Road trip for rookies – planning for whatever lies ahead

ROAD TRIP! These words make one imagine fun and laughter while driving around on quaintly unfamiliar country lanes.

Not so if you're ill-prepared to get roughed up on the road. Of course you'd never wish for bad things to happen but a busted tyre takes on a new level of unpleasant when you're miles away from a petrol station and easy roadside rescue services.

With a little bit of luck and a whole lot of planning, you can escape to a worry-free holiday, enjoying the freedom that being on the road brings. 

Getting the vehicle

First things first – is it your own car you're planning to drive or a hired one?

If you're renting a car, make sure to choose a reputable and familiar car rental company than a fly-by-night one, even if the latter seems to offer large discounts.

Should things go wrong, you'd be able to rely on more established companies in terms of professionalism and ease of communication. This is especially so in more rural areas or islands like Phuket, where there is a lot of touting and undercutting by local car vendors.

When you collect your vehicle, inspect every inch of it thoroughly for damages and check off against the report given to you (along with your keys). If you see an obvious damage that is unrecorded, let the person assisting you know about it immediately, otherwise the damage might be attributed to you. 

When damages occur

On the topic of damages: accidents do happen – whether we like it or not and sometimes beyond our control.

For example, your car could be parked while you shop for groceries and a stray supermarket cart rams into it, causing a dent. Depending on the kind of insurance you opted for, the car rental company may charge you for full damages and an excess amount, which could end up being in the thousands.

While it's not a very pleasant topic to associate with your vacation, it's a reality. So to have complete peace of mind, select the right coverage that will take care of any incident amounting to damage, from accidental bumps and scratches to the more severe cases such as collision.

If it's your own car that you're driving up to, say, Malaysia or even Thailand, make sure that your car insurance provider can cover you for road mishaps out of Singapore. Some insurers, like Singlife, do provide the minimum necessary cover to comply with the laws on compulsory insurance of vehicles within the Territorial Limits.

Most car rental companies also provide navigation systems and child car-seats for your convenience, so do take advantage of these features for a small fee. 

Car first aid kit

If you're journeying on country or rural roads with little traffic and where petrol kiosks are few and far between, make sure that you have a car emergency kit with you.

This would consist of a flat tyre patch kit (which may already come with the car) and a jerry can of water in case the vehicle overheats. You may also want to consider carrying another can filled with petrol if you're going off-roading.

Travelling in winter months and to icy climes? Snow chains are a must; rent them from reputable providers way before you hit slick roads. Some car rental companies – even popular ones – don't rent these chains out; you can usually find them at ski equipment shops, which tend to be plentiful on the way up a snowy mountain.

Other things to note

While the air conditioner is blasting up front, spare a thought for your backseat riders, especially if they're young ones.

The sun can get very hot in summer months and being in a car for long hours is akin to baking in an oven. You can even get sunstroke or sunburn from the glare of the sun rays permeating unprotected glass windows.

Pack some portable sun-shields or you can also use cloth rags or a sarong – basically any fabric that's lightweight enough to drape and secure at the window.

It goes without saying that you should always drive safely. On country roads, watch out for roadkill and animal crossings – car accidents often happen because drivers swerve suddenly to avoid them.

Also, read up on any unusual traffic regulations that you may not be familiar with, like driving on the opposite side of the road or on streets that need to accommodate trams as well as motor vehicles.

Speed limits also vary. In some countries, the authorities can easily track down your contact details to fine you for committing a traffic offence and have no qualms snail mailing to your resident country, expecting restitution. Now that’s certainly one souvenir from your trip that you can do without. 

To ensure peace of mind during your next road trip, consider getting a quote for car insurance!  

Road-tripping soon?

Singlife’s car insurance covers your car for West Malaysia and Peninsula Thailand.

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