Anna Hann

by Anna Hann

posted on February 9, 2024


Driving in the UK for the first time? Here’s a quick rundown of all the need-to-knows, from driving on the left side of the road to navigating unusual road layouts.

On Turo in the UK, you can arrange to pick up a car from London Heathrow Airport or other UK international airports. You won’t have to wait in line at a car rental desk, and it’s also easy to change your plans in the Turo app, whether you need to extend or shorten your trip or cancel it altogether.

Picking the best vehicle for UK roads

The UK’s roads are varied, from fast and busy motorways to single-track country lanes with passing points. If you’re moving between cities on motorways or A-roads (typically dual carriageways), then large and comfortable vehicles like SUVs and spacious estate cars make for a comfortable ride. 

Choose a British-built car for your adventure through Blighty, such as a Land Rover designed for the British outdoor lifestyle. However, if you’re venturing deep into the countryside, you might want to consider something small and nimble to help navigate potentially narrow roads. City bound? Consider an easy-to-park MINI for your urban adventure, available in a rainbow of colors (and look out for newer models with cute Union Jack rear lights). 

Know your lingo

Before we dive into the essentials of driving in the UK, let’s get acquainted with some quintessentially British car terminology. Take a deep breath – here comes a quick-fire run-down of British car terms.

  • Trunk = Boot
  • Hood = Bonnet
  • Turn signals = Indicators
  • Windshield = Windscreen
  • Gas pedal = Accelerator
  • Off-ramp = Slip road
  • Parking lot = Car park
  • Highways/Freeways = Motorways

Fueling your adventure

Instead of gasoline or gas, you’ll hear ‘petrol’ in the UK. Unleaded 95-octane petrol is premium unleaded fuel (91 in the US), although some service stations offer unleaded 97-octane petrol, which is considered a performance fuel and is more expensive. Some cars on Turo are diesel. Before topping up, be completely sure what fuel the car needs. Sometimes, there’s a sticker inside the fuel cap door, but that’s not always the case.

Get ready for lots (and lots) of roundabouts

When you’re driving in the UK, you’ll inevitably encounter roundabouts. Whereas in the US, you might find an intersection, it’s far more common to see a roundabout in the UK. Give way to an oncoming vehicle to your right, then drive clockwise to your exit. Look for road signs and markings to find out which lane you should be in, and always use your indicators on a roundabout so other drivers know when you’re planning to exit. Remember that in the UK, indicator lights flash amber instead of red

Mastering the left side

In the UK, cars drive on the left side of the road and overtake on the right. And while the driver’s seat is on the right, your pedals are still in the same position as left-hand drive cars. Before you set off on your Turo trip, ask your host to point out which side of the steering wheel you’ll find your indicator. It’s also a good idea to get familiar with the locations of all the controls of a car you’re driving for the first time.

Deciphering Britain’s roads

Britain’s road network is varied. There’s the enormity of the M25 that circles London, oddities like Birmingham’s complex Spaghetti Junction, the chaos of the Magic Roundabout in Swindon (made up of a single central roundabout traveling anticlockwise surrounded by five clockwise mini roundabouts), and single-track roads in the middle of nowhere with passing points you hope you won’t have to reverse to. Exactly what you’ll encounter depends on where you’re going, but international drivers tend to get the hang of things pretty quickly.

Toll roads aren’t widespread in the UK, but if you’re driving in London, there are some London-specific charges you’ll need to know about, including the ULEZ, Congestion Charge, and Dartford Crossing.

Understanding UK road signs and markings

There are road signs in the UK that you might not recognize, and it’s not always obvious what they mean. Here are some you may come across on your journey. Generally, circular signs give orders, triangular signs are warnings, and rectangular signs have information.

Box markings. It’s illegal to enter a box junction marked with yellow crisscrosses unless your exit is clear (Do not block). 

Yellow parking lines. If you see double yellow lines along the outside edge of the road, it means no waiting and no parking at any time. A single yellow line means you can’t wait during the times shown on a nearby sign.

Double white lines. If you see solid double white lines in the middle of the road, you mustn’t cross these to overtake.

Traffic lights. In the UK, a red light always means stop. There’s no UK equivalent to the ‘right on red’ rule.

National speed limit. In the UK, the national speed limit is 70mph on motorways and dual carriageways, 60mph on single carriageways, and 30mph in built-up areas, but always check for any differing speed limit signs.

Clearways. This means no stopping, not even to drop off or pick up passengers.

Zebra crossings. These striped marked crosswalks mean you must give way if a pedestrian is waiting to cross, even if there are no lights to stop the traffic.

Want to know more about road signs and road markings in the UK? The UK government has published a complete guide.

UK travel inspiration

So, where to first? There are so many incredible road trips in the UK to try. From the bustling streets of London to the serene landscapes of the Lake District and the rural routes through Wales, the UK offers a flavor of adventure for every palette. Perhaps you’ll venture north for island hopping around the Hebrides, or take a coastal route around Cornwall? Wherever you’re bound for, when you’re ready to hire a car in the UK, choose the perfect car on Turo for your adventure.

single road winding around a uk coastal getaway
Previous post: Coastal escapes for an unforgettable UK staycation
Turo road trip
Next post: 6 places to give your wellbeing a boost