Guide to Car Rental in the UK

The UK is well served with vehicle rental agencies in all major cities, towns and airports. Driving is fairly easy with a good, if busy, network of roads and motorways. Congestion tends to be worst in the south and southeast, whereas you can drive through Northern Scotland for hours and barely see another car.

Rules of the Road

UK vehicles drive on the left hand side of the road. This may take a few days to get used to. Many junctions are controlled by roundabouts, generally very easy to negotiate if you keep calm and give way to traffic on the right, i.e. give way to traffic that is already on the roundabout. Make sure to signal your exit from the roundabout clearly. As a rule of thumb, the speed limit in built up areas is 30 miles per hour, 70 miles per hour on motorways and 60 miles per hour on other roads but do look out for variable speed limits and obey local signs and speed restrictions. The UK is well covered by speed cameras as you may find to your cost if you speed!

Road Safety

In 2009, the UK was number 1 in the road safety league table of safest roads in the world on which to drive. In comparison to other European countries, the UK has a 50 percent lower road fatality rate than Australia, Portugal, Belgium and Luxembourg. Driving on rural roads accounts for 60 percent of fatal and serous accidents, whereas motorways with their higher speed limits and larger traffic flows are actually the safest roads in the UK on which to drive.

Driving and Distances

To give a rough indication of distances and driving times, at its narrowest England is about 73 miles wide – to dive from Bowness to Newcastle, Tyne on wear should take just over 2 hours. Along the long axis, the classic north – south route of John O`Groats in the North of Scotland to Lands end in Cornwall will take you 15 hours and 45 minutes to drive the 838 mile distance.

Driving Styles

Although driving styles vary between individuals, one can make the generalisation that driving tends to be more aggressive in the larger cities, particularly London and more laid back on rural roads and in northern cities. When a UK driver flashes their headlights this is to invite you to pull out, whereas in many parts of America this means `stay where you are, I`m going to pull out.`

Renting a Car

Size of Car

European cars tend to be smaller than American cars. UK cities tend to be very congested and it can be easier to drive and park a smaller car. Fuel prices may come as a nasty surprise to American visitors, more fuel efficient smaller cars will make your petrol money stretch further.

Child Safety seats

All children travelling in the UK under 12 or under 135cm in height must use a booster seat as well as seat belt, make sure your car hire company can provide adequate child restraints when booking your car hire. (It is worth noting that exemptions to this rule can be made for children over the age of 3 travelling in taxis)

So you can see that driving in the UK is pretty straightforward. Most road users obey the rules of the road and provided you drive using common sense and show courtesy to other road users, you shouldn`t encounter too many problems. Any reputable car hire company like compare car hire Heathrow will be able to advise you further given your specific destination, requirements and needs.

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