Renting A Car And Driving In Scotland: Everything You Need To Know

Take a few guesses.
Yep—- that’s exactly what we said. Try figuring those out when you’re driving on the left side of the road, with a hysterical wife going 50 miles/hr and 1000 cars lined up behind you.

I’m here to tell you, it’s not for the faint of heart.  But if you feel like you want to brave it– then here’s some tips on renting and driving in Scotland.  Let’s talk about renting a car first, more on those crazy signs later.
We chose Arnold Clark, only because it seemed to be the most popular and easiest to get to from our hotel.  It had nothing to do with cost.

Beside nerve, you’ll need your passport, driver’s license and your credit card.  They did not ask for any other proof, like insurance, or electric bill.    It says on the website they need a utility bill, but they never asked.

Here’s the deal folks, you’re driving in a foreign country, on the opposite side of the road, with signs and rules you don’t understand– I don’t think renting a car is where you want to save money.  Maybe eat at a 2 star restaurant for a few days, buy less souvenirs (you know they eventually go to goodwill anyway).  Don’t skimp on the car.
Get the automatic transmission.  You’ll thank me later.

And for sure get the GPS Navigation.  I bet you name your first child after me.

Yes, I know you can use Google Maps on your phone- but who wants to mess with that when they are driving– and my phone carrier signal sucked (oops did I say that- well it did) the entire 4 hour drive from Edinburgh to Inverness.
The other extras we paid for were:

  • The price for the car was very reasonable, considering we got a BMW (which we didn’t ask for)
  • $70 total for no deductible should you get in an accident, otherwise it was a daily fee but you had to pay a $750 deductible
  • $55 to leave the lot/filled with diesel and we could return it completely empty.
  • GPS and Automatic Transmission were also extra, I can’t remember that cost because it was so long ago when I booked the car

The car is beautiful, clean, and new.  The people at Arnold Clark were very nice.  Renting the car is the easy part…the driving is where  you will lose your mind.

Let’s just be clear–I DID NOT DRIVE.  Mike did all the driving.  BUT–I had important duties!  I was the co-pilot, GPS navigator, and the official ‘keep Mike off the left shoulder’ police.  You really need two people for driving–the signs alone requires one person on alert at all times.

Beware they are EXTREMELY serious about their speed limits.  And sorry Scotland, the speed limits make no sense–they change constantly and are inconsistent.  The most important thing to know is the “AVERAGE SPEED CAMERAS”.  From one camera to the next camera it will shoot pictures of your license plate and if your average speed is over the limit, you will get a ticket sent right to your doorstep.  This was according to our rental gal anyway.  And those cameras were EVERYWHERE!!
TIP:  They use miles per hour like the U.S.
ROUNDABOUTS (aka ‘The Tea Cup Ride For Cars’)
Since I know my sweet young daughter reads this blog, I won’t tell you how I really feel about those roundabouts because it’s ugly.  Scotland, I love you, but what’s wrong with street lights and intersections?
So here’s your first quiz.  Look at the picture below.  If your GPS says, ” At next roundabout take the 3rd exit…”.   Tell me where you would exit?

The answer is:  Town Centre.   Imagine a roundabout as one big circle with little spikes coming out.  Each spike is a road with people going both ways, some entering the circle and some exiting, and every single one of them MERGING somewhere!  It took us forever to leave Edinburgh, because we just kept driving in circles on the roundabouts.

And those suckers are everywhere.  We had to actually count the spikes out loud together, so we knew when to hop off.  I think we had the world record for roundabout spikes!  This roundabout had 9 spikes and we had to hop off at 7!  Mind you, we missed that one a few times.  I guess the positive of roundabouts is you can just keep going in circles.
Back to the signs…

I have absolutely no clue….Mike seemed to figure them out.
Oh look–an actual intersection with a street light!  I had to take a picture for you.  I didn’t want  to turn you completely  off, or is it too late for that?

Alright you brave souls, I hope that was helpful.
Now go out , rent a car, drive around Scotland and set the world on fire!
~Mike and Donna~



  1. Anonymous
    March 28, 2017 / 2:32 am

    Hilarious, have a fun time!

  2. Anonymous
    July 7, 2018 / 3:59 am

    Every word she said is true!!!! Just got back and enjoyed the trip, but it can wear on you mentally to drive there.

    • July 7, 2018 / 4:31 am

      Thank goodness we aren’t the only ones who thought that! Thanks for the comment… Donna

  3. Alice
    July 14, 2018 / 10:46 pm

    The reason there was 1000 cars behind you is because you were driving at 50mph.! Honestly, it’s not taken that seriously, just hover around the limit and you’ll be fine. Okay, so the signs… 1st one means there is 1 lane of traffic going the same direction as you (the lane you’re in) and 2 lanes coming the opposite direction. 2nd means it’s a bendy, windy road so dont drive faster than 30mph round the bends. 3rd is 2 lanes merging into 1. 4th is no parking. 5th is for an upcoming roundabout. 6th is for an upcoming mini roundabout.
    Hats off to you though, driving in north America would freak me out.

    • July 22, 2018 / 1:17 pm

      Hi Alice, thanks for the sign clarification! Since I wrote that, we have been back 2 more times and Mike is now driving the speed limit! Hahahahaha! Well barely, but he doesn’t even drive it over here in the U.S either. I’m with you I would never be brave enough to drive it a foreign country! Donna

    • Anonymous
      July 22, 2018 / 6:45 pm

      Thank you for the translation, Alice!

  4. Heather
    July 22, 2018 / 10:03 am

    Omg this is so funny and well explained at the same time . I guess we in Scotland know all of this but good for you to help others out x

    • July 22, 2018 / 1:14 pm

      Thanks so much!! Luckily we are experts now— after 3 trips. Of course, we know I don’t drive there —-but my navigational skills are perfect… Donna

  5. Kimberly
    July 25, 2018 / 11:28 am

    A couple of topics you left out that I think will be of great help to drivers new to the area. One is that when driving on a multi laned roadway, slower traffic uses the left lane, and passing is to the right. Once you pass, move to the left unless you are traveling at a speed that would cause you to pass multiple vehicles.
    Another is that at actual traffic stops, motorcycle drivers are permitted to move up to the signal, passing cars safely. This is very different from the U.S., and I’ve seen Americans get a bit peeved at the idea of being passed in line. It’s not meant to be an offense, it’s actually more efficient as they gather at the front, more vehicles get through the intersection before it changes.
    Finally, the traffic lights are a little different in operation. They go from green to flashing yellow (sometimes solid), to red. Then red will stay solid and yellow will begin to flash. This is when you want to ease off the brake and prepare to move forward. Most newer Euro cars now have a passive ignition system that cuts the engine when you come to a complete stop, it saves oodles of fuel, which is very expensive. Do wait for the green before entering the intersection.

    • July 25, 2018 / 7:45 pm

      Thanks so much for the extra tips!! Yes that traffic light thing was a little odd at first…luckily Mike got used to it quickly. In our 3 road trips to Scotland— I haven’t driven once.. in fact last trip I posted a video of Mike getting too close to the edge of a cliff… I was screaming at him “you’re my driver don’t slip …please!!”… 🤣Donna .

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