What foreign nationals need to know about driving in the UK?
Do you know that almost three quarters of countries use a left-hand drive? However, in the UK people drive on the left. This is not the only distinguishing feature of the road traffic in the United Kingdom. Keep on reading and you will find some helpful tips for foreigners driving in the UK.
If you are a tourist driving in the UK, you should take the following:
- passport (your ID);
- national driving license;
- international driving license (or IDL);
- certificate of insurance.
These documents are obligatory. There are no traffic enforcers in the UK, however, policemen work 24 hours a day. Keep in mind that both traffic enforcers and policemen can stop and inspect your car anytime they want without any permission and court orders. You are not allowed to interfere with their operations. Otherwise, you may be arrested. Find out more helpful tips on how to act if you have been stopped by the police while abroad.
Distinguishing features of roads in the UK
The United Kingdom is a small island state. All highways are in perfect condition. There are road markings, clear-cut road signs as well as various traffic lights.
Roads in the UK are equipped with video surveillance. Automatic stationary and mobile radars (on the top of the police cars) monitor the situation on the road 24 hours a day. Thus, vehicle plate numbers are automatically detected.
The road situation in the country is calm and stable. Traffic jams happen once in a blue moon. A specialized interchange system helps to avoid traffic jams. Car accidents happen quite rarely. Englishmen drive carefully and they ask the foreigners to drive in the same manner.
Parking lots in the UK are paid. If a parking lot is free of charge, you are allowed to leave your car there for no more than two hours. Otherwise, you may face the following:
- your car wheels will be locked;
- your tires will be deflated;
- your car will be towed;
- you will be fined.
The cost of parking fines is usually between £80 and £130. To pay for your parking, you should use a parking meter. Make sure you have 20, 50 cent coins as well as pound coins.
It is usual to give a way to pedestrians, even when they cross the road away from the marked zebra-crossings. However, do not brake hard before pedestrians. Otherwise, you risk being hit by the car moving behind you.
In the UK you are not allowed to:
- use car horns from 11:30 p.m. till 07:00 a.m. in densely populated areas;
- flash the lights (in case of a car accident it will be an aggravating factor);
- drive under the influence of alcohol, drugs or other intoxicants, even if the specified substances were prescribed by the doctor;
- drive unbuckled, even if you are a passenger sitting in the rear seat;
- turn to the left while the red light is on. If you violate this rule, you will be fined;
- drive a car if you are tired and exhausted (e.g. after a sleepless night due to a flight from the USA);
- refuse to be breathalyzed. You will be immediately arrested;
- phoning not only while driving, but also if you stop (however, if you have a headset, you are allowed to talk);
- transport kids until the age of 13 without child restraints or child safety seats;
- exceed the speed limit (in built-up areas the maximum speed is 30 miles an hour, on one-way roads — 60 miles an hour, on highways — 70 miles an hour. These speed limits are specified for ordinary light vehicles).
Choosing a car for a trip to the UK
Petrol in the UK is three times more expensive than in the rest of Europe. Thus, decide in advance whether you are going to rent a car or not. If “yes”, keep in mind that it is better to book a car several weeks or even months before the required date. Then rental charges will be cheaper. Moreover, if you want to rent a car with automatic transmission, that will be even more costly. We recommend you to choose rental agencies in the vicinity of airports. There is always a big choice. According to Statista.com, 18% of males and 9% of females in the United Kingdom prefer booking rental cars online instead of travel agencies or counters.
After you have received your invoice and car registration documents, compare all the data with your voucher. Sometimes employees at car rental agencies try to add optional insurance or service behind the client’s back. Always check whether your rental car conforms to the parameters specified in your driving permit. Otherwise, you will be driving illegally, and your insurance will be insignificant and won’t even cover expenses in case of damage during a car accident.
How to get International Drivers License in the UK?
Going to the UK? We recommend you to apply for the International Driver’s License (IDL) first. If you have a valid national driver’s license, you can easily get the International driver document. However, prior to it, you should follow the instructions below:
- Take driving lessons;
- Draw up your health card;
- Get through the examination;
- Get your International Driver’s Permit. Then you may leave an application for the International Driving License.
If you are a globetrotter, you may find this offer interesting. You don’t need to pass any tests. The validity of IDL is three years. Keep in mind that this document is supplementary and should not be used instead of your valid country’s driving permit since this is only a UK driver’s license translation submitted in the following formats:
- a plastic ID card;
- a leaflet with the translation into 29 languages that is consistent with UN requirements for the size, format, and colour of the document;
- mobile phone application.
How to drive in the UK with U.S. driver license?
And what if you are an American? It is quite important to make sure your driving license is legal. Keep in mind that the rules of using a foreign license in the UK differ and depend on whether you are just a tourist driving in the UK or a resident.
If you are just a tourist, you can use your U.S. driving license for up to 12 months if you have passed a driving test and are older than 17 years.
If you have been living in the UK for more than 12 months, then you are a resident of the country. You should change your driving license to the UK driver’s licence.
Enjoy the advantages of getting a UK driving licence:
- It proves your identity in the UK.
- The insurance price will be lower.
How to get driving licenses for the UK?
If you have a national driving license, you are allowed to drive across the UK for 12 months. Upon expiry of this period, you won’t be allowed to drive the car unless you get a UK driving license. If you are going to stay in the UK for less than 12 months, you don’t really need to apply for a UK driver’s license.
Nevertheless, you can apply for the UK driving permit directly in the post office after six months of your stay in the country. Firstly, you should pass an online theoretical exam (test and “dangers”). Then you should book a practical driving exam period. Keep in mind that too cautious and extremely accurate driving style may result in penalty points. As soon as you have successfully passed through all these stages, you will receive your driving permit through the mail.Thus, as you can see, driving a car in the UK is a great opportunity to gain new experience, bright impressions, as well as enjoy the beauties of English nature and test your capabilities in the the left-hand drive environment.