Hiring a Driver Abroad

Often times when you are trying to see a lot of different places within a country or within a region the best way to do it is by car. However, sometimes you just don’t feel like driving yourself. Also, drivers in certain countries, especially the developing countries, have drivers that think they are Formula 1 racers and consistently go 200kph. While this can be terrifying to deal with if you are driving yourself; if you have a local who knows the roads and the ways of the other drivers, it can ease your mind a bit and make your life easier. I find there are many other advantages to hiring a driver as well.

You can do a lot more sightseeing and take pictures/videos from the car of landscapes as you pass them. This is great in the big sky landscapes of Africa or South America or the deserts of the Middle East and North Africa. If you have a newer digital camera, it is amazing how good pictures can come out while you are racing the wrong way in a car.

As long as you feel comfortable that your driver will not crash and kill you, it is nice to be able to rest or sleep while he is driving. A lot of times you are still jetlagged and/or didn’t sleep well the night before or got up early and it is nice to be able to sleep in the car while you are driving through barren lands. I do this often as I usually find myself waking up very early because of a number of factors while I am abroad. I am usually very excited to see new things and don’t mind driving in the middle of the night to get there at daybreak. Often daybreak is the best time to see things because there are less or no tourists to spoil your views and your experience.

Another huge reason to hire a driver is to avoid taking the bus. Taking busses in developing or third world countries can be an utter nightmare. I could tell you stories all day about trips from hell in a cramped, hot, sweaty bus or minibus where the driver is drunk or simply can’t drive safely. The bus breaks down or you’re sitting next to some stinky local with a chicken on his lap that is pecking at you. Also, people tend to smoke on busses in other countries which drives me insane. Finally, if you’ve ever taken a long bus trip in the Middle East they tend to play loud Arabic music the entire trip that just makes you want to jump out the window.

Lastly, sometimes renting a car in another country is just a huge pain in the butt. They usually require an International Drivers License which is a pain to obtain and they will not acceot your US license. Also, insurance is a nightmare because of what they don’t cover and sometimes it’s hard to know what it covers and what it doesn’t-especially if your contract is in another language. Often the condition of the car you rent is not very good and could break down at any moment. It is very difficult to find an automatic car abroad and if you can, it is usually 2 or 3 times more expensive. Finally, cops in third world countries have been known to pull people over for no reason when they suspect a tourist is driving to try and shake them down-this has happened to me several times (although I never paid out any money-it’s funny how they react when you turn the situation on them and start yelling at them).

Basically, I usually feel that unless you are with a few people it is always best to hire a driver. It is the best value and it gives you the freedom to go where and when you want without the responsibility of driving yourself. The price is usually very cheap in developing countries and it gives you a good opportunity to really interract with a local as well who can take you to off the beaten path places and restaurants as my driver Jasab (below) did for me for over 1000 miles in the UAE and Oman.

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  1. I totally agree, I always hire drivers. It is the only way to do it. I can’t be bothered with those lunatic drivers, so just pay someone to do it for you-it’s not much.

  2. My friend and I once hired a driver for two days in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. He was excellent and even arranged a lunch for us with some Donchees (female monks). However, he was convinced that we would want to listen to American music during the ride, and the only cassette tape he had was the Backstreet Boys. We didn’t want to offend him (he was trying to be nice), but after the second round of “Backstreet’s Back” we kindly asked him to play something else, anything else.

  3. This past summer, my two buddies and I hired an excellent driver to drive us from Dubrovnik, Croatia through Montenegro to the Albanian border. He couldn’t cross the border so he then called his buddy in Albania to drive us from the border to this grubby beach town in the south of the country which was necessary to visit because it was the place to get the ferry to Corfu, Greece the next day.

    The Albanian driver was so disgustingly nasty and sick that he was hacking up phlegm all over the car and got me so sick that I could barely move for a few days afterwards. That was in addition to him just recklessly chucking trash out the windows at all times and screaming like a maniac at everyone he passed including all the sheep. We were thrilled to get away from that guy and quickly get the heck out of Albania.

  4. Lee, you forgot to mention the Britney Spears the other Albanian driver made us listen to and from Butrint. Nothing better than listening to Genie in a Bottle while speeding around the one lane cliffs of southern Albania…

  5. I forgot about that nightmarish teeny bopper torture. Without a doubt-Albania is my least favorite country in Europe and maybe anywhere.

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