International Driving Permit United Kingdom

What is an International Driving Permit or License?

What is the difference between an International Driving Permit (IDP) and an International Driving License (IDL)?

An International Driving Permit is a small grey booklet marginally larger than a passport containing a translation of your original driving license in 10 languages, including English, French, Russian, Chinese, Arabic, and Spanish. It is accepted by 141 countries worldwide and is valid for one year.

On the other hand, an International Driving License is not a legal document and cannot replace an IDP.

How does an IDP work in the United Kingdom?

The UK recognizes an international driver’s permit for up to one year. It will be used as a translation of your driver’s license. You may also use your IDP as an identification document while traveling.

How do you apply for an IDP in the UK?

You can apply online through our website. 

How long does it take to receive an IDP in the UK?

Your digital IDP takes up to two hours to land in your inbox. Although, you can receive your IDP in twenty minutes if you choose our express option.

Alternatively, a printed IDP can be delivered in 2 to 30 days, depending on your selected delivery method. 

United Nations Agreements on Road Traffic

There have been three international automobile traffic conventions—1926 in Paris, 1949 in Geneva, and 1968 in Vienna. Most countries have agreed to recognize IDPs as legal documents in each convention.

Benefits of Carrying an IDP in the UK

Functionality as an ID

An IDP can be handy when traveling as it can serve as identification and a travel document. This can be especially useful if you are trying to avoid using your passport for security reasons.

In addition, an IDP can be used instead of a national ID card, mainly if your national ID card is not in the language of the country you visit.

Quicker traffic authority stops.

Traffic police may have trouble deciphering driver information on your license during a traffic stop. Having an IDP ensures that policemen can quickly note down your details and send you on your way. This is especially useful during emergencies and motor accidents.

Car rental companies

Car rental companies in foreign countries may be hesitant to hire out vehicles to foreigners without an international driving permit. Therefore, having an IDP may save valuable vacation time and unwanted delays when dealing with rental companies.

Laws requiring an IDP

Since the UK was contracted to the Vienna Motor Traffic Convention in 1968, it accepts an international driving permit for one year subject to your original license remaining valid.

Driving Requirements for Non-Citizens in the UK

Short-term visitors vs. residents

Short-term visitors will find using their original license with an IDP beneficial. Long-term visitors will find getting a UK driving license easier once they already have an IDP. 

When should I get the United Kingdom Driver’s License?

You can use an IDP for a maximum of one year before being required to renew your IDP or get a domestic UK driving license. You may want to get a UK driving license when you move to the UK mid to long-term.

How to get a UK driver’s license

You should get a D1 application from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). This is the government agency responsible for license and registration in the UK. Most UK post offices also have copies of the D1 application available.

If you are from a ‘designated country,’ you will not be required to take a driving test. However, you will be asked to take a driving test if you are from any other country. The DVLA will guide you to take the theoretical and practical tests before receiving your driving license.

Renewing your IDP or Original Driver’s License while in the United Kingdom

Renewing your International Driver’s Permit

You can renew your IDP through our website while in the United Kingdom. 

Renewing your original driver’s license

If your license expires while abroad, you must renew it to continue driving in that country. The procedure for renewing a license differs widely by country. License renewal may include a vision test that cannot be done online, meaning you must visit your country of origin to renew your license.

Car Rental in the United Kingdom

Requirements for car rental

To rent a car in the UK, you must have a valid driving license. Some companies will request that you have held an EU license for up to 5 years before allowing you to rent a car.

Domestic driver’s license holders must have less than six punitive points taken from their license to rent a car. Foreigners must provide their passport, IDP, and license as proof of identity. 

EU and non-EU residents may also be required to provide proof of previous travel dates. Many car rental companies will ask you for an IDP.

Deposit and costs for car rental

All clients of car rental companies are expected to pay a rental deposit. This is based on the cost of the car you want to rent. You can pay by either cash, debit card, or credit card. The credit and debit cards should be in the renter’s name. Some companies may not accept debit cards.

Car insurance

You must have car insurance if you want to drive a vehicle in the UK. This is irrespective of whether your stay is short or long-term.

The minimum requirement is third-party insurance to cover costs that may arise from a possible accident. Your insurance contract should cover other persons, vehicles, animals, or property damage. Third-party insurance contracts do not cover any damage to yourself or your car.

