islands
Isle of Man
Papua New Guinea
Samoa (not Western Samoa)
St Kitts & Nevis
Trinidad and Tobago
Turks and Caicos Islands
US Virgin Islands (although most of the cars are US left hand drive!)
St. Vincent & Grenadines