Driving in Scotland

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  • A car about to cross the causeway across Loch Bee, South Uist
    The causeway across Loch Bee, South Uist
  • A car on a country road with the jagged Cuillin Hills behind it
    Driving past the Cuillin Hills, Isle of Skye, Highlands
  • A car on a country road slows for a small herd of sheep as they wander down the road.
    Slowing for sheep, Isle of Arran, Ayrshire
  • Evening traffic on Union Street with the spire of the Town House and the Castlegate beyond, Aberdeen
    Union Street busy with evening traffic, Aberdeen

Driving around Scotland is a great way to see more of the country during your trip, and allows you flexibility to come and go as you wish. Before you head out exploring Scotland by car, there are a few rules and regulations you should be aware of - with information on driving licences, insurance and speed limits.

Driving licence

Visitors coming to Scotland from European Union (EU) countries with a valid licence can drive in Scotland. Visitors from countries outside of the EU can also drive in Scotland and throughout the UK for up to 12 months - provided their license is still valid in the country in which it was issued.

Vehicles

If you're bringing your own car into the UK, you should also carry your vehicle registration or ownership document at all times. You must also be adequately insured, so make sure to check your existing policy.

If you are planning to drive your car in the UK for more than six months during a 12 month period, there are also rules about number plates containing symbols which are not used in the UK. Ensure that you bring all relevant documentation with you to Scotland and are aware of the rules surrounding importing and exporting a vehicle, both temporarily or long-term.

Insurance 

All drivers using roads in Scotland and the UK must have at least third-party insurance cover.

Vehicles brought to Scotland from the EU can be used on public roads without the need to register or pay duties in the host country. These provisions limit car use to no more than 6 months during a 12 month period and the vehicle must comply with the registration and licensing requirements of the country you are visiting from.

As a driver entering Scotland from a non EU member state, (apart from vehicles from Andorra, Croatia, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland), you must be able to produce evidence of having the necessary insurance cover, eg a Green Card.

Find out more information about motor insurance for visiting vehicles in the UK.

Driving on the left

In Scotland and throughout the UK, driving is always on the left-hand side of the road.

Speed limits

Speed limits are often signposted on main routes by a circular sign with a red border and a number. If the route isn’t signposted, the national speed limits apply. Maximum speed limits on UK roads are:

1. Motorways: 70mph (112kph) for cars, coaches and minibuses 60mph (96kph) for cars towing caravans or trailers and lorries.

2. Dual carriageways: 70mph (112kph) for cars, 60mph (96kph) for cars towing caravans, trailers, buses, coaches, lorries and minibuses.

3. Built-up areas: 30mph (48kph). It is quite common around residential areas and particularly near schools, for a clearly signposted 20mph (32 kmph) maximum speed limit.

4. Outside built-up areas: 60mph (96kph) for cars and 50mph (80kph) for buses, coaches, minibuses and cars towing caravans or trailers.

Please be aware that remote speed cameras are positioned on many roads.

Congestion

In general, regular traffic congestion is only severe on the major access roads to and from cities such as Edinburgh and Glasgow during morning and evening rush hours, from around 7.30 to 9.30am and 4.00 to 6.30pm), and on national holidays.

Check travel updates with Traffic Scotland.

Rural roads

One of the pleasures about driving in Scotland is being able to enjoy the tranquillity and scenery of quiet rural roads. In many Highland rural areas, roads are regularly single track with passing places, which work well with considerate drivers.

Find information on how to use a passing place on a single track road by reading point 155 of the UK Highway Code.

It is also common in remote areas to encounter grazing sheep and other wildlife on and by the side of the road. Using the National Tourist Routes is a great way to see Scotland's countryside and visit great villages, towns and attractions on route to your destination.

Tolls

There are currently no toll roads or bridges in Scotland.

Roundabouts

Roundabouts are used throughout the country.
The rules for using roundabouts are to give way to all vehicles coming from your right and always turn left on entering the roundabout.

Fuel

All petrol stations provide unleaded petrol and diesel. As well as LPG (or Autogas) you can find Bio-Diesel filling stations and Electric Vehicle Charging stations (or EVCs) on the LPG site.

Fuel is priced and sold by the litre. An increasing number of stations, particularly in urban areas, offer 24 hour access to fuel through automated pumps.

Distances between stations are greater and opening hours may be shorter at some rural areas so it is best to keep your car filled up if travelling in remote regions.

Seatbelts and child restraints

It is compulsory for all drivers and passengers, regardless of where they are sitting, to wear seatbelts.

All children under 12 who are under 135cm (4ft 5in) tall, must use a child seat appropriate for their weight (most children reach 135cm around the age of 9).
If hiring a car, child seats can be ordered when you make your booking.

Drinking and driving

Driving under the influence of alcohol is taken very seriously in Scotland and the UK and there can be heavy penalties for those found to be above the legal blood/alcohol limit.

Using mobile (cell) phones while driving

It is illegal to use a hand-held phone, or similar device, when driving a vehicle in Scotland and the UK.

Drivers also risk prosecution for failing to have proper control if using a hands-free phone when driving.

Find out more about driver responsibilities and the law and driving in the UK.

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