Travel unvarnished: The Suicide Driver.

posted in: Travel Tips | 0

Bus in Poipet CambodiaThis is the third post in a five-part series on travel situations we’ve encountered that are never part of anyone’s plans but you’ll be sure to remember long after you return home.

If you travel anywhere outside of the United States and Canada, or to the Las Vegas Strip, you’re bound to encounter some seriously crazy drivers.

And unless you walk everywhere, or are confident to drive yourself through a foreign city, you’re also bound to get into a vehicle driven by a deathly silent or excessively chatty individual who barrels headlong into oncoming traffic.

You should be taking in the sights, but instead you are focused on the terrifying view through the windshield as you desperately search for seat belts which are conveniently tucked under the seats.

Which brings us to Tip Number 1.

Tip Number 1

Do not look out the front of the vehicle. Just as acrophobics on a ladder should take the advice “Don’t look down,” you should heed this warning unless you want to spend the rest of the day looking for a launderer who specializes in cleaning soiled underpants.

One problem with looking through the windshield is you quickly realize that your driver is not the only person on the road who finds the concept of traffic lanes abstract at best. It’s a wonder any of these people are still alive.

Of course a lot of them aren’t. In fact the World Health Organization in their “2013 Global status report on road safety” estimates road deaths globally at 1.24 million per year. They also note that only 28 countries, representing only 7 percent of the world population, have comprehensive road safety laws. WHO considers this one of the most urgent health issues on the planet.

Which brings us to Tip Number 2.

Tip Number 2

Have a good travel medical insurance policy. In the event of a catastrophic collision, you’re going to want it.

At the very least, showing the locals you can pay for your coverage can get you to the hospital a lot quicker. At the very worst, a good policy can get your body back home where friends and relatives can regale your mourners with tales of your travel bravery.

I first learned of this tip when I was planning a mountaineering trip to Mexico, and now we always buy travel medical. I think it’s safe to say that it’s far riskier getting into a cab in Thailand then climbing a mountain.

I figured out Tip Number 1 in Vietnam while riding in a van from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay, driven by the deathly silent type. This maniac would gun it through small villages, scattering children and old folks like a dog chasing seagulls on the beach.

I would feel him accelerate as we entered a village and watch in horror through the windshield as he played what was possibly his last game of Chicken with a truck, bus or horse-drawn cart. Gripped, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the looming grilles as they quickly filled up the view.

At the last possible second our driver would swerve back into his lane, cutting off who knows what in the process. I would lean back, unclench my fists and slowly let out my breath while muttering “What a maniac” or “Holy shit” or “Why is my seat all wet?”

On the way back a few days later, I refused to look up front and spent the time chatting with my beautiful wife on one side of me, and a cute blond from Belgium on the other. It was a much more enjoyable ride.

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