So you want to drive in England?
Read on for some general guidelines and tips for driving the UK.
First, as you know, they (the Brits) drive on the 'wrong' side of the road. They don't think it's wrong, but the UK, Ireland, Malta and Cyprus are the only countries in Europe that do so... (Notice that trend? Only island nations...)
(Just wait for the stream of complaints in my guestbook from proud Brits for me saying that)
Next, are you sure you can afford to drive in England?? Gas (petrol) is astronomically expensive - pushing $6.00 a gallon !! and car rental (hire) is nearly double what you'd pay in America.
While you can't escape the gas prices - generally the same the country over - you may be able to save on your car hire...
(Better still come up 'North' to where I live - Derbyshire / Yorkshire areas [ Peak District, Sheffield, Leeds, Yorkshire Dales, etc. ] and see the 'real' England. There is PLENTY to see and do in these areas which are sadly missed out by many tour groups....)
General Rental tips: pre-book your car in one of these smaller towns / cities with your travel agent before you go, all the big American rental firms are here. It'll be cheaper than renting the same car in London and you will not have the stress of trying to drive in London.
Overall, it's not that difficult to adjust. I, as an American, have been living here for over 15 years and
have had no problems 'switching' over. It doesn't daunt me in the slightest, but I can imagine that the thought of driving on
the wrong side for the first time could be a bit scary...
The signs are done to international standards (it's America who is backwards in this respect) so brush up on your signage that is standard everywhere but America. The only American sign that makes it overseas occasionally is the STOP sign.
The Brits love their
roundabouts, and they are generally a good idea, but ... they overuse them.
While they're fine for city traffic, they litter the countryside with them too.
For example, say you're driving down a fairly major, but still a desolate country road, just enjoying the momentum you've
got going and the scenery. But wait, there is a turning to a small village coming up. Do they widen the road slightly and put
a middle turning lane in? No... they put a roundabout in which forces everyone to put the brakes on and slow down.
Most parking lots (car parks) are done on a
'pay & display' basis. You park your car, pay for however long you plan
on parking and put the ticket given from the machine onto your dashboard -
You don't 'Pass' cars in England you 'overtake' them.
Contrary to what some people might tell you that haven't been here, the Brits DO measure their speed in Miles Per Hour, not Kilometers. The UK is the ONLY country in Europe to do so. Even though Ireland drives on the wrong side of the road too, they measure in Kilometers, but while in England you'll be at home with MPH.
(Never mind that they sell gas by the liter rather than by the gallon - generally they are quite a confused nation when it comes to metrics, more so than the Americans.)
The highway (motorway) speed limit is 70mph, and then it varies right down to 30mph in built-up city areas.
A lot of people will tell you that all British cars are small! Well this is not true. There are a lot of small cars here, maybe more so than in the U.S., but they do have the full range.
I, for one, currently have one of those 'micro' cars; a 900cc Fiat!! (see picture) Don't think you'd find one that small in America.. Cars go from that size (900cc) right up to 5.0 liter Jags, BMW's, Mercedes, and the like. But most cars are between 1.0 liter and 2.5 liter in size - you won't hear much talk of 'v4, v6, or v8.'
You'll see familiar shapes and sizes. GM and Ford are very big in the UK and always have been. Chrysler has recently re-invented itself here. They sell their MPV, Jeep, sedan and the PT cruiser here.
Ford - well Ford has been here for a long, long time. But only Ford (and no Mustangs!) - no Lincoln or Mercury. You will see the occasional Lincoln stretch-limo, but they've been specially imported. GM goes by name of Opel in mainland Europe, but in England their trading name is 'Vauxhall.' Vauxhall and only Vauxhall - you'll see no Cadillacs, Oldsmobiles or Pontiacs. I think they've recently let the 'Chevrolet' name in only for their SUV.
SUV's are very popular here (but not called SUV, just '4x4,' 4-wheel drive) and come from all brands including the Germans and Japanese. Those People carriers are popular too...
But what is NOT popular here are pick-up trucks! The Japanese makers have always sold their pick-up's here, but they are seen only as work horse, or farm vehicle, not a 'toy' for everyday driving. This is very s-l-o-w-l-y changing. Ford has just introduced the 'Ranger' here, but NONE of the manufacturers have full-sized pick-ups for sale in this country.
Last, but not least, the French. For a nation that supposedly despises the French, the Brits certainly buy enough French cars! All 3 brands - Citroen, Renault and Peugeot. (We've had two ourselves in the past). Though the French cars might not popular in the States, they are very popular here. And they are quite nice cars generally.