If this is your first time travelling to the United Kingdom and you intend on driving, this guide will help you become familiar with major British road rules that you'll need to follow, including roundabouts, speed limits, pedestrian crossings, and congestion charge information. From road etiquette to best rental cars, VroomVroomVroom has got you covered!
Smaller vehicles tend to be more popular, especially in urban areas in the UK. Since manuals are more common here than automatic vehicles, make sure to ask for an automatic transmission if you are more comfortable driving one. Check out our recommended rental cars to get you started.
The three main types of road in the UK are motorways, primary roads, and non-primary roads. Note that directional signs are colour-coded: blue for motorways, green for major routes, and white for minor routes. Speed limits for cars are 30 mph in towns and cities (restricted road), 60 mph on single-lane carriageways, and 70 mph on dual-lane carriageways, as well as motorways. Keep in mind that town centers all over the UK are usually equipped with speed cameras that can catch the unwary. It is recommended for all drivers to look out for speed signs on other roads as well.
Confused by roundabouts? Rule 185 of the Highway Code explains what a driver should do when reaching the roundabout. All drivers areencouraged to give priority to traffic approaching from your right unless directed otherwise by signs or traffic lights. It says that the drivers are required to "check whether road markings allow you to enter the roundabout without giving way. If so, proceed, but still look to the right before joining." The rules also state that drivers must "watch out for all other road users already on the roundabout; be aware they may not be signalling correctly or at all" and "look forward before moving off to make sure traffic in front has moved off."
Some pedestrian or zebra crossings are usually marked by black and white stripes that cross the road in a direction perpendicular to the sidewalk. Rule 195 of the Highway Code states the obligations of a driver approaching a zebra crossing. It implies that drivers are required to “look out for pedestrians waiting to cross and be ready to slow down or stop to let them cross.” The rules also state that drivers should not “wave or use your horn to invite pedestrians across; this could be dangerous if another vehicle is approaching” and “be aware of pedestrians approaching from the side of the crossing. Drivers caught failing to give way to pedestrians can land a fine of £100 and three penalty points.
According to the Highway Code, drivers should only use their horns when their car is moving and they need to warn others of their presence. Honking is not allowed in built-up areas between 11:30 pm and 7 am. Fines for this offence start at £30 but can increase up to £1,000.
Note that drivers are permitted to execute a U-turn or 3-point-turn on any UK road where it can be safely performed and it is not expressly forbidden. Don't be shocked if you notice a driver hold up four lanes of traffic to make a U-turn.
Seat belts must be worn at all times by drivers and passengers aged 14 and above. You may get a fine of £500 and can be awarded three penalty points for not wearing your seat belt. You are responsible for making sure that anyone under the age of 14 wears a seat belt or uses a correct child restraint as required by law. Click here for more details on child seat laws in the UK.
Don’t drive if you are over the legal blood alcohol limit (BAC). For England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the legal limit is 0.8‰. In Scotland, the limit is at 0.5‰. You may lose your driving license if you are caught while above the legal limit and fined up to £5175.
Follow the basic road rules
London Congestion Charge
If you are planning to drive your hire car within London, be aware of the London Congestion Charge for driving in and through them. The charging hours within the Congestion Zone are from Monday to Friday between 7 am to 6 pm. The fee is £11.50 per vehicle per day. Drivers are encouraged to look out for the Congestion Charge signs en route. Click here for more information.