The Scariest Cities for Drivers

When it comes to getting behind the wheel of a car, it can be a very different experience depending on where you are in the world. If you’re used to the wide open roads of France or the strict traffic rules of somewhere like the UK then it is often something of a shock when you venture out in a rental car in a city like Rome and find yourself completely at the mercy of an overcrowded and apparently lawless road system. In most cities, if you have learned to drive locally you have a better chance of understanding the local rules of the road (even if they don’t bear any relation to the Highway Code), but as an outsider it can be a terrifying experience. The key is to know what you’re getting yourself into and with that in mind, here are some of the world’s worst cities to drive in, as well as the reasons why you should be wary of getting behind the wheel when you are visiting.


It’s universally acknowledged that Rome is one of the worst cities to drive in. Passionate Italian temperaments combined with a fairly unique level of impatience can make driving a car here a hair-raising experience. No matter how well you drive, or how inconspicuous you attempt to make yourself on Rome’s roads, you can expect to be sworn at, tailgated and furiously honked at throughout your drive, probably for reasons you will never fathom.

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Although not such a renowned bad spot for drivers, if you have ever visited Hanoi you will know that every car journey is a white-knuckle ride. The roads here are filled with moped and motorcycle drivers, none of whom are wearing helmets and most of whom seem to have some kind of supernatural ability to make heinously dangerous maneuvers and yet avoid an accident by the skin of their teeth. Either that or they are very lucky. The secret to getting around in Hanoi is to make sure you are in the biggest vehicle.

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Gallic passions run high on the roads in Paris and if you make a mistake or hesitate for a second too long you will find yourself on the receiving end of an angry stream of French curses and gestures. The roundabout that surrounds the Arc de Triomph in the west of the city is particularly terrifying – with no apparent rules of the road, joining the flow of traffic feels here like playing road Russian roulette.

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If you’re driving in Mumbai then it’s a good idea to forget any ideas you have about the Highway Code. Don’t expect other drivers to indicate, stay in lanes or sustain any kind of speed limit and remember that in Mumbai you will see overtaking anywhere and everywhere, from blind corners to pavements. Roads here are in terrible condition so if the other drivers don’t get you the potholes will.

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Because of the number of cars in China – a figure that increases daily – you will find driving in any major Chinese city quite an unnerving event. The three million vehicles on Beijing’s roads mean that delays and traffic jams are common (the longest has lasted two weeks!) and space is at an absolute premium, making driving a competitive and uncomfortable experience.

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The roads here are bad and the traffic signs are bad and that seems to have given drivers in Manila the idea that any rules of the road can be completely ignored. You will find yourself cut up wildly by cars from completely the wrong direction and honked at angrily for no apparent reason. No one stops at traffic signals here and you can forget using indicators as these are considered a redundant accessory.

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When taking to the roads in Seoul for heaven’s sake look out for the transit buses. If you’re used to public transport following the same rules as other road users then no doubt it will come as something of a surprise that these vehicles can legally ignore traffic signals. To be honest you’re no safer out of a car than in one in Seoul as drivers frequently mount pavements regardless of pedestrians.

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Given the reputation the Canadians have for following the rules, it might come as something of a surprise to learn that Toronto is one of the worst cities to drive in. The main reason for this is that Toronto is extremely congested, with its 18 lane highway taking nearly half a million drivers a day. Long delays and traffic jams can make a Toronto commute one of the longest in the world.

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In many ways, local road systems are always something of a mystery to anyone coming in from another country and trying to drive there. However, in the cities above, your driving experience is likely to be even more uncomfortable. If you’re planning a trip to any of these cities and intend to use a car whilst you’re there then take a few lessons from a local before you go out on your own, make sure you’re familiar with the car and stay alert at all times!

Bio: This was a guest post by John from National car hire who have car rental locations in cities across the world.