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UK Road Signs: a guide for UK newcomers

Getting ready for your UK theory or driving test? Or just want to refresh your knowledge on UK road signs and meanings? This blog is here to help.

We’ll look at the basics of UK road signs and share some handy resources, too. 

You’ll mostly come across 3 types of UK road sign 

Triangular signs warn road users

Triangular warning signs let you know about any hazards 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.

Circular signs give orders

Circular road signs tell you what to do and what not to do based on road regulations.

A blue circle mostly tells what you must do, like Keep Left.

A red circle or a circle with a red border typically tells you what not to do, such as No Overtaking. 

Rectangular road signs share information

Most of the time, rectangular signs provide directions, mark out destinations and share general information about the road ahead.

Motorways use blue rectangular signs, but you also get white signs and green ones depending on the type of road.

Not all UK road signs are circles, rectangles or triangles. Some signs, like the red octagonal STOP sign, use more unique shapes so that they're easy to recognise. Different shapes can also be used together to make one sign. For example, a warning triangle sometimes has a rectangle plate below giving extra information. 

Make sure you read the Highway Code carefully so you can recognise all the types of UK road signs. 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 both the imperial and metric system

The UK uses a mix of the imperial and metric systems on their road signs. Height or width restrictions, for example, are often shown in metres as well as feet and inches. 

UK speed limit signs are measured in miles per hour 

This one is very 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 also find warnings about our unique wildlife, too. Hedgehogs, toads, deer, and sheep all make an appearance on our 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