The Insider’s Guide to Driving in the U.K.

You may well be the world’s greatest driver, but if you are planning to hire a car in a foreign country, you should make sure that you are familiar with the driving laws and customs that operate in that country. Driving in the U.K. will take some getting used to if you normally drive on the right-hand side of the road, for example, or if your usual car has an automatic transmission. Here are some tips and guidelines that may be useful when you hire a car in the U.K.


driving in UK


  • You can only use your national driving licence in the United Kingdom if it is a full licence and you have reached the age of 17. Keep it with you in the car at all times.

  • Speed limits may vary, but they range from up to 30 mph (48kph) in built up areas, 60 mph (96 kph) elsewhere, and up to 70 mph (112kph) on motorways and dual-carriageways. Speed limits and distances are in miles, and speed cameras are everywhere!

  • If you have never driven in the UK before, hire a car with a sat-nav or GPS system, or at least invest in a good map.

  • UK roads are classified as M (Motorway Roads) or A or B roads. Local authorities may also categorise roads as C, D or U (Unclassified). The road numbering follows a zoned system. Many of the major urban routes are connected via motorways.  A roads are known as Primary Roads and are not part of the UK motorway system.

  • On roundabouts, always give way to traffic proceeding from the right.

  • The blood/alcohol level in the UK is 80mg of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. The penalty for a first offence is a fine of up to £5,000 and/or 6 months’ imprisonment, and you will lose your driving licence for 12 months. Police also carry out tests to detect whether drivers have taken narcotics.

  • Be vigilant for unmarked police cars. They check for use of seatbelts, front and rear, and for the proper use of child restraints and car seats. Children under three years must use a properly installed child seat, and rear-facing baby seats can only be used if any airbag for that seat has been deactivated. Children 3 years to 12 years and shorter than 135cms (approx 4ft 5ins) must use a proper child restraint.

  • Hand-held phones are illegal while driving.

  • Using the car horn when your car is stationary is illegal, unless another (moving) vehicle is causing a hazard, or it is an anti-theft device.

  • Drivers without residential UK addresses who commit traffic offences must pay a minimum £300 deposit in respect of a potential court fine. The deposit must be paid on the spot.


For more information on the UK Rules of the Road, refer to the Highway Code and consult the AA Website .