United Kingdom Driving Information

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Driving in the UK: Car Rental Information and Tips

Driving Overview | Tips for Driving | Tips for Parking | Driving Laws | UK Map


Driving Overview


History greets you on the roads of the United Kingdom. It may take a little time to adjust to driving on the 'other side of the road', but the sights are well worth the effort. Visit Stratford-on-Avon the birthplace of William Shakespeare or drive to the White Cliffs of Dover in the south. Pick-up your rental car in London to see some of the most historic castles in the world - all easily accessible by car.

Rules of the Road

Traffic travels on the left and you always want to turn left when entering a roundabout (traffic circle). Cars are equipped with the steering wheel on the right hand side of the vehicle.

United Kingdom Driving InformationGas

Gasoline is called petrol in the United Kingdom. Some gas stations found along the motorways are open 24 hours.

Tolls

There are a limited number of toll highways in the United Kingdom and all car users entering the city center of London are charged a congestion fee during week days.

Speed Limits

Speed limits in the United Kingdom are as follows:

  • City - 30mph/48kph
  • Open Roads - 60mph/96kph
  • Motorways - 70mph/112kph

Tips for Driving in the UK


Driving in the United Kingdom, or any new place for that matter, can seem scary and intimidating at first, but after perusing our tips for driving in the UK, you'll find yourself enjoying a hassle-free vacation and driving like a Brit in no time! If you're looking for recommendations on where to stop while on your self-guided road trip, or are looking for more general information about traveling in the United Kingdom, check out our comprehensive travel guide to the UK.

  • Driving on the Left Side of the Road

    Driving on the left side of the road means many of your normal habits, such as turning, yielding, and knowing what direction to look for incoming traffic, will be backwards.
  • Local Driving Habits

    Driving in London or other large cities, especially during rush hour, can be hectic and other drivers on the road are likely to be less pleasant towards foreign drivers holding up traffic.
  • Navigating Roundabouts

    If you've driven in New England or Ontario before, you're likely familiar with roundabouts; vehicles already in the roundabout have the right of way in every situation, except when marked otherwise.Take your time, and if necessary, drive around the roundabout several times until you're confident you're making the correct turn in the appropriate manner.
  • Avoid City Centers When Possible

    A vast majority of automobile collisions in the United Kingdom occur in congested urban areas, and for that reason, Auto Europe advises drivers to avoid city centers when possible, especially if they're still uncomfortable navigating roundabouts and driving on the left side of the road. If you want to drive in downtown London between 7 AM and 6 PM., you'll have to pay a congestion charge of £11.50 per day.
  • Utilize Carriageways and Motorways

    Also known as highways, carriageways and motorways are the most time-effective and safest way to navigate the UK by car. Highways in the UK are organized by primary and regional destinations, where motorways (larger highways) connect primary destinations such as major cities, and carriageways (smaller highways, typically never more than two lanes in each direction) connect smaller destinations, such as junctions and smaller towns and cities.
  • Overtaking/Passing

    Overtaking other vehicles in the UK is a slightly different process than in the United States or Canada, as law prohibits passing on the left except when the vehicle in front of you is signaling to turn right. The strict regulations are in place to protect other drivers, motorcyclists, bikers, and pedestrians.
  • Wear Your Seatbelt

    Wearing a seatbelt is a requirement by law for all UK drivers, you'll be fined a whopping £500 if you're found driving without your seatbelt.

Tips for Parking in the UK


Finding adequate parking for your rental car in the UK can be a chore, depending on where you're attempting to find parking. Attempting to park on the street in a large urban center can be a logistical nightmare, as meters may not be accurately marked with maximum parking time or the appropriate amount of payment required to park for a certain amount of time. Additionally, one way street grids, strange road markings, high parking prices, and urban congestion zones make parking in the many cities and towns of the UK tricky at best.

