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Car & Motorcycle

In Scotland, drive on the left.

Driving Licence

A non-EU licence is valid in Britain for up to 12 months from time of entry into the country. If bringing a car from Europe, make sure you're adequately insured.

Hire

Car hire in the UK is competitively priced by European standards, and shopping around online can unearth some great deals, which can drop to as low as £23 per day for an extended hire period. Hit comparison sites like Kayak to find some of the best prices.

The minimum legal age for driving is 17, but to rent a car, drivers must usually be aged 23 to 65 – outside these limits special conditions or insurance requirements may apply.

If planning to visit the Outer Hebrides or Shetland, it'll often prove cheaper to hire a car on the islands rather than paying to take a hire car across on the ferry.

Avis (www.avis.co.uk)

Budget (www.budget.co.uk)

Europcar (www.europcar.co.uk)

Hertz (www.hertz.co.uk)

Sixt (www.sixt.co.uk)

Road Rules

The Highway Code, widely available in bookshops, and also online and downloadable at www.gov.uk/highway-code, details all UK road regulations.

  • Vehicles drive on the left. Seatbelts are compulsory if fitted; this technically applies to buses, too.
  • The speed limit is 30mph (48km/h) in built-up areas, 60mph (96km/h) on single carriageways and 70mph (112km/h) on dual carriageways.
  • Give way to your right at roundabouts (traffic already on the roundabout has right of way).
  • Motorcyclists must wear helmets. They are not compulsory for cyclists.
  • It is illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone or similar device while driving.
  • The maximum permitted blood-alcohol level when driving is 50mg/100mL (22mg per 100mL of breath); this is lower than in the rest of the UK but equivalent to the limit in many other countries.
  • Traffic offences (illegal parking, speeding etc) usually incur a fine for which you're given 30 to 60 days to pay. In Glasgow and Edinburgh the parking inspectors are numerous and without mercy – never leave your car around the city centres without a valid parking ticket, as you risk a hefty fine.

More Information

Scotland's roads are generally good and are far less busy than those in England, making driving more enjoyable.

Motorways (designated 'M') are toll-free dual carriageways, limited mainly to central Scotland. Main roads ('A') are dual or single carriageways and are sometimes clogged with slow-moving trucks or caravans; the A9 from Perth to Inverness is notoriously busy.

Life on the road is more relaxed and interesting on the secondary roads (designated 'B') and minor roads (undesignated), although in the Highlands and islands there's the added hazard of sheep wandering onto the road (be particularly wary of lambs in spring).

Petrol is more expensive than in countries like the US or Australia but roughly in line with the rest of western Europe. Prices tend to rise as you get further from the main centres and are more than 10% higher in the Outer Hebrides. In remote areas petrol stations are widely spaced and sometimes closed on Sunday.