Travel Insurance

The crime rate in the UK is higher than average for a developed country. Due to this, it is recommended to get travel and car insurance when traveling to the UK. It would be best if you looked out for the following when getting your travel insurance:

  • Medical expenses that cover hospital stays

  • Insurance for lost or damaged baggage

  • Dental insurance for emergencies

Driving and Safety in the United Kingdom

Where can you get a driving handbook with the road rules?

The driving handbook is called the Highway Code in the UK. You can download a copy of the official Highway Code from the website. It is recommended that you browse through the handbook before you start driving in the UK. 

Overtaking on UK roads

You are advised to only overtake from the right-hand side as long as there have been no signs signifying otherwise. You must check your mirrors, judge the speed correctly and make sure that the lane ahead is sufficiently clear for you to enter back into the correct lane.

You cannot cut in on the vehicle that you are overtaking. Overtaking during nighttime or with poor visibility should be undertaken with extra vigilance.

Right of way on UK roads

Drivers on the main road have priority over a lane coming into the main road. On equal roads, vehicles going straight or turning left have the right of way, which means that drivers turning right to have to wait until there is a gap in traffic to do so.

You should slow down before junctions that don’t have signs or traffic lights. In the UK, you must go slow enough to stop at a junction if you have to give way to a motorist coming on the other road.

If you are entering a roundabout, you have to give way to vehicles already in the roundabout. You should also pay attention to the speed at which the traffic is moving and the signal lights used by the vehicles in the roundabout when entering one.

Speed limits on UK roads

The speed limit is 48 km/h (30 mph) in UK towns and cities if you are not towing a carriage behind you. You can go on single carriageways at 96 km/h (60 mph). The speed limit is 112 km/h (70 mph) on dual carriageways and motorways. Driving over the speed limit will add three points to your driving license. If you rack up 12 points in 3 years, your license may be removed.

Tips for driving in the UK

  • You should drive on the left-hand side of the road.

  • You can only drive on a UK road if you are over 17.

  • You should wear a seat belt while driving at all times.

  • If there are children in the vehicle, they should wear child restraints.

  • You are not permitted to use a mobile phone when driving unless you use a hands-free device.

  • You should slow down in hospital and school zones.

  • When driving on UK roads, any motorist should give way to police cars, ambulances, fire trucks, and other emergency vehicles.

  • You may not use your horn in residential areas from 11:30 pm to 7:00 am.

Drinking and driving

If caught driving under the influence of alcohol, you are first given a breathalyzer test if the police authority that stopped you suspects you are under the influence. If found positive, you will be taken to a police station where you will be given a further two breathalyzer tests. The punitive actions taken will reflect all the tests you go through. You can face up to six months in prison and have your license revoked.

Top 3 Destinations to Visit in the United Kingdom

The British Museum

Home to more than 13 million objects, the British Museum has items from Europe, China, the Roman Empire, Greece, Egypt, Assyria, and Babylonia. When visiting this historic site, you don’t miss unique objects such as the Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles. The Ancient Egyptian collection is the most significant outside of Cairo. You will also find historical coinage, such as a hoard of Roman silver from the 4th century discovered in Suffolk in 1942.

York Minster and Historic Yorkshire

York’s beautiful streets are surrounded by 3 miles of town walls. You can climb onto these impressive walls to get a magnificent view of the town and the gorgeous York countryside. The North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales are renowned for their rugged beauty. You can find other stunning historic towns near York, such as Durham, which has a cathedral and a castle. The York Minster is significant and a must-see on your visit too.

Chester Zoo

Chester Zoo in England is so beautifully curated that its landscaped gardens have won awards. It is a top-rated destination for families to visit during holidays. The zoo boasts 35,000 animals and spreads across 125 acres. You could explore the zoo for a week and still find new animals and scenery to look at. The zoo also has many family-friendly activities that you can engage in, apart from observing its eclectic collection of animals. The zoo also has 170 buildings that range from restaurants to tourist shops.


Should I get an IDP for the UK?

Yes, it is recommended. Many countries will require that you have a valid license and an IDP. 

Are Northern Ireland licenses recognized in Great Britain?

Yes, a Northern Ireland driving license is fully recognized within Great Britain.

Can I use my EU driver’s license in the UK?

Yes, you may use your EU license until you are 70 in the UK. Many countries will require that you have an IDP to accompany it. 

How long will my international driving permit be valid in the UK?

Since the UK was contracted to the Vienna Motor Traffic Convention in 1968, you may use your IDP for up to one year.

How long will transferring my license to a UK license take?

If there are no complications and you have a valid foreign license, the process should take no longer than three weeks.

On which side do you drive in the UK?

Motorists drive on the left side of the road in the UK.

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