Driving in The UK – for international drivers

Wherever you are from and whatever your current driving standard, there are a few things you need to know before you start to drive in Great Britain.

If you are more than a visitor; maybe staying for work, to study or simply moving home, you may need to drive. If you don’t already have an existing driving license, you will need to learn to drive from scratch as per the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) rules; but if you have a current driving license you may be able to exchange it to drive in Great Britain.

European Union driving licence holders

If you have a full, valid, manual or automatic driving license from any country in the European Union you can drive in Great Britain until you are 70 years old. You will not need to retake your driving test. However, it’s vital to know what is different about British roads and to build some experience.

Driving In the UK: Building your British driving experience

Using the Learner Driving Guide’s unique multi-camera angle videos will give you a real feel of what it’s like to drive on Britain’s roads, and you can start right away from the comfort of your own home on your computer, or on your phone. You can put yourself in the driver’s seat while watching the videos and listening to the expert commentary. Studying our online lesson diagrams and step-by-step guides will also help you master all British driving manoeuvres. Take a look at our lessons for FREE.

Depending on your current driving standard, you will still need a refresher and time to get used to British roads where we drive on the left-hand side. International drivers are often surprised by our multiple roundabouts and driving etiquette.

The more often you can practice driving, the better; it’s the continuity that’s so important. Ideally, take a refresher course with a professional instructor, even if only for a few hours. Intensive courses can also be useful. Find out how to choose a driving instructor.

Practising with family or friends is always helpful to build your driving confidence on British roads; but there are a number of things to bear in mind if using someone else’s car. When practicing, you should start on quiet local roads. As time goes on and your confidence grows, try different driving experiences – larger roads; different locations; different speeds; in different weathers. The more varied the experience, the better. Allow yourself time to get used to driving in a different country and to develop your driving skill so you can drive safely, legally and with confidence.

The Learner Driving Guide will of course build your knowledge, skills and boost your learner driving experience; meaning you will save time and money on any driving lessons and quickly familiarise yourself with British roads, signs and general driving know-how.

Non-European Union driving licence holders

If you have a full, valid driving license from a designated country (as listed below) you can continue to drive in Great Britain without exchanging your licence for 12 months after becoming resident (resident is defined by the Government as if you have lived in Great Britain for 185 days in each calendar year).

After 12 months you must exchange your licence to keep driving. You can exchange it up to 5 years after becoming resident, if it has not expired. All you will need to do to exchange your driving license is order form D1 from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). Send the form, fee and any documents you need (including your existing driving licence) to the address on the form. Your new licence will usually arrive within 3 or 4 weeks (it might take longer if you’ve told DVLA about a medical condition and your details need to be checked).

Designated countries: Andorra, Australia, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Republic of North Macedonia, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, Taiwan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates and Zimbabwe.

Driving licences from any other countries

If you hold a driving license with any other country you cannot exchange your licence but you can drive for up to 12 months on your foreign licence.

After 12 months you’ll need to pass both the DVSA theory test and the DVSA practical test to drive legally in Great Britain as detailed below. Be aware, it takes time to follow all the steps listed below so don’t leave it to the last minute; as there may be delays along the way, beyond your control.


  • The Provisional License
    Assuming you are at least 17 years old and have met the DVLA eyesight requirements you can apply for your provisional licence which you will need to start to learn to drive in Great Britain. You can apply online or by post. Once received, you can now start your learning to drive journey.
  • The Theory Test
    This will need to be booked in advance. The test is in English/Welsh or British Sign Language as foreign language voiceovers are now no longer supplied. Find out more about the Theory Test.
  • The Practical Test
    You will need to book your test in advance. You will need to bring your provisional license and your theory test certificate with you. The test is longer than in many  other parts of the world – about 40 minutes – it’s the same for both manual and automatic cars. It will consist of five different parts. Find out more about the practical driving test. After the test, you will make your way back to the Test Centre where the examiner will tell you there and then if you have passed and what faults you made, if any. The examiner will give a certificate if you pass and ask if you want your full license sent directly to you (you’ll need to hand over your provisional license).

Car Insurance For Driving In The UK

You will need car insurance to drive in Great Britain, even if you only intend on staying for a short time.  Third party insurance is the minimum legal requirement – so you are covered if you have an accident and damage another vehicle. Even if you borrow a vehicle, you will need to be added to the owner’s insurance policy.

Please note: Before you book any test, apply for any license or apply for an exchange of license; check the latest Government advice. This article includes details relating to Great British driving standards as set out by the DVSA. Please note, Northern Ireland has its own driving authority.


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