Driving Tips for travellers visiting the UK
If you’re planning to get in the driving seat of a car in the UK then make sure you are aware of the systems and laws in place to ensure you have a safe and sound journey on the road. First of all, you will notice that in the UK, cars drive on the a left hand side, similar to Australia, India, Japan and the US Virgin Islands.
Right hand side drive
Take it slow and don’t rush to spin around the centre of town specially if you are used to the right hand side drive, because you might not get very far. Also try renting an automatic car to help you adjust to the new settings, although these can be priced higher than stick-operated vehicles. Make sure you check that you have a valid driving licence that covers the type of vehicle that you are driving and an appropriate insurance with valid road tax. Also make sure you don’t drive while using your mobile phone as this is against the law.
Next point to keep in mind is the metrics. Road distances are shown in miles or yards (MPH) and so are the UK Speed Limits. When filling petrol (gas) note that prices are listed in litres, and it takes about five litres to fill one British gallon so consider the distance you have to travel and whether it might just be cheaper taking another mode of transport like a coach or train.
Parking your car shouldn't be too difficult if you read the signs. Most parking lots operate on a “Pay and Display” method where you pay for the duration you need to park at a nearby parking machine and place the ticket on the dashboard clearly visible to the parking warden. Besides the obvious “No Parking” signs you should also be aware of the yellow lines painted on the street. Double yellow lines = No parking ever ; Single yellow lines = Parking generally NOT allowed except during un-restricted hours only, usually after 6pm, check the sign ; Dashed yellow lines = parking allowed, but still check the signs for any time restrictions and still may need to 'pay & display.' ; No lines at all = you can park for free.
It is also advisable to always look out for speed limit signage. On motorways, the speed limit is usually 70mph, but on country roads it slows down to 40 or 50mph. And once you enter a village, the speed limit is never more than 30mph -- slower limits are posted. Watching your speed can help you avoid unnecessary tickets from Speed Cameras that are almost everywhere and take a picture or your car and plate while speeding. If you need to overtake or pass a car, keep in mind that you are only allowed to overtake on the right or the ‘fast’ lane. The "slow" lane is the outside (or in this case, the far left) lane. This is also the lane where you'll need to make your exits. Exits are very clearly marked and you'll have plenty of warning before your exit approaches.
Roundabouts are another UK road phenomenon that can sometimes be tricky for foreign visitors. A roundabout is a circular junction where all drivers give way to traffic on their right. All you need to keep in mind to slow down when coming to one and 'give way' to traffic already on the roundabout and If there's a car already on the circle, they have the right of way. Generally British drivers don’t yield, they ‘Give Way’ to traffic already on the road and acknowledge the courtesy of another driver letting you pass by a wave of thanks.
And finally the Congestion Charge. This is a charge imposed by the Transport of London body on most vehicles travelling into Central London on weekdays. The daily charge is £10/day and must be paid for in advance or before midnight that day in order to avoid a penalty. With superb public transport links in and around Central London, it is wise to avoid using a car unless you really need to, and use buses and taxis or underground trains.
With these basics, you should be able to get yourself on the go in no time. There is so much to see and explore in the UK from bustling city town centres, splendid country landscapes, quaint villages and charming English towns and a good road trip around England will surely be an enjoyable and unforgettable lifetime experience.
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