Edinburgh Princes street

Are you planning a Scottish vacation? Are you confident about driving in Scotland? Do you know the Greenways speed limit and priority rules? More details here to ensure a smoother driving experience for you and all your passengers.

If you are picking up a rental car from Edinburgh or Glasgow airport then watch my videos at the end of the post demonstrating easy car driving routes into these cities. Edinburgh is dual carriageway, Glasgow to the city is motorway.

Car rental tips in Edinburgh scotland
Lou Armor@ Shutterstock

Edinburgh Greenways is a traffic control system giving priority to Buses, Bikes and Black taxi during the peak rush hours. Vehicles/car drivers/rental cars cannot use bus lanes from 7.30 – 9.30am & 4pm- 6.30pm Monday to Friday. The bus lanes do not apply at the weekend.

Edinburgh Greenways bus lanes
Greenways bus lanes@shutterstock

If car drivers/rental car drivers are caught in a bus lane during peak times the fine is £60 which is around $74.78 US dollars. Plus a transaction fee from your hire car company to process… consider hiring a car when you are leaving Edinburgh city.

Seat belts must be worn for front and back seat passengers. Children aged 3-12 or smaller than 135cm require an approved child restraint. Advise your car rental company in advance.

Speed Limit in Edinburgh city centre are 20mph. Cars cannot drive the length of Princes street and should not be using Bus lanes. Car drivers can drive part way and across intersections.

Road signs No entry for cars Edinburgh
Princes street@shutterstock

What are the legal requirements for foreign drivers from Europe? A valid licence allows you to drive any type of vehicle listed on your license in Scotland.
What are the legal requirements for foreign drivers from outside the EU including States? Drivers will require a valid licence from your own country, you can drive any small vehicle in the UK for up to 12 months. You will also need proof of your I.D. such as a passport. Some car rental companies will also require proof of flights & hotel reservations. if your license is not in English you may require a IDP.
Do I need an IDP? An International Driving Permit is required for non EU Drivers whose licence is not in English. It is used alongside a drivers licence. An IDP identifies you and allows police and people in authority who may not speak your language to communicate with you.


Rental car age restrictions: Drivers must be 21 years old and have a valid drivers license for 3 years with no endorsements. Many rental car companies will not allow drivers under the age of 23 or 25. A young drivers surcharge rate may be applied which costs as much as £30 extra a day.

Car rental tips in Edinburgh scotland
Car rental tips in Edinburgh Scotland

First time drivers in Edinburgh from the States. An automatic car will be easier and a built in sat nav rather than a stick shift. The rate for GPS is around £13 day extra. If you have children they will also require booster seats which cost around £12 a day to rent in addition to car rental fees. Also if driving the NC500 in the Scottish Highlands buy a road map and keep in the boot. It will be useful. Many hire rental companies are now issuing wrist bands to remind drivers which side of the road to stay on. Other drivers put signs on their dashboards. It is easy to forget in a panic situation, so use any tools that may help you.

Rental car deposits – Credit cards are accepted. Cash is not allowed and often debit cards are not accepted on premium cars or SUV. The car rental company will require a security deposit of around £200 on a credit card, this rate may vary from individual companies.

Car Hire rental in Edinburgh uk
Car Hire rental in Edinburgh uk

What is the excess damage on insurance? This is the amount of money that you will pay for any damage incurred to the rental vehicle before the insurance kicks in. Eg. Excess of £200 means that any insurance claim does not include the first £200.

Some rental companies offer extra roadside protection which costs more and includes lost keys, cracked windscreen, tyre repair etc. Each rental company policy is different. Shop around and read the small print.

  1. Fuel – All rental cars have the type of fuel required to fill up the tank on the fuel cap. Check whether your rental car requires a full tank before returning as they charge extra to take it for refuelling.
  2. Drink Driving- Scotland has different driving laws to the rest of the UK. The limit is Scotland is lower. It is 22 micrograms per 100 ml. Do not drink and drive. The penalty is a fine, a possible prison sentence and points on your licence.
Don't Drink & Drive
Don’t Drink & Drive@shutterstock
  1. Never park on double yellow lines in Edinburgh. Your car is at risk of being towed away. This includes in the middle of the night especially if your car is blocking the road/junction/traffic. If your car is missing call the Police on 101 to ask if it has been towed. To release your vehicle you will need to pay a fee of £180 and provide proof of your ID and drivers licence. The compound is in Leith and is open from 8am – 6.45 Monday to Saturday and Sunday 8.45 -11.30am
Cycle lanes and Bus lanes Edinburgh
Lou Armor@shutterstock

Do not stop your car inside a Red cycle box at traffic junctions in Edinburgh. Sometimes it is difficult to avoid if there is a traffic jam or ambulance etc but anticipate the space ahead. This is for cyclists to move off safely at traffic lights.

  1. Traffic lights – never turn on a red light. Red means stop. If you drive through a red light and are caught on camera it is an automatic £100 fine and 3 points.
  2. Mobile Phones – Hands free mounted phones are permitted but you cannot send text messages while driving in Scotland or use a hand held mobile phone. See below for a list of rental car companies.
  3. Parking in Edinburgh is very expensive. Read the meter carefully as some streets only allow 2/3 hours parking maximum.

There is a Ringo app for parking which requires registration of a credit card or you can feed the meter – eg.’ use coins.’ The benefit of the app is that it reminds you when your car parking is about to expire and gives you the opportunity to top it up from your location without having to rush back to your car.

Edinburgh parking app
Edinburgh parking app

Remember to ensure that you have entered the correct code for the street that you are parked on. The app remembers your last parked location and will usually assume that is where you have parked. Type in your new location code as seen below to avoid a parking ticket. It is very simple and easy to use and one of my favourite apps.

Reduced speeds in scottish cities.
Lou Armor@shutterstock

Three new bus lane cameras are now operational in Edinburgh as of June 2019. Liberton Road – Commercial Street & South Gyle Broadway.

Unsure of roundabouts, one way roads and driving on the left? I have recorded these journeys to help you navigate Scottish roads and motorways. click below

Follow me driving from Edinburgh Airport to the city centre click here:

Follow me in my car from Glasgow airport to Glasgow city click here:

For full details of the highway code please refer to highwaycodeuk.co.uk
Speed Limits

Built-up areas mph(km/h) Single carriageways mph (km/h) Dual carriageways mph (km/h) Motorways mph (km/h)
Cars, motorcycles, car derived vans 30mph (48) & 20mph (32) 60mph (96) 70mph (112) Dual carriageway signs are green 70mph (112) Motorway signs Blue

Rental Car companies – Final advice.

Please check the small print for damage waiver/ damage excess and if you are booking through a travel company check the reviews of the car company they use in the UK.

In Scotland these can be checked on Tripadvisor or Reviewcentre.com

Before driving off your car hire vehicle: Take your own photo of damage internally or externally before you drive your car hire away. Show these to the booking desk and agree that they have not been caused by you before driving off.

Car rental companies in UK include Alamo, Budget rental car, Arnold Clark, Enterprise, Avon, Europcar and Hertz.

Edinburgh city council have currently released a consultation paper for the end of free city centre Sunday parking. No details are yet confirmed. I will update if the situation changes.

If I have completely put you off driving in Edinburgh rest assured the tram, local buses and taxi are very good and we have Uber. Personally I prefer the bus or walking, it is a small city and easy walk around, unlike Glasgow a large sprawling city. I hope this information helps and To download any of my photo check out my portfolio on shutterstock. Click here.

Thanks for reading. I appreciate your time.

Lou A. – Edinburghcitymom