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An expat’s guide to driving abroad

Moving to a new country is a big decision and being able to get around your new home with convenience is important. Navigating life in many of the world’s countries is much easier in a car so it’s important to know how you can make this happen. After all, it’s never as simple as jumping behind the wheel. This article acts as a guide to driving abroad for expats, providing tips and important info on how you can drive legally in other countries. So, whether you are a British expat looking to drive elsewhere, a returning expat to UK shores, or someone who is looking to take up residence in Britain, this guide is for you.

Do I need car insurance when driving abroad?

When driving abroad you will need to make sure that you are legally insured, just in case you get into an accident. Before getting on the road, make sure that your car insurance covers you in the country in question. You can ask your insurer if you are fully covered.

For those wanting to drive in Europe, you can pick up European car insurance to make sure you are legally covered. This temporary cover is perfect for expats living in the UK who are returning to their home nation for a short period.

What is temporary expat car insurance?

Cars on the road

For those British expats who have left the UK for pastures new, there may be a time when you return to the UK for a short period – perhaps to visit family or for business purposes. This is where temporary car insurance for expats comes in, as you could very well need access to a car during your visit.

Anyone with a full UK, EU, EEA, Australian, New Zealand, South African or Swiss driving license can buy short term car insurance, and it can also be adapted to suit the length of your stay. It includes comprehensive cover and free legal expenses cover, giving you peace of mind upon your return to the UK.

Advice for international expats driving in the UK

When it comes to foreign expats who are residing in the UK, there are also a host of considerations to be aware of. But don’t worry, you are not alone, the UK has a thriving scene of international workers all deciding to take up residence on British shores.

First things first, you will want to make sure that you are operating under the law and are insured to drive in the UK. Your international licence is valid as long as you have been here for less than a year, but any longer than this and you will need to obtain a UK licence.

Drew and Julie, US expats who have resided in the UK in the past, are intimately familiar with this process. Their expat lifestyle blog, Drive on the Left, is a great resource. Speaking about his experience obtaining a UK driver’s licence, Drew advises that “patience is a virtue” explaining that “from the time I sent away for my provisional license, essentially the UK version of a learner’s  permit, to receiving my official, full license in the mail, six months passed.”

The UK driving test is also very thorough, something which Drew found to contrast greatly with his experience in the US. Speaking about the UK’s theory test, he says: “If I had taken the test without studying, I would have failed miserably, even though I have been driving for over fifteen years.”

To drive in the UK, you will also need a valid ID (such as a passport), to go along with your insurance and driver’s licence. You can find more tips for driving in the UK here. You also might want to consider utilising Dayinsure’s help and support section, which is replete with helpful advice.

Is my driver’s licence valid in other countries?

German driver's license

If you are deciding to move abroad, you will eventually need to get a driving licence that is valid in that country. You can check with the local driving licence authority to learn how to apply. However, there are some nations where your UK licence can be exchanged without having to pass another test.

This is often in EU nations. If your home country is a member of the EU, you can apply for the licence exchange. For UK residents, this rule also applies until the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December 2020. The Gov.uk website adds: “If you come back to visit the UK after exchanging your licence, you can drive here on your new licence.”

What documents do I need when driving abroad?

So, you want to take up residence in a foreign country. What documents do you need to be able to do so? There are few so please take note of the below list.

  • full driving licence
  • valid ID
  • car insurance documents
  • car registration document
  • breakdown policy documents
  • possibly an international driving permit

Do I need an international driving permit?

An international driving permit (IDP) is needed for those who are visiting certain countries and wish to drive while they are there. It is not needed in the UK, but countries such as the USA, Brazil and Japan require it. You can pick up a permit at the Post Office and use their nation checker to determine if you need one.

However, you will not need an international driving permit if you are intending to live in another country. Gov.uk advises: “Do not apply for an IDP if you’re moving abroad. You’ll need to either exchange your UK licence or apply for a new one in the country you’re moving to.”

Can you get points when driving abroad?

Driving on the left side of the car

Of course, when driving anywhere, you should be obeying the rules of the road but sometimes, mistakes are made. So, can you get points when driving abroad? The answer here is no, points will not be added to your licence as a result of speeding and other illegal activities.

However, you can be pursued for fines of up to €750 in nations like France and you will have no choice but to pay. The website No Penalty Points explains the process: “The DVLA will pass on the UK driver’s details to any foreign country that requests it to follow up on motoring offences. Some countries also use hefty on-the-spot fines for motorists who violate their road laws.”

We hope that this guide to driving abroad as an expat has been informative, helping you to get ready to hit the roads in your new home.

For more tips and advice, make sure to visit our news page.