Driving in the UK
19th January 2015, 0 comments
Full, valid licences issued in the European Economic Area (EU plus Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway) are valid in the UK and holders can drive any type of vehicle listed on their licence in Great Britain.
If you’re a student and don’t have a driving licence yet you can’t take a driving test in Great Britain until you’ve been studying in the country for at least 185 days.
You can drive cars or motorcycles in Great Britain on your full, valid driving licence until you’re 70, or for three years after becoming resident in Great Britain, whichever is longer. To continue driving after these periods requires a British driving licence.
EEA citizens with driving licences to drive a lorry, minibus or bus may drive in Great Britain on a full, valid licence until they are aged 45 or for five years after becoming resident, whichever is the longer period. If you are aged over 45 (but under 65) you may drive until your 66th birthday or for five years after becoming resident, whichever is the shorter period. However, you must register your details with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) within 12 months of becoming resident. In order to continue driving after these periods, you must get a British driving licence.
Please note, if your licence was issued in Northern Ireland for cars or motorbikes you can drive in Great Britain on your full, valid driving licence until it expires. If your licence is to drive a lorry, minibus or bus you can drive in Great Britain on your full, valid driving licence until it expires, or you can exchange it for a full Great Britain licence.
If you’ve got a full and valid licence you can drive any small vehicle (e.g. car or motorcycle) listed on your licence for 12 months from when you last entered Great Britain (GB).
If you’re a student and you’ve got a non-EEA driving licence or international driving permit you can drive in Great Britain for 12 months. If your driving licence is from a ‘designated country’ you can then apply to exchange it for a British licence up to five years after becoming a British resident.
If you don’t have a driving licence yet or your licence is from a ‘non-designated country’, you’ll first need to apply for a provisional British licence. You can then take a driving test and apply for a full licence once you’ve been in Great Britain for at least six months.
If your licence was issued in a ‘designated country’ you can drive in Great Britain on your full, valid driving licence for 12 months from when you became resident.
You need to exchange your licence after 12 months – you have five years since you became resident to do this.
The ‘designated countries’ are: Andorra, Australia, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, Zimbabwe.
All other countries
If your licence was issued in another country (ie not the EEA or one of the designated countries), you can drive in Great Britain on your full, valid driving licence for 12 months from when you became resident. However, after 12 months you’ll need to apply for a provisional licence and pass the theory and practical driving tests to drive in Great Britain.
Exchanging your driving licence
You can exchange your car or motorcycle driving licence by sending a form to the DVLA and paying a fee of GBP 50. You should get your licence within three weeks.
For lorry, bus or minibus drivers, it depends on your age. Those under 45 can drive on your foreign licence until you're 45 or for 5 years (whichever is longer). You must register with the DVLA within 12 months of becoming resident in the UK. If you are aged between 45–65 can drive on your foreign licence until you're 66 or for five years (whichever is shorter). You must register with the DVLA within 12 months of becoming resident in the UK. Those aged 66 or over can exchange their licence by sending the relevant forms to the DVLA (along with the driving licence).
If you have a car or motorcycle licence issued in Northern Ireland you can exchange your licence if it was issued on or after January 1, 1976. There is no fee.
For lorry, bus or minibus licences you can exchange your licence if it was issued on or after April 1, 1986 and again, there is no fee.
Regarding car or motorbike driving licences, the UK has different agreements in place with each of the following designated countries:
Andorra, Australia, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Faroe Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, Zimbabwe.
Please follow the link to see whether a driving licence issued in your country may be exchanged for a British licence (https://www.gov.uk/exchange-a-foreign-driving-licence/y/yes/car_motorcycle)
Where lorry, bus or minibus driving licences are concerned, you can't exchange your licence and you must stop driving large vehicles. You can drive cars and motorcycles for up to 12 months. You’ll need to take a driving theory test and driving practical test and get a Great Britain issued driving licence.
All other countries
You can't exchange your licence but you can drive for up to 12 months on your foreign licence if it is for cars or motorbikes. Licences for lorries, buses or minibus cannot be exchanged and holders must stop driving large vehicles. You’ll also need to take a driving theory test and driving practical test and get a Great Britain issued driving licence.
Register of community licence holders
Holders of community licences with vocational entitlement who live in the UK must register their details with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). For further information, you can contact them on 0870 240 0009.
Notifying health conditions
If you have a driving licence you must tell DVLA if:
- You have a ‘notifiable’ medical condition or disability;
- Your medical condition or disability has got worse since you first got your licence;
- You develop a new medical condition or disability.
Notifiable medical conditions
‘Notifiable’ medical conditions and disabilities include epilepsy, strokes and other neurological conditions, mental health problems, physical disabilities and visual impairments. If your doctor tells you to stop driving because of your medical condition you must surrender your licence to DVLA.
Taking a driving test
If you want to take a British driving test you must be a resident in the UK. However, if you have moved to the UK having recently been a permanent resident in another state of the EEA, you must be a resident in the UK for 185 days in the 12 months before your application for a driving test and full licence.
To take a UK driving test you will need to either:
- Apply for a UK counterpart licence (D58/2) by completing a D9 enclosing your community driving licence.
- Exchange your EEA licence for the British equivalent and request the appropriate provisional entitlement.
- A provisional licence document is issued free of charge. However, the appropriate fee must be paid and your community licence surrendered in exchange for a UK one when claiming the full entitlement.
The British driving text comprises a theory and practical element. There are two parts to the theory test – multiple choice and hazard perception. Both parts are taken on the same day and you must pass both. The practical test is designed to make sure you can drive safely in different road conditions and also know the Highway Code and can show this through driving ability.
The British drive on the left side of the road and overtake from the right. Traffic moves along roundabouts in a clockwise direction.
There are no varying road regulations in different counties and cities. The same rules apply throughout the country. The road qualities are generally good and are made of hard concrete except a few lanes in the countryside.
It is extremely easy to follow the roads signs in the United Kingdom, which are posted in every accessible area. They are quite easy to follow. Three main types can be found throughout the county. Circles are used for commanding, triangular shapes are used to warn whereas rectangular shaped signs inform the passenger and driver.
Speed limits are measured in miles per hour throughout the United Kingdom. In built up areas, the speed is 30mph at intervals of 200 yards. The speed limit on motorways and dual carriageways is 70mph. These speed limits might change if there is a road sign indicating a lower of higher speed limit. On other types of roads, the limit is 60mph unless otherwise mentioned. The national speed limit is 60mph. Most of the roads including the expressways and motorways have cameras and sensors to detect speed violators. They have the facility to photograph a crime in act.
You must always be sure to carry important documentation such as your driver’s license, vehicle registration and certificate of motor insurance along with your passport. In case the car is not owned by you, you must carry a letter written by owner stating permission to drive. The blood alcohol limit in the UK is 80mg. It is best not being caught drinking and driving.
The drinking and driving laws in the United Kingdom are very strict. If suspected you will be asked to pull over and will be given a breath analyser test. Violating the law can lead to heavy fines and even confiscation of your license. Therefore make sure you know all the rules before driving in the UK.
Updated from 2011.
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