4 Things International students should know about Driving in the UK

International students who are used to driving in their home country often want to know about owning a car in the UK. They are quick to ask if they can drive in the UK with a Foreign or non-British licence? The answer is Yes. However,  there are a few things I think you should know about driving and car hire in the UK.


driving a car in the UK

1) You can drive in the UK with a Foreign( i.e Non- British) Licence.

Legally you are allowed to drive with a Foreign licence for the first 12 months of your stay or arrival in the UK, after which you must take a British driving test to obtain a British driving licence.  There are many driving schools in the UK that can teach you how to drive. But it is expensive. It could cost you up to £1600 in lesson fees before you are eventually ready to sit a driving test.  This amount could be lesser depending on whether you already have previous driving experience.

EEA nationals and nationals of the certain countries are able to exchange their foreign licence for a British one without taking a driving test. These countries are Australia, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Honk Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, and Zimbabwe.

Note that vehicles in the UK are driven on the left hand side of the road unlike many other countries where driving is done on the right hand side of the road. To obtain a British driver’s licence you would need to pass a theoretical and practical test. The theoretical test will check your knowledge on the UK highway code while the practical test will test your ability to drive safely

For more information on the tests visit the UK Driver and Licensing  website.

2.)  You can buy a Used Car if you feel you need one.

You can buy a used car if you feel you need one when you arrive. As a student you do not really need a car to get around Campus. You could catch a Bus, tube or train, or you could even walk if you live near the university Campus. You could buy a bicycle if you enjoy Cycling. Bicycles are a popular option for students. Second hand bicycles can be bought from £25 Upwards.

With as low as £500 – £1500 you can get a second hand car to buy depending on the age and mileage . AutoTraderExchange and Mart, Gumtree, and Ebay are  good places to check for used cars. ebay.co.uk offers you the opportunity to bid. The highest bidder usually wins the auction.

As a general principle, always check out  Parkers Car Price guide (www.parkers.co.uk)   to get a good idea of what you should pay for the car. Note It is required by law that your car is taxed, insured and have a Ministry of Transport Certificate(MOT) before you can legally drive it on the roads.

3) Lowering your Insurance Premium

Insurance is usually very  high for new or first time drivers in the UK.  Make sure you obtain quotes from companies that genuinely provide tailor-made car insurance packages for first timers. There are some very good insurance comparison sites out there that can help you get a reasonable deal.  Gocompare.com  or moneysupermarket.com is a good place go start.

If you are a mature student or have driven in your  home country without any accidents for some years, my advice is that you get a No-claims letter ( If possible) from your home country.  Presenting this letter to some of the insurance companies here in the UK may help lower your insurance premium. One of friends from Pakistan did  this and it really helped to lower his insurance premium. Note that not all insurance company would regard or accept such a letter. But it is worth a try!

Another way to lower your insurance premium is to Increase your excess – larger excesses mean lower premiums. Choosing a low-premium car – smaller, less powerful cars tend to mean cheaper cover.

4.   Renting or Hiring  a car on a Non-British Licence

If you’ve got a full and valid foreign ( non-British) licence, you can drive any small vehicle( car or motor cycle) listed on your licence for 12 months from when you entered or lasted visited Britain. This also applies to car rentals.  EEC licence are accepted by rental companies but all other licenses are only acceptable if they are written in legible English. If your foreign licence is not written in English, you should have an international driving permit that is written in English to accompany your foreign licence. Car rental often cost about £30- £40 a day for weekdays. They are generally cheaper on Weekends.

Some rental Companies insist on an EU licence before they can rent you a car. Some also require a credit card guarantee. Nowadays, rental companies tend to offer a delivery and collection service to your door steps.  Note that Some rental companies increase prices for foreign license holders. Many rental companies insist that you must be at least 22 – 25 years old to rent one of their vehicles. They do not wish to rent to young less-experienced drivers. You always should check the requirements on the web pages of the rental companies.

Car rental companies like  Enterprise (www.enterprise.com) will happily rent you a car if you have a full and valid foreign licence.  Hertz (www.hertz.co.uk)  and Sixt (www.sixt.co.uk)  require International driving permits (IDP) to be accompanied by the national driving licence before you can hire one of their cars.

Please note that not all countries offer international driver’s permits.


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