Driving Abroad FAQs

Can I use my GB driving licence abroad?

You can use your Great Britain (GB) or Northern Ireland (NI) driving licence in the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) countries.

Countires in the European Union (EU) are; Austria (1995), Belgium (1958), Bulgaria (2007), Croatia (2013), Cyprus (2004), Czech Republic (2004), Denmark (1973), Estonia (2004), Finland (1995), France (1958), Germany (1958), Greece (1981), Hungary (2004), Ireland (1973), Italy (1958), Latvia (2004), Lithuania (2004), Luxembourg (1958), Malta (2004), Netherlands (1958), Poland (2004), Portugal (1986), Romania (2007), Slovakia (2004), Slovenia (2004), Spain (1986), Sweden (1995)

Countries in the European Economic Area (EEA) are; Gibraltar, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland.

Countries on route to join the EU are; Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey

Most countries outside the Europen Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) require you to have an International Driving Permit (IDP).

It's advisable to check with a motoring organisation such as; The Automobile Association (The AA) or Royal Automobile Club (RAC) if you are going to drive in a non-EC/EEA country. They will advise you whether you need an International Driving Permit.

What things must I take when driving in other EU/EEA countries?

Things you will or may need when driving in europe are; Photo-card driving licence or paper licence with IDP, Passport, Vehicle registration document (V5) or (VE103) certificate, motor insurance document with EU entitlement, EU breakdown cover, SatNav with EU maps, motorway tax / vignette, GB badge for car, warning triangle, reflective jacket or waistcoat, first aid kit, fire extinguisher, headlamp adjustment stickers, breathalyser.

What is a VE103 certificate?

If your vehicle is leased, the lease company will hold the V5 at their offices, meaning that you will need a 'vehicle on hire' certificate (VE103), which is the recognised alternative to the V5 document.

You must apply for your VE103 certificate at least 7 working days before you travel. The VE103 certificate is valid for 12 months from the date of issue and will cover you for all your foreign travel within that 12 month period. The standard cost of the VE103 certificate is £8 plus £6.95 if you want it in just 2 days.

What is motorway tax/vignette?

Motorway tax is basically toll charges like we have here in the UK. A motorway vignette is a sticker which you have to purchase and display in your windscreen when driving in Austria and Switzerland on the motorways.

How do I know what my speed is in other EU/EEA countries?

In the UK we use MPH, but the rest of the EU/EEA uses KM/H. If you have an analogue speedometer, your speedometer will have MPH displayed around the outside and KM/H on the inside. If you have a digital speedometer, you can change it from MPH to KM/H in the settings. The opposite applies if you have a vehicle which was built to be driven in a country that uses KM/H.

IMPORTANT: Remember that when driving in countries where the speed is measured in KM/H. You need to watch the speed on the inside of the speedometer and not the outside if using an analogue speedometer. It's easy to forget and start watching the outside of the speedometer as if you are in the UK, but doing 100mph instead 100km/h is 160km/h, 60% over the speed limit.

If you have a SatNav (recommended), don't forget to change it to KM/H in the settings.

Which countries use MPH?

United Kingdom (UK), United States (US) and Canada including their territories; Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, Belize, Burma, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Falkland Islands, Grenada, Guam, North Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, Samoa, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & The Grenadines, St. Helena, St. Kitts & Nevis, Turks & Caicos Islands, Virgin Islands.

What is an International Driving Permit (IDP)?

An International Driving Permit (IDP) is a formal document that is issued to those travelling to other countries who wish to drive. It translates your driving licence into different languages, which is useful should you encounter a problem with the authorities when driving abroad. The authorities will be able to understand what your driving licence entitlements are, as well as identifying you.

In some countries an IDP it is a legal requirement to enable you to drive, while in other countries it may only be required to hire a vehicle.

What is the eligibility for an International Driving Permit (IDP)?

In order to be eligible to obtain an International Driving Permit. You must be a permanent resident of Great Britain (GB), over 18 years of age and hold a full GB driving licence. You’re not allowed to drive abroad on a provisional driving licence.

How much does an International Driving Permit (IDP) cost?

An International Driving Permit costs only £5.50 if applied for in person at a post office (no additional fee's). If you use a motoring organisation such as; The Automobile Association (The AA) or Royal Automobile Club (RAC) there will be a processing fee of £3.00 or £2.50 plus postage costs respectively.

When to apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP)?

You can apply for an International Driving Permit up to 3 months before you travel.

How long does an International Driving Permit (IDP) last?

An International Driving Permit is valid for 1 year. Although some countries may not allow it to be used for 1 year.

Do I still need my driving licence if I have an International Driving Permit (IDP)?

