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Is Your Driving Licence Valid Abroad?

By: Tracy Whitelaw - Updated: 23 May 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Is Your Driving Licence Valid Abroad?

Heading abroad with your own car can be a planning nightmare. You have to ensure your car is in excellent condition, your routes must be organised and of course your paperwork needs to be up to date. There is a lot to consider before setting off and many people forget some of the simplest, yet most important points. One of these is checking that your UK driving licence is able to be used without a problem in the country you’re visiting.

Where Can You Use Your UK Licence?

Regardless of where you’re planning to drive, always make sure that your licence is up to date before you leave and that you have it with you. If you’re planning to drive in the European Community, you can in general use your UK licence without any problems. Always remember that even though the legal driving age in the UK is 17, this may not be the case in many countries throughout Europe. Most have a minimum driving age of 18, so please check first before trying to drive there if you’re a young driver. The list of countries who happily accept a UK driving licence without a problem are:
  • Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Republic of Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden

Plastic Licence Versus Paper Licence

In most cases when travelling abroad, it’s advisable to ensure that you have a pink plastic licence with you. You should also carry with you the green paper part of the licence as this will outline any convictions you have. If you only have a green paper licence, consider upgrading to a plastic photo licence as it’s also a great form of identification.

International Driving Permits

If you are planning to travel around countries that are outside of the EEU, you should check with motoring organisations there whether you need an international driving permit. You can get these relatively easily from the AA, RAC, Green Flag and RSAC. The International Driving Permit (IDP) is simply a formal document that is issued to those travelling to another country and it translates your licence into different languages. This can be useful as it means that should you encounter a problem with the law when driving abroad, the relevant authorities can understand what your licence entitlements are, as well as identifying you easily.

In order to be eligible to obtain an international driving permit. You must be over 18 years of age and hold a full UK licence. You’re not allowed to drive abroad on a provisional licence.

Moving Abroad and Your UK Licence

If you’re planning to stay in a foreign country for an extended period of time, or are moving there permanently, you will need to speak to local authorities about using your UK licence. Many countries will let you use your licence for a particular period of time and then after this time has elapsed will expect you to chance to a local licence. Some will revoke your UK licence, others will let you keep it – it’s entirely country dependent. If you’re not sure, speak to someone at the local driving authority there or visit a local police station.

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I’m going to Portugal in three weeks can I drive a car using my original paper driving license
Marky - 23-May-18 @ 2:48 PM
I have a paper UK license but haven't lived in the UK since 1998. I am moving to Spain and planning to get a Spanish driving license. Can I do this with my paper license? If not, how do I do it, considering that I can't legally get a UK photo license without being resident in UK? Many thanks!
rachel - 4-May-18 @ 11:45 AM
Confused - Your Question:
I don’t quite understand the 17 18 thing, so if you’re 17 but hold a full UK license can you drive in France?? I’m supposed to be driving my mate for her 18th but I will still be 17 does this mean I can or cannot drive??

Our Response:
The French law is that you have to be 18 before you can get a full driving licence. That applies to visitors driving in France too, which means you can't drive in France until you're 18.
AboutDrivingAbroad - 27-Apr-18 @ 12:09 PM
I don’t quite understand the 17 18 thing, so if you’re 17 but hold a full UK license can you drive in France?? I’m supposed to be driving my mate for her 18th but I will still be 17 does this mean I can or cannot drive??
Confused - 24-Apr-18 @ 6:41 PM
I’m travelling to Penticton in Canada. I am thinking of hiring a car. Is there an issue if I have 3 points on my licence for speeding (4 years ago) Also do I need extra insurance or is this all included in the car hire premium?
H - 19-Apr-18 @ 10:48 PM
Marius - Your Question:
Hi there, got a quick question. I am planing to add category C to my license, but after sending it to DVLA and receiving provisional license I am going for a holiday, so am I allowed to rent and drive a car with the provisional? Thank you

Our Response:
There's no reason why you can't drive a car but you won't be able to use it for category C vehicles yet.
AboutDrivingAbroad - 10-Apr-18 @ 10:07 AM
Hi there, got a quick question. I am planing to add category C to my license, but after sending it to DVLA and receiving provisional license I am going for a holiday, so am I allowed to rent and drive a car with the provisional? Thank you
Marius - 9-Apr-18 @ 7:06 AM
Jay - Your Question:
I am 24. I do not have a car here. I plan to travel to USA and may borrow my friend's car from time to time while there. How can I get insurance while driving in the USA?

Our Response:
Contact insurers in the USA when you're there, or ask your friend if your name can be added to his policy?
AboutDrivingAbroad - 13-Feb-18 @ 12:55 PM
I am 24. I do not have a car here. I plan to travel to USA and may borrow my friend's car from time to time while there. How can I get insurance while driving in the USA?
Jay - 10-Feb-18 @ 9:02 PM
Hi Im 17 with a full UK license. Could I drive through the EU countries to get into Poland and could I drive in Poland at the age of 17 with a full UK license?
Igs - 18-Dec-17 @ 1:18 PM
Kirtley - Your Question:
I live in Australia now, and going to Spain for Christmas. I will be travelling on my UK passport and I have the old paper driving license, valid till 2032. Will this be ok for a rental company?

