Tips for Driving in the UK for Foreigners

We have two words for you: RUSH HOUR!

Both driving and walking the streets of major urban areas like London can be tricky in England. The traffic is often slowed to a crawl by congestion, especially during the rush hour periods which are usually early mornings and late afternoons -  avoid traveling at these times if you can. If not, try and make sure you allow plenty of time to get to your destination.

Sometimes, when road motorists do get a bit of open road, they can be speedy and reckless, probably due to the frustration of waiting in a queue of traffic for so long!

The English drive on the left side of the road, so if you're unfamilar with this, then take extra precaution when driving.

Pedestrian Safety

If there is any road in London on which to be particularly cautious, it's the famous shopping strip: Oxford Street. It gets so crowded on the footpath that sometimes you'd be likely to brush shoulders with a complete stranger! When you need to cross the road don't step out without looking in both directions. Many minor accidents occur, and pedestrians often cross in the street instead of at intersections and designated crosswalks. 


There are two types of pedestrian crossings in London: zebra and pelican (no, we're not talking about the zoo!)

The first are standard black and white crossings with flashing lights beckoning you to cross. However, the trick here is that you must actually start walking before cars will stop, a test of your nerves.

The other crossing, pelican, is controlled by traffic lights which stop the traffic for you, and mostly seen on busier roads.

Swings and Roundabouts

London has its notorious roundabouts, which can get confusing for even the best of drivers. Roundabout etiquette involves yielding to traffic coming from your right.

The English also like to get a bit crazy with something called the double roundabout. This is basically a roundabout on top of a roundabout, and you still let traffic come in from the right first.

But if you're not confident with roundabouts it might be best to avoid driving in the town of Swindon, where the town planners have installed this magic roundabout.

Try navigating that without a brain meltdown. So British: "After you." "No, after you!"

Highways and Byways

Roads are split up into four categories: motorways; A roads, fast roads through country towns; B roads, secondary roads; and farm roads, small roads. Country roads are often very tiny, sometimes one-lane, and you may have to move over to let a car pass.

Parking rules stipulate that if there is no line, you can usually park. Parking on a double yellow line or along a curb is illegal.

If you are driving a vehicle between 07:00 - 18:00 Monday - Friday within the charging zone then a congestion charge applies. The cost per day is  £11.50 and can be paid online. You will know if you are in the congestion zone as there are signs displayed on the roads. If the fee is left unpaid when you leave the country, your fine will get doubled. 

Public Transport

Maybe avoid driving all together. Public transportation is not regarded highly in London, but it's the better way to get around, especially if you get an Oyster or travel card. Once you add in car hire and parking fees, the costs grossly outweigh the inconvenience of taking the bus. Plus, you'll probably get to your destination quicker than if you traveled by car.

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3 Comments

  • MyPhotoSchool said

    Oh Come On!!! ........while a useful article its a bit over dramatic don't you think?.<br>1. Motorist are NOT "often speedy and reckless" they may be sometime speedy and reckless but no more than in any other country.
    2.Roundabouts. No more scary than the USA '4 way stop sign' and as for the double roundabout you can count the number of these on 2 hands.
    3. London Congestion charge: All car rentals are obliged to inform drivers of the congestion charge, plus there are huge notices up everywhere once you enter the zone. Its not a big deal. Call a number give your credit card and that it! Less have less of the scary $500 fines please.
    OK driving on the wrong side of the road takes a bit of getting used too, but once your out of the city it's no harder than driving in any other country.

  • glenice hall said

    The top roundabout photo is completely wrong for the UK. The directions are for driving on the right not for driving on the left hand side of the road.<br>

  • Chris Hardy said

    Is it illegal for a learner driver with an instructor(parent) to do a simulated emergency brake test on a public road assuming no incident and no other road users put at risk?
    If it is illegal what is the likely charge ?

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