Life from an outsider's perspective…

Driving in Tenerife. Unofficial overtaking “rules of the road”.

Driving in Tenerife. Unofficial overtaking “rules of the road”.For those of you thinking about renting a car in Tenerife, I think it’s a great idea. If you’re a cyclist wanting to make the most of your cycling holiday, or just a casual tourist, hiring a car allows you the freedom to go wherever you and want, whenever you want. It’s surprisingly cheap to rent a car here too! Before you go ahead, I do have a few recommendations as far as local driving culture is concerned…

The roads on Tenerife are something else. Even though everything is well signposted, driving here isn’t what you’d call ‘easy’. In fact, the word “extreme” comes to mind, because there are almost no flat or straight roads here. Now, with that in mind, know that local drivers are accustomed to driving on these roads over and over and over again, hence most of them get a tremendous amount of practice driving on this little island. See where I’m going with this…?

They are some of the fastest, craziest drivers you will see anywhere. Just take the local bus #325 for example. Even these buses go faster than almost all the rental cars along road TF-82! I call it the “vomit bus”, because a lot of passengers become sick, going round curves at high speed for an hour or more.

The thought came to me today that there are several types of drivers on Tenerife roads:

  1. Local drivers (slow)
  2. Local drivers (medium)
  3. Local drivers (fast)
  4. Drivers like me whose job it is to deliver stuff (fast enough)
  5. Local drivers whose job it is to transport rental cars from one place to another (super fast)
  6. Lucky foreign drivers testing new car models (relatively fast)
  7. Wannabe rally drivers (craaaazy fast)
  8. Real rally drivers (über fast)
  9. Rent-a-car drivers with loro parque & siam park stickers on the back window (varying degrees of slowness)
  10. Rent-a-car drivers with sat nav glued to the middle of their windscreen (somehat less slow)
  11. …you may feel compelled to add to this list once you see it…

That’s fine because everybody goes at their own speed, what they each think is the correct one for them. The trouble comes when all these drivers are placed on a single lane road with not enough true overtaking zones. They all bank up and form a queue behind the slowest driver. It happens relatively fast and before you know it you have 5, 6, 7, 8, 20 or more cars all impatiently waiting to go even faster. Smart drivers pull over when they can and let faster (some would say stupider?) cars overtake. You know like truck drivers do when going uphill.

Uneducated drivers on the other hand, actually speed up on the relatively straight bits and think that makes up for going slow around corners. Well maybe it does in most places in the world. But with all roads in Tenerife practically being corners, there’s NO WAY IN HELL it makes up for it, doing that little trick here!! Tinerfeños as they’re known are raised on corners. You’ll see the shittiest van imaginable taking corners at unbelievable speeds. So when you speed up just after taking a corner like an old lady, what it does is that it makes it even harder for people with [often crap] cars to overtake when they should, with the result that some of them will even overtake you going around corners, because they can ‘see’ that there is nothing coming in the opposite direction. No I don’t agree with that, because you can’t SEE round a corner, because what if there is something or somebody lying on the road? There’s a reason why the cars are indeed so crap [and it’s a bureacratic limitation imposed on all car modifications called the ITV] but my point is that the drivers are for the most part very attentive.

The analogy with the slow guy in front is that it’s like grandad going 50km/hr on a highway in the fast lane. It’s just plain rude not to signal first and then pull over at the first, second or third available opportunity. Don’t blame me if people flash their lights at you, because here, that’s exactly what they’ll do. I am normally a patient person, but there are times when I feel like pulling my hair out in desperation. You may think I’m exaggerating, but being stuck behind a slow driver can turn a 3 hour round trip into a 5 hour “I wish I owned a helicopter” adventure. True enough that it’s spurred me on to write about it…

So the moral of the story is: if you take one thing from this article, remember this: if you’re being tailgated, PUT YOUR RIGHT INDICATOR ON AND SLOW DOWN. This will give a chance for drivers behind to overtake you safely. And the chances are you will get thanked for it. Not doing so will ultimately frustrate everybody.

One Response to “Driving in Tenerife. Unofficial overtaking “rules of the road”.”

  1. Cyclists : surely the biggest cause of road rage on Spanish highways ?

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