Driving in the UK without a UK licence – What you need to know

Hiring a car in the UK country can sometimes be daunting and not observing legislation can really ruin your holiday – and leave you without a vehicle. As we receive many queries from clients abroad about driving in the UK, we decided to include some of the FAQs in one place, for your convenience.

Please note that if you want to take an Arnold Clark rental car outside the UK, you will have to arrange with your local branch in advance. You will also be expected to have a mandatory EU travel kit and/or breath analyser kit, this varies according to the country you are travelling in.

Q: Can I use my EU driving licence in the UK?

A: Yes, you can drive any type of vehicle that is listed on your licence. This will apply if you’ve passed your test in Northern Ireland, or any other country within the European Union or European Economic Area.

Q: Can I use my licence in the UK if I have passed the test in another country outside the EU?

A: If you have passed your test outside the EU, you can drive any small vehicle for 12 months (this includes a car or motorcycle). Your overseas licence must have been valid for over one year prior to driving in the UK, and if there is no start date on it you must sign a document stating that you have been driving for more than one year.

Q: Can I use my overseas licence if I live in the UK?

A: If you hold a non-EU licence and you live in the UK, you can use it only for 12 months. After that, you will need to sit a UK driving test and exchange it for a UK one.

Q: Can I use my licence if it’s not in English?

A: Your licence must be in English or another Latin-based language such as Spanish or French. If your licence is in Chinese, Arabic, etc. it will not be accepted unless accompanied by a valid International Driving Permit. Please be reminded that the IDP is not accepted on its own under any circumstances.

Q: Can I use my GB/ Northern Ireland driving licence overseas and in the rest of the world?

A: You need to be 18 or over, with a valid driving licence. In order to stay on the safe side you should also apply for an International Driving Permit. This permit is issued by the AA and is valid for 12 months. It allows you to drive a motor vehicle overseas, however you still need to have your UK driving licence with you. If you rely just on the International Driving Permit, you risk being fined.

You can find more information on how to apply for an International Driving Permit via the AA website and to view general legislation for driving in the UK you should visit the government website.

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