What are the main rules?
UK citizens going on holiday or visiting a foreign country for a short period of time are generally allowed to drive on their British or Northern Irish licence. They can use their photocard licence or valid paper licence.
Car hire companies may ask for a check code to view details of a driving record. Some countries may additionally require an International Driving Permit.
What are the rules about driving in Ireland?
People with UK driving licences, or those with foreign driving licences who usually reside in the UK, are permitted to drive in the Republic of Ireland.
What are the rules about driving in the EU?
UK photocard driving licences are valid in all EU and EEA countries and Switzerland. In some circumstances, you may need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in some EU countries and Norway. This will depend on the country you are travelling to and how long you’ll be staying there. You may also need an IDP if you have either:
a paper driving licence
a licence issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man
You should check the embassy of the country for more information.
What are the rules about driving outside the EU?
Different rules apply to countries outside the EU or EEA. A UK driving licence will suffice in some countries, but many require an International Driving Permit (IDP) in others. Further, in other countries, an IDP will be recommended but not required. For example, an IDP is generally only recommended in America - except for the state of Florida where it is compulsory. The AA website contains a list of countries that require an IDP.
It is possible to obtain an IDP, for a fee, from the Post Office, the AA or the RAC. This is just a formality; no further tests need to be taken. But the driver must be a UK resident, have passed their driving test, and be at least 18.
Advice on driving and any driving equipment necessary in foreign countries is provided by the AA. It is important to follow the rules of the road in each country - as any driving offences committed abroad will be transferred across to local records.
What are the rules about driving if moving abroad?
If moving abroad on a permanent basis, it may be necessary to obtain a new driving licence or even take a fresh driving test. You should check with the local driving licence authorities to find out what is required. For information on taking vehicles abroad, see the government's guidance.
What about GB stickers and number plates?
Since 28 September 2021, British drivers who are taking their car outside of the UK, must remove or cover up old-style GB stickers on their cars. Instead, they should display a UK sticker or have the UK identifier on their number plate.
If a number plate includes the UK identified with the Union flag (also known as the ‘Union Jack’), a UK sticker is not typically needed. However, drivers will need to display a UK sticker on the back of their vehicle if their number place has:
a GB identified with the Union flag
a Euro symbol
a national flag of England, Scotland or Wales
numbers and letters only with no flag or identifier
If you’re driving in Spain, Cyprus or Malta, you must display a UK sticker regardless of what is on your number plate. Note that if you’re driving in Ireland, you do not need a UK sticker or licence plate.
For more information, see the government’s guidance.
What about insurance?
UK vehicle insurance policies provide minimum 'third party' cover across the EU. However, supplemental benefits (eg theft and damage cover) may not apply - so it is necessary to check with the insurance provider.
While you need valid insurance when driving abroad in the EU or EEA, you do not need to carry a green card (ie proof that you have vehicle insurance when driving abroad) certificate.
You may need to carry a green card to drive in other countries (eg Russia and Turkey). You can get a green card from your insurance provider. Bear in mind that you may also need additional insurance for your vehicle, trailer or caravan.
In other countries, it may be necessary to obtain additional insurance to show that you’re covered. You should check the travel advice for the country you’re driving in for more information.
For information about how to deal with road accidents outside the UK, see Citizens Advice.