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On the road

Driving in the UK: a starting pack

Even if you've been driving for years in another country, it can be a challenge to get used to UK roads. We've compiled some rules and tips you might want to keep in mind during your first UK roadtrip (or commute 😅).


Basic rules

We're going to start this article with a brief summary of the most important rules, the ones you'll need to remember in all situations to stay safe.

  • You must be at least 17 years of age to drive a car in the UK
  • Drive on the left side of the road. This dates back to the time of horse riders, who needed their right hand free in all circumstances to hold their sword. Today, the UK, and some of Britain's former colonies still drive on the left side of the road, which is highly unusual for most foreigners
  • 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 milliliters of breath. The fine for being caught over the limit can be as high as £5,175, and you may lose your driving licence.
  • You and your passengers must wear a seatbelt, or each of you could be fined up to £440.


Speed limits

Long distances are always measured in miles and shorter distances in yards. That's why it's always useful to remember, for example, that 1 yard = 3 feet and 1 mile = 1760 yards.

Speed limits will be signalled on circular signs that will be posted regularly along the roads. Speed limits are displayed in miles per hour, both in the vehicles and on the roads. However, fuel is measured in litres.

Even though speed limits can vary depending on each road's specificities, it can be useful to remember standard speed limits (for vehicles weighting under 3.05t):

  • Built-up areas: 30mph or 48 km/h
  • Outside built up areas, single carriageways: 60 mph or 96 km/h
  • Motorways, dual carriageways: up to 70 mph or 112 km/h


Road types

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

  • Motorways "M" roads are high-speed roads, where pedestrians and slow vehicles aren't allowed
  • Primary roads, "A" or "B" are smaller and slower roads, composed by single or dual carriageways. They're indicated by green signs with white text.
  • Non-primary roads "C" or "D" are single tracks roads, most often found in rural areas.



Things to bring along

Some objects could be incredibly useful in the even of a breakdown. Even though the following items aren't compulsory, it is highly recommended to carry with you:

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


Car insurance

Every driver is required to have at least third party insurance to be allowed to drive legally on UK roads. This is what most rentals 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 a foreign 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 a crash in the UK? Read our article here


If you're a UK resident born outside of the UK, or if you've simply lived in a foreign country, not all companies will take into account your foreign licence and driving experience. Why not trying to get a quote for your car insurance with Marshmallow?


We work hard to lower the prices of insurance for foreigners living in the UK. And getting a quote only takes a few minutes! To do so, you can visit our website here. Hundreds of satisfied customers would tell you that this is the right way to start building you UK driving experience!

Customer happiness supervisor

Why we can't cover everyone

We're doing our best to make insurance accessible for as many people as possible. But unfortunately, keeping our premiums low also means not being able to insure everyone. Want to understand how this works? Simply follow the link.

How to react after a crash?

We don't like to think about it, but accidents happen. So let's make sure we're prepared! Here are three basic steps never to forget if you're involved in a car crash on UK roads.

Can you drive in the UK with a foreign licence? 🚗

Moving to the UK is already confusing, but getting used to driving there is a whole other level of challenging. While you’re figuring out how to drive on the left side of the road, here is a quick guide on how to use your foreign driving licence in the UK.

How to get a driving licence in the UK as a foreigner

Here is a quick guide to help foreigners getting their driving licence in the UK 🚙

How to exchange a foreign licence for a British one?

A little guide on how and when to exchange a foreign licence for a British one. Don't miss out!