- In my opinion, the USA is the place in the world where it is easiest to drive, so we are going to raise the bar a bit and throw in some tips to drive in a slightly more difficult place.
Of course, coming as a tourist and renting a car to drive around London is the stupidest thing to do, but if you are 2 or more, and want to base in London to visit Oxford, Cambridge, Bath, Stonehenge, Brighton, etc., it may be convenient to rent a car because the train is very expensive and the liter of gasoline costs £ 1.
And if you decide to stay there, buying a car in the UK is the best option. The procedure is quite easy for foreigners. You can even easily manage private car registrations and number plates online carreg.co.uk .
Here are some key points before deciding to drive in the UK
I think this is what scares the most to those who intend to drive in the UK. But in my opinion, it is not the main problem. When I first came to London, I rented a car to go to Bath and Stonehenge, and beyond getting lost a thousand times in those rural roads, I had no major problems. At first, it can be confusing and the tendency is definitely to go to the right, but I assure you that by being careful, after 5-10 minutes they already begin to hold your hand. Also everywhere there are arrows indicating where to go, and if you follow other cars you will not be wrong.
The streets are narrow, winding, and almost always double-handed
This can be a tricky topic and one that could be applied to most European cities. Broadly speaking, and leaving motorways aside, in UK cities there are two types of streets, the main ones (usually with the prefix A and B) and the minor ones. You have to understand the difference between the two. Here is the explanation.
The main ones are those that can be used to go from one side to another, they have traffic lights, they almost always carry the right-of-way, and they generally (but not always) have at least two lanes. The minors are usually a labyrinth of curvy and cut streets, which often do not reach 100 meters, and that more than anything is to be able to reach the door of your house. If you’ve been accustomed to America’s wide highways, this situation might get you quite frustrating at first. However, your adaptation process will run faster if you are more able to refrain from driving your vehicle like when you were driving in America.
Traffic regulations have their flats
You can turn right anywhere unless some sign indicates otherwise (remember that 99% of the streets are double-handed). The usual thing is to stand as far to the right as possible, with the turn signal, and wait for the right moment, which is usually when those coming from the opposite hand also want to turn (their) right. Some intersections have a special space for this, marked with arrows on the floor.
There is no such thing as the one who comes from the right has priority at intersections. If there is no traffic light, the priority is the one coming from the main street, and this is marked on the floor with a double broken line (give way) and a sign in the form of an inverse triangle, or continuous (stop) at the end of the secondary street.
We have to stop if we can’t see if someone is coming
In the rare event that there are no markings on either street, no one has priority. You have to be careful and watch what the other does. The traffic situation in the UK is completely different. You can’t predict what will happen a few seconds later. This is of course caused by the limited area of the main road and heavy vehicle traffic. It is important that you stop or at least slow down the vehicle when you are in “a blind spot situation”.
As I said before, almost all streets are double-handed! Even ones that seem too narrow to be, or have cars parked on one or both sides. This causes that many times we find another car coming in front and that there is no space for both to pass at the same time. In these cases, one of the two cars has to find a hole (generally a garage entrance, or where there are no parked cars), and stop there to let the other pass. Who is the one who has to stop? A general rule of thumb is that the one who is most located on your opposite hand (taking the center line as a reference) should step aside. But sometimes it is easier for the other car because it has just one place, and as a courtesy, it is up to him to stop. That is, it depends a lot on each situation.
Ah, roundabouts, the terror of every driving student! (and many who have their license as well). In the USA there are practically none, they use the stop 4 ways system, which in my opinion is more inefficient because it makes you stop yes or yes even if no one comes. Roundabouts have several rules, such as the lane in which to enter, the sign to put according to which exit they are going to take, and so on.
Do you see it? The driving rules in the UK may need us to adapt. But believe me, gradually it will be fun. All you need is to familiarize yourself with right-hand drive and refrain from driving as fast as you can in your home country. Hopefully, this article can help you or anyone who plans to drive a car in the UK. Thanks for reading and always driving carefully.