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Driving in the UK: a starting pack

June 7, 2022
3 min read
Customer Operations Lead

It can be a challenge to get used to UK roads if you’re not familiar with them. So, we've compiled some rules and tips you might want to keep in mind. Just in case you’re planning to visit or relocate to the UK anytime soon!

⚠️ What are the basic rules?

  • You must be at least 17 years of age to drive a car in the UK.
  • Drive on the left side of the road. 
  • Be vigilant and follow speed limits. It can be confusing, as the UK still uses the imperial system for road signs.
    Don't drink and drive. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Blood Alcohol content limit is 80 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath. You risk being fined, losing your license, or even imprisonment if you drink and drive over the limit. 
    You and your passengers must wear a seatbelt, or each of you could be fined up to £500.

🚫  What about speed limits?

Long distances are always measured in miles and shorter distances in yards. So, it might be useful to remember that 1 yard = 3 feet and 1 mile = 1760 yards

Speed limits will be signalled on circular signs posted regularly along the roads. Speed limits are displayed in miles per hour on road signs. The speedometer in UK vehicles also measures speed in miles per hour. 

Even though speed limits vary depending on the specifics of the road, it can be useful to remember standard speed limits (for vehicles weighing under 3.05t):

  • Built-up areas = 30mph or 48 km/h
  • Single carriageways away from built-up areas: 60 mph or 96 km/h
  • Motorways and dual carriageways: up to 70 mph or 112 km/h


🚗  What kind of roads does the UK have?

In the UK, roads can be divided into 3 main categories:

  • Motorways "M" roads are high-speed roads, where pedestrians and slow vehicles aren't allowed.
  • Primary roads, labelled as either "A" or "B",  are smaller and slower roads, made of single or dual carriageways. They're indicated by green signs with white text.
  • Non-primary roads, labelled "C" or "D", are single track roads. They’re usually found in rural areas.

🔧 What if I breakdown?

Breakdowns happen. So, it’s best to keep some objects in your car just in case, We’d recommend the following:

  • A warning triangle (which should not be used on a motorway!)
  • A first-aid kit
  • A fire extinguisher
  • A reflective jacket
  • A blanket 


🤔  What about car insurance?

In the UK, every driver is legally required to have third-party insurance at least. This is what most rental cars will come with. You could incur a fixed penalty of £300 and up to 6 penalty points by driving a vehicle you're not insured to drive. 

If you're visiting the UK on international car insurance, you should make sure to bring the certificate of international travel with you. In the event of a crash, you would need to give your own details, as well as your insurer's details to every driver involved. 

Not sure how to react in the event of an accident in the UK? Read our article here.

If you're a UK resident born outside of the UK, or if you've simply lived abroad, not all companies will take into account your non-UK license and previous driving experience. Why not get a quote with Marshmallow? We work hard to lower the prices of insurance for non-UK citizens living in the UK. And getting a quote only takes a few minutes! Get a quote here.

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