Driving in the UK From Abroad

Whether you're new to driving in the UK because you've just passed your test or you're a recent arrival in the country, you probably want to understand how driving works over here in Good Ol' Blighty. Don't worry because we've got you covered with this guide featuring everything you need to know about behind the wheel in the UK. From getting started to driving in different terrains, here's the lowdown. 

Getting Started With Driving in the UK

First things first: if you're planning to drive in the UK after moving here, you'll need to obtain a UK driving licence. Don't worry; it's not as hard as it sounds. Just make sure you have a valid driving licence from your home country, and you'll be able to apply for a UK licence. It's also worth noting that the legal driving age in the UK is 17, so no sneaky driving if you're underage. 

Rules of the Road

Let's get to the nitty-gritty of the UK's road system. In the UK, we drive on the left side of the road – that means the driver's seat is on the right side of the car. It might take some getting used to, but trust us; it's not as confusing as it sounds. The UK's road system is well-organised, with clear signs and markings, making it easy for drivers to navigate. And look, if you get lost, just stop at the nearest pub and ask for directions – the locals are always happy to help. Maybe hold off on ordering a few pints, though. 

Vehicle Requirements

Before you hit the road, it's essential to ensure your vehicle meets the UK's requirements for registration and insurance. Your car must also pass an annual MOT test, which checks for safety and roadworthiness. And it's also worth noting that the UK has strict speed limits, and penalties for speeding are severe – 20 mph on some residential streets, 30 mph in other areas, 40 and 50 mph on dual carriageways and a 70 mph national speed limit. So, keep it slow and steady and remember driving isn't a race. 

Driving in the City

Ah, driving in the city. It can be chaotic and stressful, but with a bit of know-how, you'll be navigating those narrow streets like a pro. Rules for parking and congestion charges vary depending on the city, so make sure you're clued up before you arrive. And, if you're feeling brave, why not try your hand at driving on London's infamous ring road on the M25? Just make sure you've got a sturdy pair of hands. 

Driving on Motorways

If you're more of a highway driver, then the UK's motorways are for you. Motorways are the UK's version of freeways (that's what the Americans call them), and they're a great way to get from A to B quickly. But be warned: driving on motorways can be a bit intimidating, especially if you're not used to the high speeds. Just make sure you keep a safe distance from the car in front of you, and you'll be fine. Oh, and it's also handy to remember that many motorways have a smart system in place and average check speed cameras. So don't think about hitting high speeds over the limit, thinking you'll be okay. You're being recorded and may need to do a speed awareness course. Plus, you can expect a penalty (and even lose your licence if you're going over 100 mph) 

Driving in Rural Areas

The UK is also home to some of the most stunning rural landscapes in the world, and driving through the countryside is an experience like no other. But it's not all picturesque views and winding roads – rural driving has challenges. You'll need to be wary of narrow lanes, sharp corners and wandering farm animals (those pesky sheep). With a bit of patience and a keen eye, though, you'll be able to enjoy the scenery and the quiet solitude of the countryside.

Driving in Adverse Weather Conditions

Lastly, the UK is infamous for its rainy and dreary weather (and not just in Manchester), which can sometimes make driving a bit of a challenge. Rain, snow and fog can make driving more dangerous, so it's essential to be prepared. Make sure your car is equipped with good tires ready for road conditions, no matter the weather.

Other Important Things to Know About Driving in the UK

  • Avoid using the middle lane when the inside lane is empty.
  • When approaching a roundabout, give way to traffic approaching from the right unless otherwise indicated.
  • All traffic signals and road signs must be followed without fail.
  • Emergency service vehicles must be given the right of way in a safe manner.
  • In built-up areas, using the car horn between 23:30 and 07:00 hours every day is not allowed.
  • It's illegal to use a mobile phone while driving in the UK. If you need to make a call, pull over at a safe location first.
  • Failure to wear a seat belt when required can result in a fine of up to £500.
  • The maximum permitted level of alcohol in the bloodstream is 0.08 percent. A first-time offender may be fined up to £5,000 and even imprisoned for up to 6 months, with a driving licence suspension of up to 12 months.

Getting Ready to Drive

As one of the few places in the world where everyone drives on the left, navigating the roads can be tricky for first-timers from another country. But with these tips, you can ensure you're ready to hit the road and go on a driving adventure or two.