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UK Road Signs: a guide for UK newcomers

While this isn't a UK road signs test, this blog is here to help refresh your knowledge of UK road signs and their meanings. 

We’ll look at the basics of UK road signs and share some helpful resources for those taking their UK driving and theory test, too. 

The 3 most common type of UK road sign

Triangle signs = warning

Triangle signs are there to tell you about potential dangers on the road ahead. They are mostly white with a red border. 

Expect to see warnings about potential animals, general driving conditions and changes in the road - like the end of a dual carriageway.

Circle signs = instruction 

Anything in a circle is there to tell you what to do, or what not to do. They're there to help you keep to the rules and not break the law.

For example, speed limits are in a circle sign.

Rectangle  signs = information

These are what you look out for if you're looking for directions, or to see how many miles are left until you reach your destination.

Sometimes, they share more general information about the road ahead.

Not all UK road signs are circles, rectangles or triangles. 

Some signs, like the red octagonal STOP sign, use more unique shapes so they're easy to recognise.

If you want to become a true expert on road signs (and a lot of other things), the UK Highway Code is your friend. Everyone who drives in the UK should be following it. You can find it here. 

Differences between UK road signs and road signs in other countries 

Road signs around the world are designed to be easily read by everyone. So, it's likely that UK road signs aren’t that different to wherever you drove before. 

But there are a few differences to be aware of: 

UK road signs use different measuring systems 

Distances are measured in miles. Restrictions (width/height) are measured in inches, metres or feet. We don't know why. 

UK speed limit signs are measured in miles per hour 

This one’s important!

In the UK, speed is measured in miles per hour. This is different to most countries around the world which measure speed in kilometres per hour.

A national speed limit sign that says '40' means you can drive up to 40 miles per hour, as long as it's safe to.

UK wildlife is different to other countries

In Japan, you might see warning signs for crabs. In Bolivia, you may spot a few warnings for llamas. In the UK, you’ll find warnings about our unique wildlife, too. Hedgehogs, toads, deer, and sheep all make an appearance on our triangle warning signs. 

UK road signs are sometimes bi-bilingual 

In Wales, nearly all road signs use Welsh and English. In some parts of Scotland, signs are written in both English and Gaelic.

Useful resources