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How do I get a driving licence in the UK?

Life in the UK leaves its mark on everything: on the laws, many of which will seem strange to strangers, on customs, traditions, habits, character and even traffic rules (in the UK there is left-hand traffic). This should be borne in mind, especially for those who are coming here for a long time, and even more so for those who intend to live in this country and drive a car.

In this guide, we will cover the nuances that await those who want to get or change their driving licence. We’ll also reveal interesting details about UK driving culture, traditions, penalties for offences and pedestrian rights.

Determination of driving category

Anyone moving to England should take a test on the DVLA website to determine for themselves which category of driver they fall into.

If your licence was issued in the EU and your driving test was taken there, you can use your licence in England until you reach the age of 66 and you do not have to change it.

If the driving licence was obtained in a country that has a replacement licence agreement with the UK (and the driving test was taken there), you can use it in the UK for 12 months and exchange it within 5 years.

If your licence was issued in any other country, you can only use it for 12 months. During this time, you can get a UK driving licence by passing the necessary tests.


It is much easier for those who have passed their driving test and obtained their licence in a country with which the UK has an agreement. They can exchange their driving licence. You can exchange it within 5 years, but you can only drive on it for the first 12 months. The number of countries with which the agreement is concluded is quite impressive: Canada, Japan, Australia, Switzerland, UAE and others. The full list can be found on the DVLA’s official website.

Procedure for exchanging driving licences

You do not need to take any exams. You just need to order a D1 form from the DVLA website and fill it in. You will then need to enclose with your driving licence a document showing that you have passed the driving test in the country that issued your licence. You’ll also need a receipt for the online payment, or a cheque for £43, and a document proving your status in the UK. The application pack needs to be sent to the address on the form. The postal service will deliver your new driving licence to your address within 20 days.

What do I need to get a driving licence?

To begin with, those who come to the UK for a short period of time can drive a car with their previous licence. But these documents will be valid for exactly one year. During this time you will need to take care of obtaining or exchanging your driving licence if you intend to stay here for a longer period of time.

In the United Kingdom, the procedure for obtaining a full driving licence consists of two stages.

You must first obtain a learner’s licence so that you can pass the theory and driving tests. Only after passing these examinations, you will receive an English driving licence.

You must have lived in the UK for at least 185 days to be able to apply for a learner’s licence. You must apply for a provisional driving licence. But before you do this, you need to confirm that you are eligible for a provisional licence. You can do this by opening the DVLA (The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) website and entering your details into the application form. You will need to answer the questions:

  • Are you a resident of the UK?

  • Is your age suitable for obtaining a provisional licence? You must be at least 16 years old to drive a moped and over 17 years old to drive a car.

You will need your passport and National Insurance number.

You can apply for a learner’s licence in two ways:

  1. Take a standard D1 form, fill it out, attach the required documents and mail it in;

  2. Complete the application form online, receive a pre-filled D1 form in return, attach all the required documents and post it to the DVLA. Once you have received your ‘provisional driving licence’ you will be able to book tests.

Theoretical test

It consists of two parts:

  1. Issues. Completion time: 57 minutes. You have to choose one correct question out of 50 questions (7 mistakes are allowed);

  2. Reaction test. Virtual driving. While driving, the examinee must react to the offence in time and correctly by pressing the correct answer button.

After successfully passing the test, you have 2 years to pass your driving test. If you do not pass it within this time, then you will have to take the theory test again.

Driving test

Before you take your driving test, you need to acquire skills, which can be acquired with the help of a licensed instructor, or with the help of family and friends (provided they have officially verified driving experience).

You must present a specially equipped and insured car to take the test. There is an option to agree with the instructor to use his or her car for practical driving. If you decide to use your own car for training, affix a sign to it as defined by the regulations. It is necessarily a red-coloured L, and the background for it should be white. There must be special mirrors.

In addition, it is mandatory to have learner driver’s insurance.

Please note that during the practical test you will need to prove that you have good eyesight. The test is simple: from a distance of 20 metres, you will be asked to read a car’s licence plate number.

The examiner must first make sure that you know the purpose of each device in the car and know how to operate them. You know how to switch on the air conditioning, lift the bonnet, fill the washer tank yourself and much more. Only then can you get behind the wheel and demonstrate what you have learnt with the help of your instructor or friends.

A journey usually lasts about 10 minutes. During this time you not only need to keep your eyes on the road, correctly orientate yourself in signs and situations on the road, but also perform various actions at the request of the “passenger” controlling your actions. For example, make a U-turn while driving, park the car correctly, stop at the kerb and much more. Violations are allowed, but small and no more than 15. For example, it can be a turn with the indicator switched off, a minor violation of the speed limit. If, overall, the examiner considers that you have coped with the tasks, then you will receive a special certificate stating that you have passed the test. Your provisional driving licence will be taken away and your full driver’s licence will be sent to your address by post.


Now about how much all this is going to cost:

  • Licence issue when completing the application online is £34, when sent by post is £43;

  • The theory test is £25;

  • Daytime practice exam — £62; out of hours and other days — £75;

  • The cost of lessons with an instructor and car hire is by arrangement.


