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Driving abroad

UK drivers who decide to take their cars abroad (or rent a car abroad) need to understand not only the rules of the road in the relevant country, but also any licensing requirements. Merely possessing a UK driving licence may not always be sufficient in certain countries.

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.

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.

UK photocard driving licences are valid in all EU and EEA countries and Switzerland. You may need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in some EU countries and Norway 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.

Different rules apply for 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 which 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.

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.

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.

When driving abroad in the EU and EEA, you will need to carry a physical copy of a 'green card' certificate - this can be issued by the insurance provider.

In other countries, it may be necessary to obtain in addition to 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.

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