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VroomVroomVroom Helps You Understand How to Safely Drive Your Car Hire in Britain

driver hands on steering wheel of a car

Driving your hire car safely in Britain does not have to be a chore. However, it can be quite daunting if you have never driven here before. Try and familiarise yourself with our information on driving regulations in Britain and find out what licence you'll need, information on speed limits, tips on parking and much more.

Below is a summary only.  For more detailed information check the Highway Code website before you drive.
  • Always drive on the left-hand side of the road.
  • Always overtake a slower vehicle on the outside (right) lane.
  • Do not use and block the middle lane if the inside lane is clear.
  • When approaching a roundabout, give priority to traffic approaching from the right, unless otherwise indicated.
  • You must ALWAYS STOP at a red traffic light.
  • At a junction there's no general priority rule - priority is clearly marked at most junctions.
  • ALL traffic signals and road signs must be obeyed at ALL times.
  • ALL vehicles must give way to emergency services vehicles in a safe way.
  • The use of your hire car horn is not permitted in built-up areas from 23:30 to 07:00 hours EVERY DAY.
  • Do not drive in bus lanes during restricted hours. Signs will be clear;y marked by the side of the road for times.
  • It's illegal to use a mobile phone when driving at ALL TIMES. If you need to make a call, find a safe place and pull over first.
  • Seat belts must be worn by the driver and front seat passenger. Where rear seat belts have been fitted, they must also be worn at all times.
  • The minimum driving age is 17.

Speed limits

sign speed limits in london

Speed limits do vary depending on the type of road and the vehicle you're driving. You MUST NOT exceed the maximum speed limit set for the road and/or your vehicle.

Car and motorcycles

Built-up areas - Max 30mph (48kph)
Single Carriageway - Max 60mph (96kph)
Dual Carriageway - Max 70mph (112kph)
Motorways - Max 70mph (112kph)

Cars towing caravans or trailers

Built-up areas - Max 30mph (48kph)
Single Carriageway - Max 50mph (81kph)
Dual Carriageway - Max 60mph (96kph)
Motorways - Max 60mph (96kph)

Always remember that the speed limit is the absolute maximum and also it does not mean it is safe to drive at that speed irrespective of conditions. Driving your hire car at speeds too fast for the road and traffic conditions can be dangerous.

Driving Licences

When you want to drive in Britain, you must have either:
  • A valid full driving licence issued in a European Community/European Economic area (EC/EEA)*
  • A valid, full national licence issued in your country (Provided your full licence or driving permit remains valid, you may drive vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes and with up to 8 passenger seats, for up to 12 months from the date of coming to the UK)
  • A provisional (learner's) driving licence issued abroad is not valid for use in the UK
  • You must have held a full licence for a minimum of 1 year to drive a hire car
*Countries included in the EC/EEA are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Republic of Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom.

cars parked in the city of london

Parking

Parking in Britain is not particularly easy to understand. There are many different regulations to follow, and often it can be hard to know where you can park. Restricted parking areas are continuously checked by authorities and fines can be very expensive.

Residents' Parking

Residents' parking is available in many residential areas. It is used it to cut down congestion and makes sure that residents always have somewhere to park. Spaces are always reserved for locally-living permit holders.

You can sometimes park in these areas without a permit after 18:00 on weekdays and all day on weekends, but restrictions vary greatly so always check the clearly marked street signs. If you do park in a resident's parking space you will almost certainly receive a penalty notice (fine) and your vehicle may even be removed.

Red & Yellow Lines

Single and double yellow and red lines along the edge of the road are used to indicate where you can and cannot park.
  • Single yellow lines: there are restrictions on parking at certain times. You can pull over on a single yellow line to let a passenger in or out of the car, but the driver must not leave the vehicle. Check the signs on the road to find out parking restriction times.
  • Double yellow lines: You cannot park at any time.
  • Single red lines: You cannot park or STOP at certain times as stated on the nearby road signs.
  • Double red lines: You can't park or STOP at any time.

Car Parks

Car parks are a great and often more secure alternative to on-street parking and there are many across Britain. Some are free, but most you will have to pay for.  Charges always vary depending on the location and time.

Car parks can be found at places like railway stations, airports, and large supermarkets, or simply in an area where extra parking is needed.
For car parks servicing a particular company, you usually have to be a customer to use them. For most car parks there's a time limit on how long you can stay for.

With most car parks, there will be a charges board on display at the entrance which tells you how much it costs to park. The cost usually increments with every hour of your stay, and you will pay on the way out.

If you're parking in an unknown area, it's best to find a car park with security, and make sure you never leave any valuables on display in your car.

Pay & Display

Pay and display is where you buy a ticket for a certain amount of parking time. Pay and display is used for on-street parking, car parks, and wherever you see the pay and display sign.

Pay and display prices always depend on location and time and the machine will tell you costs for parking. You must always clearly display your ticket on the dashboard, windscreen, or passenger window, then you must remove your car or pay for more time before your ticket runs out (the time is always printed clearly on your ticket).

Congestion Charging in London

If you're planning on driving your hire car through London, you will probably enter the Congestion Zone Charge.

What is the congestion charge? This is a daily charge to drive in central London between 07:00 and 18:00, Monday to Friday excluding Public Holidays. It was designed to reduce traffic and raise money to improve transport in London.

There are no barriers or toll booths to the zone and you do not have to show any tickets or passes. The zone is monitored by cctv cameras, which record all vehicle number plates and determine whether the charge has been paid. They recognise both British and European number plates. There are certain roads you can use to get through central London without paying. These are clearly indicated by road markings and signs. To see a map of where the congestion charge operates and for more details check the London Congestion Charge pages of the Transport for London website.


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