Cars in the UK

I'm planning to drive in the UK and the cheapest deal are for manual models. I'm OK with them, but I've never used one on the other side of the car (left-handed). How have others coped with this? The wrong side of the road and the car?

Posted by Mark
Santa Barbara, CA, USA
144 posts

I just did that in the summer. It went very smoothly. I bought a cheap TomTom GPS/navigation system beforehand with UK maps loaded and setup all my waypoints stateside. That was extremely helpful. I also studied on Google street view the immediate vicinity of the airport/car rental place so that my first few minutes driving (while building up my confidence in rush hour traffic) would go without hiccups and hesitation.

Posted by Pat
Walnut creek
5 posts

Was it difficult to do the shifting on the "wrong" side.

Posted by Mark
Santa Barbara, CA, USA
144 posts

Pat,
No that was easy. The shifting pattern is the same (not inverted). Also there is the old trick (to remember in doubt) that no matter what, the driver should be next to the median line of the road (not the shoulder).

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
611 posts

If you are comfortable driving a manual auto it's not as big a deal as some make it out to be. I enjoy driving there, especially in rural areas.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7683 posts

I found it a little odd for maybe an hour. After that, it was fine. I actually enjoy it.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17789 posts

Pat, While the position of the gears is the same as in cars here, keep in mind that you'll be shifting with your left hand. Some people have some difficulty with that. If this is your first time driving on the "correct" side of the road in the U.K., I'd suggest renting an automatic transmission vehicle on this occasion. You'll have enough to concentrate on when driving on the other side of the road, negotiating roundabouts, etc. and I find that a bit easier with an "auto". I'd suggest a good CDW package, as some of the roads are quite narrow, so minor dents are always a possibility. A GPS and a good Map would also be prudent. Happy driving!

Posted by Mark
Santa Barbara, CA, USA
144 posts

Yes, diesel is everywhere. More diesel than gasoline cars are sold in the UK now. If you rent the cheapest model as you stated, it will probably be a small car with a gasoline engine though.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1972 posts

Driving on the wrong side of the road is the right side of the road in many countries in the world. You eventually get used to it. My problem is that I seem to often jump into the left hand seatlike in the U.S. My wife jumps into the right hand seat, and that's the driver's seat. Riding with her behind the wheel is nothing but frightening. After another trip or two to the U.K., maybe my brain will transpose my thought pattern. Then I'll automatically jump in the right side driver's seat.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7211 posts

It took about five minutes to adjust, then just got easier from there. The shifter is really the only difference, the foot pedals are where you would expect them to be. As far as I can recall, the turn signal, wiper switches, etc. are in the same place too (some European cars, Renault for example, have buttons/switches that aren't always intuitive). As was said before, keep yourself toward the center of the road. My first time, I started out (driving a van-load of fellow US Air Force officers) and got an urgent and immediate, "Go Left! Go Left!" I asked, "Do you want me to turn left?" "No, get on the left side of the road!" After that I was fine. :-)

Posted by Roger
Monein, Pyrenees, France
425 posts

After the first few times when you try and find the gear shift in the door, you'll be fine! :-)

Posted by Pat
Walnut creek
5 posts

Thanks for the info. How hard is it to find diesel. Is it a regular pump at most stations.

Posted by Gail
Downingtown, USA
1562 posts

Would not use car in London, other than that should be fine. I had a terrible time locating reverse, probably because my son was letting me drive and he was used to using his left hand to fly a plane and if he had stopped yelling at me, would have been fine. First time driving on " wrong side" of road, he was not with me and had no problems at all. Guess depends on travel companion, yes?
Only suggestion is if going around the traffic circle and miss exit, just go around again.