Our Response:
They may require that the address on your driving licence tallies with your residence though, so we'd say probably not. Do you have an Australian licence?
AboutDrivingAbroad - 4-Dec-17 @ 3:39 PM
I live in Australia now, and going to Spain for Christmas. I will be travelling on my UK passport and I have the old paper driving license, valid till 2032. Will this be ok for a rental company?
Kirtley - 4-Dec-17 @ 9:01 AM
I have a full uk driving licence, but I am only 17. So can I drive in Germany or not?
Mase - 25-Oct-17 @ 8:26 PM
Melly- Your Question:
If I have a UK licence and with 6 points loss for speeding, my questions are:1) can car hire companies refuse my hire?2) will these loss of points affect me if I move to France for 6 months?3) how long will it take to gain those points back?4) will my insurance premiums go up?

Our Response:
(1) Yes a hire company can choose who they hire a car to, and often ask to see details of any endorsements. (2) Not sure what your question is? (3) Speeding endorsements usually stay on your licence for 4 years from the date of the offence. (4) Yes, insurance premiums are usually affected by motoring offences like speeding.
AboutDrivingAbroad - 6-Sep-17 @ 12:17 PM
If I have a UK licence and with 6 points loss for speeding, my questions are: 1) can car hire companies refuse my hire? 2) will these loss of points affect me if I move to France for 6 months? 3) how long will it take to gain those points back? 4) will my insurance premiums go up?
Melly - 4-Sep-17 @ 3:40 PM
I am traveling to France in Septembersharing driving with husband do I need to change my licence as I have old paper copy ?
Squirrel - 14-Aug-17 @ 1:14 PM
I have recently passed my driving test can I drive abroad as someone has said I need to be driving a yeat
Jaxx - 14-Aug-17 @ 12:52 PM
The question is do you need a certain amount of experiance after passing your test to drive in france
Tich - 12-Aug-17 @ 8:56 PM
Cliff - Your Question:
HiI am from South Africa. I'm going to Canada for a 3 week holiday. I have a valid South African drivers licence. Will I be able to rent a car in Calgary Airport and drive to Vancouver and back in the 3 weeks?

Our Response:
We can only really comment on UK matters as we are a UK based site, sorry.
AboutDrivingAbroad - 9-Aug-17 @ 2:38 PM
Hi I am from South Africa. I'm going to Canada for a 3 week holiday. I have a valid South African drivers licence. Will I be able to rent a car in Calgary Airport and drive to Vancouver and back in the 3 weeks?
Cliff - 8-Aug-17 @ 3:56 PM
Harvard - Your Question:
Hi.You replied to this question:Hi on some of your advice you state some countries want photo I'd? Your advice is you would be best having photo card licence? If you are in another country your passport is your id !so you don't need plastic photo driving licence !! Paper one will suffice !!With:Your Response:We've been asked for the photo licence in both Spain and Italy, it seems to be what they expect now.The expectation is not relevant, can you state what's required to be compliant with the law in Spain and Italy.

Our Response:
These are two different issues. If you're driving in a foreign country and want to hire a car, or if you're stopped by the police. If you're stopped by the police you need to present your passport and your driving licence (paper or plastic whichever you have). If you want to hire a car, many hire companies will ask for a licence with photo ID (i.e your plastic one), so you will need to check directly with a hire company before you travel. The general EU advice is: "Since 2013, all driving licences issued in the EU have a standard format – a plastic, credit card-sized photocard, with better security features. You can still use your old-style licence, but it will be changed to the new format when you renew it (or at the latest by 2033).
AboutDrivingAbroad - 2-Aug-17 @ 10:00 AM
Hi I'm going on a driving holiday across Europe in september and my licence expires in December.Do you knowantif I will be okay to drive with only a couple of months left on my licence?
kathy - 31-Jul-17 @ 8:46 PM
Hi. You replied to this question: Hi on some of your advice you state some countries want photo I'd? Your advice is you would be best having photo card licence? If you are in another country your passport is your id !so you don't need plastic photo driving licence !! Paper one will suffice !! With: Your Response: We've been asked for the photo licence in both Spain and Italy, it seems to be what they expect now. The expectation is not relevant, can you state what's required to be compliant with the law in Spain and Italy.
Harvard - 29-Jul-17 @ 3:38 PM
Jimbigeasy - Your Question:
Hi on some of your advice you state some countries want photo I'd? Your advice is you would be best having photo card licence? If you are in another country your passport is your id !so you don't need plastic photo driving licence !! Paper one will suffice !!

Our Response:
We've been asked for the photo licence in both Spain and Italy, it seems to be what they expect now.
AboutDrivingAbroad - 7-Jul-17 @ 11:23 AM
Hi on some of your advice you state some countries want photo I'd? Your advice is you would be best having photo card licence? If you are in another country your passport is your id !so you don't need plastic photo driving licence !! Paper one will suffice !!
Jimbigeasy - 6-Jul-17 @ 12:04 PM
Suzy - Your Question:
Is paper licence valid in California as I wish to hire car La to San Francesco and I still have pink paper licence. Thanks

Our Response:
Some times in the US, photo ID is required. Check with the hire car company before you go.
AboutDrivingAbroad - 20-Jun-17 @ 2:28 PM
Is paper licence valid in California as I wish to hire car La to San Francesco and I still have pink paper licence. Thanks
Suzy - 18-Jun-17 @ 9:53 PM
Hi there, I am thinking of riding across America on a motorbike, is there a minimum time I must have held my license for to be able to drivefor? Thanks
Mandy - 11-Jun-17 @ 11:02 PM
I am a Danish citizen living in South Africa on perminent residence and have a South African driver's license. Going on holiday to Denmark will this be valid to drive with in Denmark?
Bulder - 9-Jun-17 @ 9:29 AM
Can a 17 year old with a full uk licence drive in netherland. My mum is planning to hire a car she has had her licence for around twenty years would i be able to drive the car
Abz - 6-Jun-17 @ 8:21 PM
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