Hiring a car and driving it through the desert can be a wonderful experience, especially for anyone who hasn't done so before. The landscapes can be stunning and full of beautiful colours. If you are driving your hire car on a direct route through the desert to your destination, you will probably find yourself on a road with a proper surface, but not all desert roads are like this. Some desert paths are barren and unpaved, and such rough terrain can take a lot of concentration to navigate. If you are unfamiliar with the desert, don't go off road in your hire car. This can be a remote and dangerous place.
California and Nevada have amazing desert areas, and if you decide to drive your hire car from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, as many people do, you are sure to take in some fabulous sights along the way. This is a good road and can be busy at certain times. Although things don't always go as planned, assistance is available from highway patrols, which check the road at regular intervals. Many people like to hire a car to drive through the Mojave Dessert and Death Valley, but these are remote locations and should be treated with respect.
Here are some tips to make a desert trip in your hire car safe and easy:
- Know where you are going before you start out and be prepared for any eventuality.
- Be sure that you know how to use the air conditioning in your hire car; you will need it.
- Fill up your hire car with petrol before you leave, and make sure that the radiator and windshield wash are topped up.
- A hire car should be in good condition, but you should check the tyre pressures before starting out.
- Carry extra water for both your hire car and yourself; you don't want to become dehydrated.
- Make sure that you have some food with you when travelling through remote areas.
- Carry a mobile phone in your hire car in case of a breakdown or other emergency. Know the numbers that you need to call.
- Check the weather forecast before departing; you don't want to be stuck in a sand storm or in mud. If a storm brews, drive slowly and take extra care. Don't make any desert trips in your hire car if bad weather is forecast.
- Allow enough time for your journey. Don't exceed the speed limit; it's there for a reason.
- Leave details of your itinerary with someone if you'll be driving your hire car through remote areas.
- Take advantage of any rest stops and gas stations, as you never know when you'll come across another one.
- Take breaks at diners and stretch your legs.
- Carry a first aid kit in your hire car.
- Turning off the air conditioning every now and then will help your hire car to cope if the engine starts to get hot.
- Keep an eye on your hire car's speedometer, petrol and temperature gauges.
- If you can, avoid driving when temperatures are at their highest.
- Carry coolant, oil and other essentials in your hire car.
- Keep a good and current map of the area in your hire car.
- If you stop and get out of your hire car, be wary of snakes.
- Don't stop to give anyone a ride.
- Don't drive off-road unless you are sure that you know where you're going and what you're doing, and you have hired the correct vehicle to cope with any rough terrain that you may encounter. If you're planning to go off road in your hire car, take the usual precautions and pack extra supplies such as food, fluids, blankets and a shovel.
- If you're driving your hire car in the desert at night, be very careful and take warm clothes. Temperatures can be freezing.
- The desert can seem very lonely and frightening at night if you aren't used to it. Don't make all-night trips, and remember to keep a torch in your hire car.
- Desert driving can become monotonous, so stay alert. If you find yourself losing concentration or feeling tired, take a break until you feel refreshed.
- If you break down, don't leave your hire car. If the weather is fine, prop up the bonnet so that patrols can instantly see that you are in trouble.
- If you do have to leave your hire car, leave a note on it explaining what has happened, who you are and where you have gone.
- Be sensible, be safe and have a great time.