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Car hire/driving in the US and Hawaii

Whilst driving in some of the big US cities can be quite scary, driving on the Big Island is a piece of cake. The fastest speed limit on the island is 55mph. We don't have any freeways or interstates, the equivalent of motorways (Oahu, despite being an island, does have one interstate freeway - of course it doesn't go interstate, since that would require a bridge stretching 2500 miles to California ...)

There are hire car companies located at the Hilo, Kona and Honolulu airports. You'll probably get the best rates if you book in advance - try the internet for good offers. When picking up you car you'll need your driving licence and passport as well as your credit card - they may not like hiring to you if you're under 25, but they don't usually worry about how long you've been driving. Remember that the basic hire price may not include insurance; getting the full insurance can be more than the hire price again. It's probably worth getting the full thing though - people here seem to have a relatively high number of low-speed, safe but car-damaging crashes. You'll be given an automatic unless you specifically request otherwise - they're easy to drive and mean you don't have to worry about which hand to change gear with!

Basic rules of the road

  1. We drive on the right here. Get this one right!
  2. You must have your licence with you whenever driving
  3. Speed limits in white must be obeyed; signs in yellow are advisory
  4. Speed limits can also vary with the time of day (eg. school hours), or 'if children are present' and even be different on different sides of the road!
  5. You can turn right on a red light if you give way to everyone else and it's safe; whilst you might not want to try this until you know the junctions, watch out for other cars doing it and be aware that cars behind you may expect you to do it
  6. Lines in the middle of the road work in much the same way as in the UK; if it's solid you can't overtake
  7. If an emergency vehicle with sirens going comes along the road you have to pull over to the right and stop - even if it's on the other side of the road, unless the road is actually separated by a physical barrier.
  8. If you see a school bus put its flashing red lights on, you must stop and wait for it to move on, again on both sides of the road - you must not go past the school bus on either side of the road

Tips for driving in Hawaii

  1. Indicators are not a big thing in Hawaii - generally it's safer to assume the person in front of you is about to turn at all times
  2. Drivers in Hawaii also don't really understand stopping distances - they'll often come very close behind you (leading to the majority of the low-speed crashes in traffic). Fortunately they also don't go very fast!
  3. Watch out for pedestrians at junctions - although there aren't very many pedestrians in the land where the car reigns supreme, sometimes when you're turning right at a junction a pedestrian may have been given a green man to cross in front of you. You have to give way.