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Driving Guide for Foreign Visitors in the UK

Driving in the UK entails much more than just driving on the left side of the road, which is unusual for some expatriates. It is a pleasurable experience that lets you explore exciting UK scenery at your leisure from the high streets to the English countryside. But, driving in the UK as an expat means you have to adhere to strict UK road rules, regulations and bureaucracy. Our driving guide for UK foreigners can help you get around smoothly in the UK if you are a resident, a student or a visiting expat.

EC/EEA residents in the UK

If you are a resident from the European Community or European Economic Area (EC/EEA) and you hold a valid EC/EEA ordinary licence, you may drive a small vehicle in Great Britain for three years after taking up UK residence or until age 70 as long as your licence remains valid. You must obtain a British driving licence to keep your driving entitlement after this period.

If, on the other hand, you hold a valid EC/EEA vocational driving licence for a bus, lorry or minibus, you may drive in Great Britain for five years from the time you became resident or until you are age 45, whichever period is the longer. If you are aged above 45 but under 65, you may drive in Britain for five years or until your 66th birth day, whichever period is the shorter. If you are aged 65 or over, you are entitled to drive only for 12 months beginning the date you became resident.

Foreign students

If you are a resident student with an EC/EEA ordinary driving licence, you may drive motorcycles and cars in the country for up to three years as long as your licence is valid. If your licence was not issued in a designated country or you do not have a valid licence, you are entitled to apply for a full or provisional British licence only if you have been studying in UK for at least six months prior to your application.

If you are a student with a valid licence from a designated country, you may request to swap your licence for a British licence within a period of five years after becoming a UK resident. If you are a nonresident student with a valid non-European Community licence or an international driving permit, you may only drive in UK for up to 12 months.

Temporary visitors

If you are visiting UK temporarily from a country outside EC/EEA, you may drive vehicles with up to eight passenger seats and weighing up to 3.5 tonnes for up to 12 months from the date you arrived in UK. This entitlement is given provided you have a valid driving licence or an international driving permit.

Non UK resident car insurance

Most insurance companies in UK will not give non UK residents car insurance irrespective of whether expats stay a few weeks, months or even years. There are, however, some UK insurance companies that will offer short term car insurance cover to non UK residents.

Non UK resident short term insurance policies may give covers ranging from one day up to 28 days. Short term insurance policies for non UK residents usually have higher premiums to cover risks non UK residents bring due to limited experience on UK roads.

Remember, driving in the UK automatically makes you subject to UK road rules and regulations. Familiarise yourself with and adhere to all UK road rules to ensure you remain within the safe confines of the law during your stay in the country.


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