Driving in Britain

Suzy Rhodes Wed, 08/27/2014 - 12:18

Are you ready to drive on the left side of the road?  Did you know it is more common to drive a stick shift? 

Rent = Hire    Gas = Petrol     Hood = Bonnet    Trunk = Boot

Driving in Britain can be intimidating at first as they drive on the left side of the road, which means the steering wheel is on the right. Don’t worry the pedals are the same, oh but the blinkers and wipers are opposite, still nervous? (It’s a piece of cake, really. Remember I had to learn how to drive in America, you can do this).  It takes a little while to adapt but just remember when you make a turn – STAY IN THE LEFT LANE.  (Wherever I drive in the world, I always tell myself ‘my life is on the line’ this helps me a lot). If you’re a little unsure, ask for an automatic way ahead of time, or they will assume you want to drive a stick shift, like the majority of the country do. An automatic is more expensive to rent, and they will probably only have a small selection, but this will make it easier so you don’t have to shift gears with your left hand and you can focus more on the driving.

Unlike the rest of Europe, Britain uses mph not km but they do use the metric system while filling up with petrol, it’s all in litres. All you need is your valid driver’s license from your country. You will probably have to buy their car insurance, some U.S. insurance companies do not cover overseas and if they do it will cost a lot if you get in an accident, and so it’s best to go with car rental insurance.  Some companies insurance is not as high as others, so do your homework first. Between car rental, insurance and petrol prices be prepared to pay a pretty penny.  That being said, there’s nothing like getting off the beaten path and having your own free time and luxury of a car. Petrol in Britain is around $7.30 a gallon. Yes, you read that right, and they have lived with those prices for years, so I figure a few weeks of British petrol prices makes me appreciate U.S. prices even more.  

TIP: If you fly into London and want to rent a car, wait until you are outside of London to rent. Tour London by Tubes and buses, get the train into Bath or Oxford and rent a car from there. London is one big headache to drive in and not worth getting off to a bad start on your vacation.

Some rules to remember:

You cannot turn right on a red, (or in UK’s case left). A red light means STOP – stay put!

At a roundabout, the traffic goes clockwise; and traffic will be coming from your right. When you approach a roundabout, slow down, yield to cars already in the roundabout (coming from your right) and enter when there’s an opening. Once you are in the roundabout, get in the outside lane to exit and always use your indicator to let people know what you are doing. It’s as simple as that! Right? (There are no four way stops in the UK.)

No cell phones/mobiles while driving, it’s illegal.

Always wear a seatbelt, that’s the law. If you get pulled over for not wearing a seatbelt, you pay the fine.

Stick to the speed limit. There are lots and lots of speed cameras in Britain. DO NOT speed. Maximum speed limit is 70mph (usually on the motorway or dual carriageway).

Overtaking a car (passing a car) is on the right only. Overtaking/passing on the left can not only get you a ticket but it really annoys other drivers.

A parking lot is called a car park and you usually pay for parking everywhere you go. Hope you’re good at parking in small, tight places, sometimes you have to let passengers out first before you park – but not always.

Street Parking lines:

Single yellow line – drop off a person, driver must stay in the car. Check sign that lets you know the parking restriction times.

Double Yellow lines – You can’t park at any time.

Single red lines – You can’t park or stop at given times – check street sign for times.

Double red lines – You can’t park or stop at all. You will most definitely get in trouble for this one.

No lines at all – You can park for free

For more information on driving in Britain and learning the road signs visit:


Type in the search box “Know your traffic signs”

Click on “Know your traffic signs”

Click on the Green book “Know your traffic signs” for a PDF file to appear