In most other countries people drive on the right-hand side of the road, here in the UK people drive on the left-hand side, and our steering wheels are on the right.

UK legal requirements may also be different from your home country.  Anyone driving a vehicle in the UK must:

  • Have a valid, current licence to drive that type of vehicle,
  • Be covered by insurance to drive that specific vehicle,
  • Ensure that the vehicle is registered in the owner’s name,
  • Have valid road tax,
  • Register the car if they are going to drive in the UK for six months or more,
  • Have a valid MOT certificate for the vehicle.

Before driving any vehicle you should check that you meet all of the legal requirements which apply (a) to the driver, and (b) to the vehicle; and that you are aware of the correct procedures, which may be very different from your home country.


Driving licences

To drive in the UK you will need a driving licence that is valid in the UK, it is an illegal offence to drive without one.

To establish whether or not you can use your existing licence in the UK and, if so, for how long please use the driving in GB interactive tool.

Usually, a driving license issued in your former country of residence will remain valid for a period of time:

  • EU / EEA countries – 3 years;
  • Countries outside the EU / EEA – 12 months.

At the end of this validity period, you will need to either:

  • EU / EEA countries – exchange your licence for a UK license;
  • Countries outside the EU / EEA – apply for a provisional license and pass a driving test.

While driving on a foreign license in the UK, you must be registered with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency.


Learning to drive in the UK

If you wish to drive a car in the UK but do not currently hold a valid licence to do so, you will need to apply for a provisional licence and take a driving test to obtain a full licence.


Mopeds and motorcycles

Even if you have a licence for driving a car, you still need to complete a Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) course before riding a moped or a motorcycle in the UK.


Motor insurance

If you own a car and want to drive on the UK’s public roads, third-party car insurance is the minimum level of cover required by law; it is an illegal offence to drive without it.

The UK has three different types of insurance policies that offer different levels of cover:

  • Third party – this covers other people involved in an accident or damage to other people’s property or car;
  • Third party, fire, and theft – third party cover, plus cover for repairs or replacement if your car is stolen or set on fire;
  • Comprehensive – covers everything above and damage to your own car.

The cost of your car insurance, your premium, is based on home much of a risk insurers perceive you to be.  Factors taken into consideration, include; your age, the length of time you’ve held a licence for, the area you live in, and the age, value, and type of your car.

If you can prove you are not a risk, for example, been accident-free and having somewhere to keep your car safe, your premium will be much less.

Note that third-party cover is not always the cheapest insurance, as comprehensive cover could mean that you’ll be assessed as a lower risk.

There’s a large number of insurers offering a wide range of deals, as such you should shop around, comparison websites such as; comparethemarket.com, moneysupermarket and confused.com can help.


MOT certificate

An M.O.T (ministry of transport) certificate is a legal requirement.

The purpose of the M.O.T. test is to ensure that your vehicle, if over 3 years old, is checked at least once a year to ensure that it legally roadworthy and meets environmental standards.

An M.O.T. test is available at most garages, it is advisable to ensure that the garage is an approved MoT centre.


Road tax

Road tax, officially named ‘vehicle excise duty’, it is a legal requirement if you want to drive on UK public roads.

You can pay your tax by applying online or at the Post Office.  You will need your registration, insurance, and MOT certificates (if the vehicle is over 3 years old) to apply.


Highway code

In the UK road users are legally obliged to follow the UK Highway Code, for example, you must drive on the left-hand side of the road and overtake on the right-hand side.


Hiring a car

If you do not own a car, you can hire a car from a number of car rental agencies such as:

If you are hiring a car and your licence is not written in Roman characters, for example, it is in Chinese or Japanese you may also need an International Driving Permit.


Bringing your car to the UK

If you are bringing your car from outside the UK into the UK for more than 6 months you will have to register the vehicle.

Registering the vehicle can be costly and it may be cheaper, in the long run, to consider buying a second-hand car in the UK when you arrive and selling the vehicle when you leave.