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Driving in Wales

After posting a narrowboat trip report, I got some driving questions which I'm going to answer here.

For background, we are U.S. citizens and our only foreign driving experience was Canada (same as U.S. but in kpr) and Spain. Spanish roads through villages were narrower than we were used to, but the speed limits were slow enough to make this feel safe. Also, if the road only fit one car it was either one way or had a traffic light making it first one way than the other. We found roundabouts easy, with the added advantage that if you don't know where to turn you could just go round about again.

Wales was different. Driving on the "wrong" side of the road was surprisingly easy for my husband ( I did all the Spain driving easily, but would have failed British driving as the right left shift never clicked for me and I was only a passanger ). What undid him, and might have been easier for me on the right, was the speed at which the very narrow roads were posted. Roads where a compact had 1.5 to 2 feet of clearance to divide between a slate wall or hedge and oncoming traffic were posted at 60 mph. This was hard to stomach even in a taxi van where someone else was driving.

Dual Carriage Ways were easy, just like freeways but with roundabouts. Rural roads frightened us. In villages streets that only allowed one car at a time were a two way free for all. This was made tenable only by the politeness of most of the drivers.

I'm not saying we won't drive in the UK again, we probably will, but it was 300% more stressful than driving in Spain. And we decided where to daytrip based on potential stress.

I would add that learning to pilot a narrowboat was much easier than driving.

Posted by
3425 posts

Certainly driving in a foreign country is not for everyone. You tried it and UK driving is not for u. Happily train and buses are very good as an alternate in most situations. I drove in Northern Wales and throughout UK and did not encounter your situations. So good that all faired well.

Posted by
584 posts


We drove in northern Wales for two days. We went from Landunadu Junction to Harlech and back to Conwy. Then we went from Conwy to Beaumaris and back. The first was terrifying, and the second easy. The first was rural and the second total carriage way. In Conwy was difficult.

Where did you drive?

As I said, we will probably drive in the UK again. But it was MUCH more difficult than Spain, and the problem was not which side of the road you drive on. The problem was the speed to narrowness ratio.

Posted by
253 posts

I have driven on the left in South Africa, Scotland, and Northern Wales. South Africa was a piece of cake. The country side was much like the South West US. The roads were relatively wide with decent shoulders. The roads were narrower in the highlands, but fairly open. My wife enjoyed taking off on her own. My experience in Wales much as you described it. Very exciting on narrow rural roads, especially when we encountered a bus or a lorry. Driving was a two person experience requiring an active copilot and navigator.

Posted by
3252 posts

Roads where a compact had 1.5 to 2 feet of clearance to divide between a slate wall or hedge and oncoming traffic were posted at 60 mph. This was hard to stomach even in a taxi van where someone else was driving.

Whilst this is the case it's very rare to encounter anyone drivnig at those speeds where there is little visibility on the roads. It's far easier to categorise roads by speed limit and expect people to use common sense rather than designate specific limits to each and every road. Many country roads with a 60 mph limit that have a long and clear line of sight can easily be safely driven at 60 mph (I've driven far in excess quite safely in a police car) but equally some roads with a 60 mph limit would require a level of foolishness to drive anything above 20 mph which thankfully, few people do.

I find driving in Spain easy enough despite being on the other side to what I'm used to however there isn't the level of politeness that one encounters in the UK particularly when allowing others to exit junctions in front of you for example.

Posted by
1758 posts

The speed limits are totally irrational. Now the Welsh Government have imposed at 50mph speed limit on parts of the M4 to try and reduce air pollution - even at the stinking steel works town of Port Talbot! (The M4 is like an interstate). Now, those of you who have been to the UK know that where a white circle has a black bar across it, it means that you can go up to the speed limit for that type of road - which usually means 60mph. So, I suggest you click the following link which will take you to a streetview of a road at St.Fagans - a village just west of Cardiff. You should see a level crossing ahead - click forward and cross it and continue to proceed and you will see the sign with the black bar indicating that you are now allowed to drive up to 60mph. Continue along the road and you will realise just how bonkers the speed limits can be in Wales.,-3.2696357,3a,75y,188.67h,95.17t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s10ommxc5HfatDLGRPXcnnA!2e0!7i16384!8i8192!5m1!1e1

PS. I think that this post should also appear in the Wales section.

Posted by
22467 posts

US speed limits want to micromanage every stretch of road, down to intervals of 5 mph.

Except for unusual areas like Islington and around road works or schools,or as marked, there are only generally 4 different speed limits in the UK - 70 on a Motorway or dual carriageway, 60 on a rural single carriageway, 30 on a single carriageway in a built-up area, and 20 on narrow urban roads with many hazards.

Drivers are expected to use common sense and are given the responsibility so to do. They are responsible for driving within their ability and the conditions of the road.

There are also clear rules for who gives way at a passing point on a road or lane not wide enough to pass.