It’s a subject that’s open to debate, of course. When it comes to the places where you should never try to drive as a tourist, your opinion probably stems from personal horror stories. Then again, maybe you enjoy a challenge. If high-speed roundabouts are your thing, go right ahead and enjoy yourself. But as a service to fellow travelers, these are the spots we would never even consider renting a car.
Seoul, South Korea
At least in a car, you’d have more protection than pedestrians, who are pretty much thought of as speed bumps (if at all). Everyone seems to be in a hurry, and yet no one is going anywhere—and if you’re planning to drive yourself to a meeting, count on being at least a day late. Parking? You’re more likely to abandon the car in the street. To give you an idea of what it’s like, just know this: public transit vehicles are under no legal obligation to obey traffic signals.
You’ll hear the traffic long before you get to join it. The cacophony of horns drowns out the shouts, but the shouters persist anyway. The streets are complicated by overpacked buses, tuk-tuks, passengers clinging onto hatchbacks, and cows. Because cows are sacred in Hinduism, you have to yield to them, no matter how serenely they saunter. And the roads are in such bad shape that one bump can make it feel like your rental is about to fall apart.
Paris has some of the smallest cars you’ll see outside of a Hot Wheels tournament, and for a good reason: there’s no other way to wind through the narrow streets and parallel-wedge yourself into a parking space. Even unlicensed 14-year-olds are legally allowed to drive Citroën’s tiny “urban mobility object”—and they’re not very polite about it. Gawking tourists are everywhere, especially the area near the Arc de Triomphe. That’s where 12 boulevards meet, at the traffic circle from hell.
Lagos is legendary for its congestion, and at times it seems like the entire population is trying to go the same way on the poorly paved streets. Lagos has it all: broken-down vehicles, narrow lanes, trading and religious activities, a lack of parking, intimidating crowds, malfunctioning traffic lights, and a collectively bad attitude. It’s hard to drive anywhere that has different sign icons and gives directions using the metric system. But in Lagos, you’re not even lucky enough to get lousy signage. It’s a place where you should never try to drive as a tourist because the signs are too high to read, disguised by obstacles, or missing altogether.