You will still need to take your driving licence with you when travelling abroad, even if you have an International Driving Permit. Your International Driving Permit is only valid if you're carrying your GB driving licence with you too.

It is recommended that you have a photo-card driving licence rather than a paper one as this has your photograph on it which helps to identify you.

How do I apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP)?

You'll need to go to a post office and fill out an application form which only takes around 5 minutes.

You need to take the following with you;

  1. Your full UK driving licence (card or paper)
  2. The £5.50 application fee
  3. A passport sized photo (signed on the back)
  4. Proof of identification e.g. passport

Alternatively, you can use a motoring organisation such as; The Automobile Association (The AA) or Royal Automobile Club (RAC)

Why do some countries drive on the right?

In the late 1700s, France and the United States began hauling farm products in big wagons pulled by several pairs of horses. These wagons had no driver’s seat; instead the driver sat on the left rear horse, so that he could keep his right arm free to lash the horses. Since he was sitting on the left, he naturally wanted everybody to pass on the left so that he could look down and make sure he kept clear of the oncoming wagon’s wheels. Therefore he kept to the right side of the road.

Due to America mass producing cars with the steering wheel on the left, this idea of passing on the right spread to other countries that imported american vehicles. And of course the french introduced it into europe and french colonies.

The logic of being able to look down when passing oncoming vehicles was adopted by the british when building british cars, but resulted in right-hand drive cars because the british had already adopted the passing on the left rule. There is an explaining of this below.

Which countries drive on the right?

Abu Dhabi, Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, American Samoa, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Aruba, Austria, Azerbaijan, Azores, Bahrain, Balearic Islands, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bonaire, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burma (officially Myanmar), Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Canary Islands, Cape Verde, Cayman Islands, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Croatia, Cuba, Curaçao, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Dubai, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Faeroe Islands, Finland, France, French Guiana, French Polynesia, Gabon (Gabonese Republic), Gambia, Gaza, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Gibraltar, Greece, Greenland, Guadeloupe, Guam, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Holland (officially the Netherlands), Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Korea (North & South), Kosovo, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Latvia, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Madagascar, Madeira, Mali, Marshall Islands, Martinique, Mauritania, Mayotte, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Myanmar (formerly Burma), Netherlands, New Caledonia, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Northern Mariana Islands, Norway, Oman, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Réunion, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Saba, Saint Barthélemy (informally also referred to as Saint Barth’s or Saint Barts), Saint Martin, Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten, San Marino, São Tomé and Príncipe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, Somaliland, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tahiti, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates (UAE), United States of America (USA), Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Vatican City, Venezuela, Vietnam, Wallis and Futuna, West Bank, Western Sahara, Yemen

Why do we drive on the left in the UK?

In the past most people travelled on the left side because that was the safest and most sensible option for feudal, violent societies. Since most people are right-handed, swordsmen preferred to keep to the left in order to have their right arm nearer to an opponent and their scabbard further from him. Moreover, it reduced the chance of the scabbard (worn on the left) hitting other people.

Because most people are right-handed, they find it easier to mount a horse from the left side, and it would be hard to do this if wearing a sword (which would be worn on the left).

This passing on the left spread to British colonies and some other countries across the world. These colonies and countries then imported british made cars which had the steering on the right.

Which countries drive on the left?

Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Bermuda, Bhutan, Botswana, Brunei, Channel Islands (Guernsey & Jersey), Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Cook Islands, Dominica, East Timor (Timor-Leste), England, Equatorial Guinea, Falkland Islands, Fiji, Great Britain (GB), Grenada, Guyana, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Ireland (Eire), Isle of Man, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Macau, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Montserrat, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, New Zealand, Niue, Norfolk Island, North Cyprus (unrecognised, self-declared state), Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn Islands, Saint Kitts and Nevis (officially the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis), Saint Lucia, Saint Helena, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Scotland, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Swaziland, Tanzania, Thailand, Tokelau, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, Tuvalu, Uganda, United Kingdom (UK), Virgin Islands, Wales, Zambia, Zimbabwe

What is the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals?

The Convention on Road Signs and Signals, commonly known as the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals, is a multilateral treaty designed to increase road safety and aid international road traffic by standardising the signing system for road traffic (road signs, traffic lights and road markings) in use internationally.

The Convention on Road Signs and Signals reflected a common consensus on road traffic signs that evolved primarily in Europe in the mid-20th century. Most jurisdictions outside Europe have not adopted the treaty, and maintain their own systems of road traffic signals.

Useful Links

.GOV.UK - Driving abroad
.GOV.UK - Taking a vehicle out of the UK
AA - Compulsory Equipment
PO - International Driving Permit
AA - International Driving Permit
RAC - International Driving Permit
EC - Road Traffic Rules by country
Convention on Road Signs and Signals
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