I'm currently in UB, Mongolia, which has a combination of fairly aggressive driving (though I bet the comments section will list worse countries) and driving on the opposite side of the road than I'm used to in Australia. I've sometimes been looking in the wrong direction for traffic while crossing the road, or assumed that a car coming towards me will safely pass on the far side of the road before I reach it.

How can I handle cars driving on the opposite side of the road to what I'm used to?

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    @pnuts when I'm in the UK I generally look both ways repeatedly at around twice the rate of looking back and forth I use in New York City (my home). This seems to work fairly well (and better than a once-in-each-direction look which is often in the wrong order).
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 4:40
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    I'm curious how it even matters what site the cars are driving. As long cars drive in both directions you will allways miss 50% when jsut looking into 1 direction. Or what am I missing here?
    – Zaibis
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 12:31
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    @Zaibis Question is in which direction you look first (and how to force yourself to really do it). If you don't pay attention, you could already (semi-automatically) step on the road before glancing in the other direction.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 13:37
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    Follow a chicken.
    – WBT
    Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 0:38
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    It's safe to assume that in most developing countries, most drivers are complete, utter, inconsiderate a-holes. Always remember this. The only person who values your life is you. Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 10:09

4 Answers 4


If you travel a lot, it's a good idea to get in the habit of always, always checking both directions before stepping out, wherever you are, without habitually favouring either direction first:

  • If it's a habit, you won't step out in front of a car if you get it wrong and forget you're in an other-side-of-the-road country momentarily (e.g. after a few drinks)
  • Many cities, especially narrow winding European streets, have complicated one way systems where a pedestrian might not realise cars come from the other way, or narrow two-lane streets so choked with parked vehicles both sides that everyone drives down the middle. If you habitually check both ways, you won't miss the Audi bombing down the direction you haven't looked yet at 35 mph in a 20 mph area while checking their stocks portfolio on their iPhone
  • Many cities in developed countries have growing numbers of cyclists, a small but significant minority of whom go any direction at speed and don't give a
  • Many cities in developing countries have growing numbers of 'okada'-style motorbike taxis, a large and significant majority of whom go any direction at speed and don't give a
  • There are many other location-specific hazards that can splatter the unwary like this. For example, trams, which are often extremely quiet and can be coming from unexpected directions. This is how Gaudi died. Don't be like Gaudi
  • In some countries, there's an unwritten rule that if your car is expensive-looking enough, and/or if you have the right status signifier (e.g. diplomatic or government plates), you can drive on the wrong side of the road if you're in a hurry and it's everyone else's problem if they're in your way. Sometimes, as a courtesy, these drivers put their hazard lights on while driving on the wrong side of the road, to let you know they're not doing it by accident.
  • Some locations naively installed speed bumps that only cover half of the road (for example, the half approaching a school entrance but not the half of the road leading away from it), which many drivers like to cheerfully slalom while driving at double the speed limit, weaving in and out of the wrong side of the road around the half-a-speed-bump at speed like an Olympic skier.
  • Then there's all the "should never happen but sometimes does" ridiculous stuff that can happen occasionally in any country, like people driving on the wrong side of the road because they're drunk, high, confused, in a road race or police chase, reversing fast like an idiot because they drove past their stop and don't want to turn around...
  • ...or maybe the driver is also a foreigner having trouble with this "other side of the road" malarky. When people make these mistakes, it tends to be on quiet streets where there are no other cars as a reference - i.e. exactly the sort of place you might step out too quickly...

If you always habitually check both ways, you're fine even if you didn't notice or momentarily forgot you were somewhere that has one or more of these hazards.

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    @JanDoggen well I certainly didn't say or mean "only check them once"... whole point is to habitually not favour a default direction, ever, even at home (even on a one way street!), and always check both at least once before having stepped out. Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 15:47
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    "Many cities in developed countries have growing numbers of cyclists, a small but significant minority of whom go any direction at speed and don't give a" In many cities this is even legally sanctioned.
    – Max
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 17:54
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    What don't they give? The suspense is killing me :). Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 18:45
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    "My mom reminds me to look both ways before we step onto the sidewalk." Er, seriously? Because she's worried about joggers or something? My mom reminds me to look both ways before we step *off the sidewalk. Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 8:55
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    @DavidRicherby The comic explicitly says it was to "make sure no cars are coming," so I read it as intending to be humorous (implying that cars might be driving down the sidewalk.) It's possible that it was just a mistake, though.
    – reirab
    Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 18:59

I (and the whole country) was raised to do look left, right and again to the left before stepping off the curb. Obviously less efficient to do it in an opposite direction country but if you get used to a three step look around you will be fine in most places.

