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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 non-EU 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 driving licences are valid in all EU and EEA countries and Switzerland (NB: This situation may be affected by 'Brexit').

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, 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.

While the UK is still in the EU, it is possible to exchange a UK driving licence for a relevant licence issued by the foreign jurisdiction. This can be used in the UK for a further 12 months and then swapped back if necessary.

For information on taking vehicles abroad, see Gov.uk.

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.

For countries outside the EU it may be necessary to obtain a 'green card' certificate - this can be issued by the insurance provider.

For information about how to deal with road accidents outside the UK, see Citizens Advice.

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