Practical Information

Driving in the UK

Many international students will notice that vehicles travel on the opposite side of the road to cars at home. It is, therefore, very important to take care, whether a pedestrian, a driver or a cyclist.

Before crossing the road, it is essential to check the traffic flow from the right before attempting to cross. Accidents can happen so it is advisable to be extra vigilant in the first few weeks of arriving in Stirling. It is also essential that you check that the driving licence you hold is valid in the UK. More information about international students driving in the UK.

The rules of the road, road signs and markings vary from country to country. Regulations in the UK may differ from those at home.

Pay attention to speed limits, parking rules, traffic lights, seat belt and child car seat regulations and road signs. Give way to pedestrians at crossings. The best advice is to buy and read carefully a copy of the Highway Code, available from bookshops or online here.

Two students in a car speaking to a security officer on the campus access road

If you buy a car or drive another person's car when you are in the UK, you must make sure that you are driving legally. You need to have a certificate of insurance for the car, an MOT (Ministry of Transport) Certificate if your car is over 3 years old, and road tax.

It is a criminal offence to drive a vehicle without an MOT certificate, road tax, car insurance or a valid driving licence. If you are not clear on what you must do, after you read the web pages above, you can speak to our community police officer, Gordon Currie, and he will advise you. You can find Gordon in room 2W1 in the Cottrell Building on Campus. For information, please  


If you bring valuable items with you, you should consider insuring them. If you intend to travel during vacations you should also consider taking general travel insurance.

Some insurance companies send salesmen to the University residences, and although persuasive they may not be offering a good deal. For good advice on insurance visit the Union office.

Social behaviour in the UK – some general points

It is difficult to generalise about social expectations in the UK but the following information may help you in the first few weeks:


Although "politeness" is expected (it is customary to say "please" and "thank you" or "thanks" for even minor requests), people are generally relaxed and easy going and there is little formal etiquette. Young people are usually very informal when socialising with other people of the same age.

However, the British are keen on punctuality. It is important to be on time for formal meetings – for example tutorials or a meeting with a member of staff. Socially, it is important not to be late but an appointment time may be slightly more flexible. If you find you may be late you should try to telephone and inform the person you are to meet. If you are invited to someone's home for a meal, you may wish to take a small gift (even better if this is from your country), or, if you prefer, you could invite them to your 'home' in return.

When waiting for a service (for example in the bank, waiting for a bus, at a shop), it is normal custom to queue – whoever arrived first is at the start of the queue and others wait behind in order of the time they arrived at the service. British people may be very offended if they feel you have ignored the queue and gone, for example, straight to the next available member of staff in the bank.

Alcohol and Pubs

If you do not drink alcohol, you may be alarmed if invited to a 'pub' (public house or bar). Pubs are convenient and popular meeting places that sell soft drinks and fruit juices as well as alcohol. There is usually no waiter/waitress service and you should pay for drinks when you order them. The legal age for buying alcohol in the UK is 18. Some bars and nightclubs may restrict entry to those over 21. If you look under 25, you will probably be asked to provide proof of your age (for example your passport) if you want to buy alcohol.

You should never feel pressured into drinking alcohol and be aware that drinking to excess can be dangerous and upsetting. If you are not used to drinking alcohol be very careful about the amount you consume.

Gender Roles

In Britain men and women have equal status professionally and socially. Members of both sexes are independent and are free to enter public places – such as restaurants and bars – unaccompanied.


Smoking is not allowed in public areas such as restaurants, bars, shops, cinemas, offices and hospitals. Many people do not allow smoking in their homes.

Personal Safety

In Stirling city centre, as with many other towns and cities in Scotland, video cameras are used to help promote safety and discourage casual theft or assault. This system has proved successful in reducing street crime, but you should be aware of this. Stirling generally has a very safe and friendly environment and its streets are safe at night. However, it is always advisable to be careful, particularly with your possessions. At night, especially in areas you do not know, try to be with a friend. Our campus, according to Central Scotland Police, is one of the safest in Britain. However, it is always sensible to take precautions. You should be particularly careful of small valuables – for example, lap-top, mobile phone, handbag etc. If you are a victim of a crime you should always report this to the police.

Police and Citizens' Rights

The police, a civilian and unarmed force, are here to assist and serve the public. Their role is to protect life and property, prevent crime and, when crime is committed, to investigate it in an effort to detect offenders and bring them to justice. Police officers do not routinely carry firearms (pistols and rifles) in the UK, although some specialist police and airport police officers may carry such weapons. The police do, however, carry other equipment to help them apprehend suspects and also defend themselves.

Generally, if you find yourself involved with the police, be co-operative. If you are ever arrested, you have the right to remain silent until you have arranged a solicitor/lawyer to help you. If you need legal advice you can consult the Students' Association or the Citizens' Advice Bureau.

The police officer with responsibility for the University campus will make a short presentation to international students during the September induction programme.

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