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    If you're in a LHD country, always look left first because you will get hit from the left first. The amount of time I see people look right first when they want to turn left and creep into my lane before they look left is infuriating. Other way around in RHD coutries, obviously.
    – Yousend
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 12:32
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    @akadian: I don't quite understand. The question refers to pedestrians crossing a road, not to drivers making turns. And pedestrians in an LHD country will first get hit from the right. Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 14:44
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    @O.R.Mapper I do realize that, but a pedestrian will get hit from the left side first either way. I guess I just felt the need to rant about drivers who feel the need to inch up. I apologize for that.
    – Yousend
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 14:47
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    @akadian: I suppose I just don't understand what you mean. In LHD traffic, the lane the pedestrian steps onto first has traffic coming from the right, so they will first be hit from the right. Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 15:21
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    @O.R.Mapper Eh, got it confused with LHD cars and traffic. My mistake.
    – Yousend
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 15:27

Always expect traffic from both sides.
Always assume the lane you are going to cross is a one way street/lane and you do not know which way the traffic is supposed to go.
If there is a safe point in the crossing, stop and look around again, again both directions and not expecting traffic to come from a certain side.

Do not hurry.
First spend more time looking left, right, left, (or the other way around if in a country with traffic on the left) than you would at home. Better miss an oportunity to cross than start walking when you are not yet sure.
Allow yourself more time to cross the road than you expect to need, that allows for cars on the far side where you expect them to be on the near side, and for cars that slow down before they reach you.

Back home does not mean safe.
And very importantly, when you return home, keep in the habbit for a couple of weeks, (or forever,) as it can be rather dangerous if you have adjusted to traffic on the wrong side of the road and you forget, when falling in routine, that you are back home.
I nearly got hit by a car I had not seen, not looked for, on a road crossing I had been using all my life, very close to my grandmothers house. I had so gotten used to looking the wrong way.
In the years since I have learned to always look both ways, even when I know the road I am about to cross on my daily commute is a one way road.
The famous last words of a victim: Cars do not come from that way!


Don't jaywalk, always cross at corners. Look both ways, twice. Never step off the curb to check traffic.

A few years ago a Japanese scholar visiting chicago stepped off a curb looking right to check traffic. Unfortunately there was traffic, on the left. He was run over and killed. Tragic, but true.

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    "Don't jaywalk." There is no such thing as "jaywalking" in many places, so that's not meaningful advice. In many places, there are few marked crossings, precisely because it's legal for a pedestrian to cross the road anywhere. Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 9:00
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    And "always cross at corners" is terrible advice. Corners limit visibility and, in any case, there might not be one nearby. Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 9:01
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    "Don't jaywalk" is very sensible advice, meaning "in jurisdictions where there exists a crime of jaywalking, do not commit it". "Always cross at corners" is terrible advice where it is legal to cross elsewhere. At a junction, the pedestrian needs to check for traffic coming from more than two directions, whereas between corners you only have two directions of traffic to worry about (plus any parked vehicles). Take the easier, safer route when it's available. Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 11:16
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    @FedericoPoloni: I don't think so, no. I mean, it might be that the person saying "don't smoke pot" is only giving that advice on the presumption it's illegal, but nothing in those three words means that. But "smoking pot" describes the act regardless of whether it's legal or not, whereas "jaywalking" specifically means crossing the road illegally. If someone were to say "don't cross the road", then they'd mean even if it's legal. Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 12:08
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    I was knocked down by a car when crossing at an intersection in Canada. Car was at fault. However it re-iterated for me a very important lesson. Cross when safe, not just when legal. The local I was with, who was kind of pulling me along was concerned about making the crossing while signal was still white. I should instead have trusted my instincts and waited for the next signal. It's extremely important to make sure you make eye contact with motorists waiting at the intersection. Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 10:03

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