Planning on hiring a car during your next holiday to the UK? There are a few important things you’ll need to know before you get behind the wheel. Hiring a car is the perfect way to explore some of Great Britain’s beautiful countryside; check out our top ten British road trips. Stay safe and have the journey of a lifetime with these tips about driving in the UK:
1. Is my license valid in UK or should I get an International Drivers License?
Number one thing to find out before you get yourself a set of holiday wheels, is whether you are even licensed to drive in the UK? Australians can legally drive, but if you’re planning to be there for longer than a year then you can exchange your license for a British one and this costs about $90. Forms can be ordered through government websites. Your new license will take about three weeks and will be returned via post. International Drivers Licenses are not compulsory but are recommended, especially if you plan to travel through Eastern Europe.
2. Can I change my pick-up or drop-off point?
Yes, just give the car rental company a few days notice.
3. Are there any age restrictions on hiring a car?
Not officially, but there may be different terms and conditions in your contract if you are under 25 or over 70. For instance, a ‘young driver fee’ may be charged if you’re under the age of 25. Inquire with the individual rental companies first to get the best deal.
4. Can anyone drive the car?
No, only those listed on the rental agreement are legally able to drive the vehicle. If you’d like someone else to get behind the wheel, add them to the policy as a second driver.
5. Are there any tolls I should know about?
Many roads in the UK are toll free. Some, like the M6 near Birmingham, have sections which you can pay to access and are usually quieter, great for dodging the rush hour traffic! Week days it costs about $10 for entry. If you plan on driving through central London then be aware of the London Congestion Charge, applicable week days between 7am and 6pm (excluding public holidays) and costs $21 a day.
6. Should I go manual or automatic?
Most cars in Europe are manual and automatics are usually more expensive to rent. But ultimately the choice is yours, and whichever fits in to your budget.
7. Are there any strange road signs in the UK I should look out for?
There are a couple that are unique to the British Isles. These include:
This one means that there may be horse riders on the road and so you should approach and over take them with caution, at a lower speed.
Some Brits still prefer actual horses to horse power, and just in case your hire company is out of Renaults and offers you this mode of transport, be aware you won’t be able to use roads displaying this sign:
This one means that your vehicle can be parked partially on the verge or footway in marked bays.
8. What’s the speed limit?
In residential areas it is 48kmph and on motorways or carriageways it is between 80 and 112kmph. Variable speed limits may apply on some roads, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for road signs indicating this.
9. Do I have to belt up?
Yes, wearing a seatbelt is compulsory and you may be fined if you’re pulled over by the cops and found not wearing it!
10. Can I blast my car horn?
To warn other drivers of danger, certainly, but in most built-up areas you’re not allowed to honk away to your heart’s content. From 11pm to 7am use of your car horn is prohibited in these areas unless in an emergency situation.
11. Which side do I over take on?
Always over take on the right hand side (the driver’s side) and use the left lane to drive in.
12. How does a roundabout work?
Approach slowly, give way to traffic entering the roundabout on your right and go when the way is clear. Always use the far right lane if exiting to the right of the junction.
13. Another driver is flashing their lights at me, what does this mean?
British drivers tend to flash their headlights at other drivers to either indicate that they are stopping to let them pass, or to say thank you if you have let them go. Occasionally flashing headlights can mean something less friendly, but as the highway code suggests, always use your own judgment!
14. Are U-turns legal?
Drivers can legally complete a 3-point or U-turn in most roads in the UK, unless it explicitly states otherwise. So watch out for fearless drivers holding up four lanes of traffic to change direction!