Driving

Anyone can drive in the UK as long as they have a valid license. However, there is much more to driving in a new country than just being legally permitted to do so. Driving in the UK is in many ways very similar to driving in other European or western countries. The rules and roads don’t differ too greatly, however there is one key difference for many expats to get used to. Driving in the UK is on the left side of the road.

Before you arrive in the UK, it’s advised that you get a copy of your driving history from your home country’s licencing authority and insurance provider. Having the appropriate documentation (including the actual licence itself) ready when you arrive will help the process of driving in the UK more smoothly.

Car insurance is also compulsory for any car you drive.

European Economic Area passport holders

If you’re moving to the UK with a valid licence issued in the European Economic Area then you will not need to sit any tests. The European Economic Area comprises all members of the European Union, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

If your vehicle is insured in the EU, Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Serbia or Switzerland, you should carry either:

  • an insurance ‘green card’
  • other proof of insurance

To be valid, your other proof of insurance must be a document issued by the insurer of the vehicle and include:

  • name of the insurer
  • number plate or other information to identify the vehicle, for example the vehicle identification number
  • period of insurance cover

If your vehicle is insured in a country outside the EU, Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Serbia or Switzerland, you must:

  • carry a green card – if your country is a member of the green card system
  • insure your vehicle in the UK – if your country is not a member of the green card system

If you have hired a car then insurance and breakdown cover should be included in the rental price. Make sure you check the terms and conditions carefully including any charges you are liable for if you damage the vehicle during your rental period.

‍Designated Countries passport holders

Designated countries have agreements with the United Kingdom for their citizens to drive in the UK without taking a new test. Licence holders from those countries have 5 years from when they became residents to exchange their foreign licence for a British one. The foreign licence will only be valid for the first 12 months.

  • Australia
  • Barbados
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Canada
  • Falkland Islands
  • Faroe Islands
  • Gibraltar
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • Monaco
  • New Zealand
  • South Korea
  • Singapore
  • South Africa
  • Switzerland
  • Zimbabwe

If you have bought your own car to drive then you will need to take out a UK insurance policy. There are a number of insurance providers that will issue policies to foreign licence holders but the premiums for these policies are usually higher than if you held a UK licence. So if you are planning to become a UK resident, once you obtain residency it’s well worth swapping your licence for a UK one to reduce your car insurance premiums.

If you are borrowing a car from a friend or relative then you must be added as a named driver to their policy. Be aware that this is likely to increase the policyholders premium.

If you have hired a car then insurance and breakdown cover should be included in the rental price. Make sure you check the terms and conditions carefully including any charges you are liable for if you damage the vehicle during your rental period.

Other passport holders

Those who got their driving licence from the remaining countries outside of the designated countries list and European Economic Area can drive with their foreign licence for up to 12 months from the day they became UK residents. After this period, they will need to pass a British driving test. To do so, the first step is to apply for a provisional British licence on the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency website here.

If you have bought your own car to drive then you will need to take out a UK insurance policy. There are a number of insurance providers that will issue policies to foreign licence holders but the premiums for these policies are usually higher than if you held a UK licence. So if you are planning to become a UK resident, once you obtain residency it’s well worth swapping your licence for a UK one to reduce your car insurance premiums.

If you are borrowing a car from a friend or relative then you must be added as a named driver to their policy. Be aware that this is likely to increase the policyholders premium.

If you have hired a car then insurance and breakdown cover should be included in the rental price. Make sure you check the terms and conditions carefully including any charges you are liable for if you damage the vehicle during your rental period.

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