Motorways in the UK are always in perfect condition. There are traffic cameras everywhere. If you leave your car in any car park without paying for a parking space, be prepared to:

  • A special device is used to block the wheels of your car;

  • The vehicle is evacuated to a specialised car park;

  • They’ll fine you.

It will be much more relaxing if you just pay for parking. Parking machines are installed at each of them for this purpose.


The requirements for driving in England are broadly like traffic rules in other countries and they are compulsory, but they have some special features. Offenders are liable to imminent punishment regardless of their position, age or gender.

Not recommended:

  • Using sound horns in populated areas between 11pm and 7am;

  • Flashing headlights to oncoming cars and generally on the road;

  • Getting behind the wheel of a car tired;

  • Use a mobile phone even when the vehicle is stationary.

There are speed limits in the UK which are required to be strictly observed. In residential areas the speed limit should not exceed 30 mph, on one-way roads it should be no more than 60 mph and on motorways it should be 70 mph.

There are other prohibitions that must also be observed. Do not drive a car that has not been cleared of snow and ice. The windscreen, headlights and number plate must be clean. There are fines for all these offences.


The UK has a points and penalty system for road traffic offences. The system is updated every year with new rules and new types of penalties. However, if you commit a serious offence (e.g. speeding), you will need to notify your insurer when you take out a new insurance policy, which increases its cost. If your driving licence is revoked, insurance companies may refuse to insure you for some time in the future.


In the UK, insurance is not taken out on the car, but on the driver. There are different types of car insurance. One easy way is to go to the insurance comparison website and choose the one that suits you best. The insurance policy must include the names of those who will be driving the car besides you (spouses are cheaper). Every next year the cost of the insurance policy will be reduced, and drivers who have not recorded any offences will be given a discount when taking out the next policy. The cost of insurance is significantly affected by age, driving experience and accident-free driving.


The most dangerous drivers in England are considered to be 17 years old, and it is from this age that Englishmen can drive a car with a category “B” licence. The older the driver is, the more trust insurance companies have in him, and therefore the cheaper the insurance policy is for them.

Driving experience

The bigger it is, the cheaper the insurance policy will cost for the driver. Provided that the driving experience does not have big breaks. Otherwise, the insurance may be more expensive than for a novice driver.


It’s calculated in years. It is only charged if the insurance company has not had to pay for an accident that was your fault.

Types of insurance


It only covers the damage you cause to other cars, passengers and their property in an accident, but it does not cover damage to your car or your injuries.

In case of fire, theft

This type of insurance covers damage in the event of vehicle theft or fire in addition to the basic insurance.


Compensates you for all your losses, damage you cause to someone else’s vehicle.

In order to find the most favourable offer from insurance companies, you should check the prices on the insurance comparison website. Failure to have insurance is a gross misdemeanour, in which case you will have to pay a fine of £300.

Auto culture

The British prefer to get around on the roads in small, economical cars. But there are also many who have a second car in their backyard for the “weekend”.


Pedestrians are treated with great care in the UK. They are at the very top of the pyramid of road users. Pedestrians have priority over everyone else. Cyclists come next, followed by motorcyclists and other forms of transport. Even pedestrian crossings are designed to give as little trouble as possible to those who prefer to walk on their own feet.

There are different types of pedestrian crossings in Britain. Some of them even have their own name:

  • “Pelican.” Pelican crossings are no different from regular crossings. They still require you to cross the street at a green traffic light sign;

  • “Zebra”. Movement on white stripes drawn on the road. In front of them, the driver must slow down, and in case of a pedestrian on the zebra, stop and let him pass;

  • Puffin crossing. Equipped with lighting and video cameras to record the violation. Sometimes infrared sensors are installed instead of cameras, which react to the approach of a pedestrian and switch on a green traffic light;

  • Toucan crossings. Equipped with dual green and red lights and push button controls. This crossing allows cyclists and pedestrians to cross the road at the same time;

  • Transitions for school children. Placed next to school facilities and operated during school study periods. Often the role of a stop sign is played by elderly people who step right out into the road with a high raised stop sign on a pole and stop traffic to allow a group of school children to cross the road;

  • Horse crossings for riders. The button for controlling the green signal of the traffic light is specially installed above the human height to make it more comfortable for the rider.

FAQ about driving licences in the UK

Why is there left-hand traffic in the UK?

This habit had been ingrained ever since the Roman legionaries invaded the island and travelled only on the left side of the island on roads built by their own forces. This was done for safety reasons. It was easier for the right-handed Romans, who held a sword in their right hand, to fight the enemy on their way.

Where can I get the knowledge to pass the theory test for my driving licence theory test?

There are various virtual driving schools and online courses available in Britain for this purpose. You can also prepare for questions yourself using the internet.

What is a theory test?

You need to take a two-part test. These are multiple-choice questions and a video test.

If you fail one part of the test, you will have to retake the entire test.

Which test centre is the best place to take the test?

Opinions vary, but the majority of residents who have been tested believe that Scotland has the highest pass rate. The main reason is that the motorways and roads there are less congested, and this does not create additional problems on the road for new drivers.

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