City Parking

For the above reasons and the general lack of street parking in UK cities, you'll often be searching for car parks and garages as an alternative to parking on the street, where convenient, free, and safe parking is more-or-less non-existent. While reasearching trends in seasonal crowds for cities like London may help you judge the best time to travel to England, it is safe to assume that parking will be relatively difficult in downtown areas throughout the UK at any given time. Remember if you see a red line painted on the curb or a double yellow line, parking is prohibited. 

Parking Tickets in the UK

United Kingdom Driving InformationIf you do manage to find parking on the street, you're subject to a wide variety of strict parking regulations in the United Kingdom. If you overstay your allotted maximum parking time, you'll likely return to your car to find a ticket, a clamp, or worse, that your vehicle has been towed and impounded, depending on the nature of your infraction. If you park in a no-parking zone, handicap, or loading zone, it is likely your rental car will be either towed or clamped. For these reasons, we recommend utilizing the many parking garages and lots found throughout the UK, and utilizing "park and ride" programs in urban areas, when appropriate.
 

Parking Fines in the UK

If you neglect to pay parking fees, you'll likely receive a ticket that you'll then have to pay either by check, credit/debit card, or cash at a police or parking bureau office. If you do receive a parking ticket or any other type of infraction, it's recommended you immediately contact your rental company and arrange a payment plan if you're not planning on paying the fine up front.


Are you concerned about finding a place to park? Check out the online tool Parkopedia for more advice and local, safe parking recommendations. 


Driving Laws in the UK


If you're planning to book a rental car in the UK during your next vacation, becoming well-versed in local driving laws in the UK is crucial to enjoying a hassle-free road trip. In this section of our United Kingdom travel guide, we'll delve into UK driving laws and child safety guidelines to assist you in avoiding fines while simultaneously maintaining a high level of comfort and safety while on the road. For additional information and answers to your questions, visit our UK Car Rental FAQ page.

  • In the UK (and much of Europe for that matter), a child must use a child seat until they're twelve years old, or at least three and a 3.5 feet tall. Child seats in the UK must meet European Union guidelines, indicated by a large label showing a capital 'E' in a circle.
  • Talking on the phone while driving is illegal in the United Kingdom and can net you a minimum £100 fine.
  • Turning on a red light is forbidden in the United Kingdom. Whereas you may be able to make a "right on red" in the USA or Canada, you may only make a "left on red" in the United Kingdom when there is a specific arrow designating that you may.
  • Passing in the left lane (which is the slow lane in the UK) is forbidden in the UK except when the right lane is traveling slower than the left. If you do pass on the left lane, return to the right as soon as possible.
  • Insurance for your British rental car is required by law and can be attained through your credit card company, purchased locally upon arrival, or can be purchased in addition to your car rental when you book with Auto Europe.
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other mind-altering substances, including prescription medications, is stricly prohibited and met with zero tolerance in the United Kingdom. Similar to the US, a legal blood-alochol concentration in the UK must be below 0.08%.
  • Driving laws in the United Kingdom are dictated by the Highway Code, a set of mandatory rules and regulations, guides, recommendations, and other information for anyone who may be driving in the United Kingdom. The Highway Code applies to drivers, cyclists, commercial vehicle drivers, pedestrians, and even animals, so it's applicable to anyone (or anything) that may be on the road. One can access a comprehensive, digital copy of the Highway Code here.

UK Map


Exploring the UK by Map

United Kingdom Driving InformationWhether your plans include visiting the stunning coastline or prefer to tour the mythical landmarks sprinkled across Great Britain's countryside, our UK map will help you arrange a visit to all of your chosen destinations with ease. Auto Europe has been assisting travelers for more than 60 years now and we urge you to take advantage of this detailed map of Great Britain, which highlights landmarks, restaurants, hotels, and other attractions throughout the country. You certainly do not want to be stranded while you are on vacation, and whether you're on the road, researching the best time to visit Europe, or in the early stages of planning your trip, we hope that the use of this UK map helps make your trip to the UK easier.