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I get the opportunity to host some amazing people from Australia on special trips to see loved ones or on trips of a lifetime touring the countries of Europe and beyond. One of the most common questions I get is on driving (and parking!) here in the UK so what are the driving licence requirements for someone from Australia to drive in the UK?

I did a little research and found out that anyone with a full and valid Australian driving licence can drive a small vehicle such as a car or motorcycle for up to 12 months in Great Britain from when they last entered the country. Even better news is that Australia is treated as a “Designated Country” meaning the Australian driving test standards are considered comparable to those of the UK. Therefore if you obtain UK residency you can simply exchange your Australian licence for a UK licence without having to sit the UK driving test. However you must do this within 5 years of obtaining residency. Lets look at 5 more things you need to be aware of before jumping in a car here in the UK.

If you are here on a trip to the UK and want to drive (rather than tackling our public transport system!) you will most likely be hiring a car or possibly borrowing one from a friend or relative. Here’s what you should know:

1. Can I hire a car?

There are several hire car companies in the UK that will allow you to drive with a non-GB licence and are conveniently located at our major airports (Gatwick, Heathrow etc) for easy pick up and drop off. Here’s what you need to know if you are hiring from these major car hire providers:

Rental CompanyMinimum AgeLicence RequiredInsurance
Sixt21, 23, 25, or 30 depending on class of vehicle you are hiring.
Excess charges apply for under 25's.
Full unrestricted drivers licence held for at least 12 months. "P" probationary licences not accepted.Included in the rental price
Enterprise25+Probationary or full licences accepted.Included in the rental price
22-24 restricted to Standard or Economy (additional charges apply).
30+ for the top tier of vehicles.

Minimum of a "P2" probationary licence accepted.Included in the rental price

And here’s some tips you may find useful when hiring a car:

  1. Check the fuel policy: Do you need to return the car fully topped up. If so make sure you do so as it will be costly for the hire car company to do it for you if you forget
  2. Thoroughly inspect the vehicle before accepting it: Walk round the exterior checking for dints, scratches, and other damage and make sure this is recorded before you sign for the vehicle. Do the same with the interior.
  3. Make sure you have the right documents with you: Hire car companies typically ask for proof of ID, proof of address, your driving licence, and a credit card for a security deposit.
  4. Check the mileage policy: How many miles can you drive before they start applying an excess?
  5. Thoroughly read the contract: Understand what charges apply if you damage the vehicle and any other terms and conditions which may affect your wallet! Also remember that you are still liable to pay any fines for motoring offences like speeding whilst you have the vehicle.

2. What about insurance?

Even if you are only planning to drive occasionally, it’s still a legal requirement to have valid car insurance if you wish to drive in the UK.

There are three levels of cover

  1. Third Party (the minimum requirement): this covers damage to other vehicles and property and not damage to your own vehicle
  2. Third Party Fire and Theft: Includes the above cover and covers your vehicle in case it’s stolen or gets damaged or destroyed in a fire
  3. Comprehensive: Covers all of the above and damage to your own car as well

If you have hired a car then insurance and breakdown cover should be included in the rental price. Make sure you check the terms and conditions carefully including any charges you are liable for if you damage the vehicle during your rental period.

If you are borrowing a car from a friend or relative then you must be added as a named driver to their policy. Be aware that this is likely to increase the policyholders premium.

If you have bought your own car to drive then you will need to take out a UK insurance policy. There are a number of insurance providers that will issue policies to foreign licence holders but the premiums for these policies are usually higher than if you held a UK licence. So if you are planning to become a UK resident, once you obtain residency it’s well worth swapping your Australian licence for a UK one to reduce your car insurance premiums!

3. What about P Plates?

According to the DVLA (the UK’s Driver Vehicle Licencing Agency) either an Australian “P” (probationary) licence or a full unrestricted licence is valid for driving in the UK.

In the UK we have a slightly different system to Australia. New drivers must check they are eligible then apply for a provisional licence. When practising they must display “L” plates and be accompanied by a full UK driving licence holder who is at least 21 and has held their licence for at least 3 years. Learner drivers must first pass a theory test, and then a practical driving test. After which they are award a full UK driving licence. Further details on the process can be found on the UK government website here.

4. What if I have an accident?

Call the emergency services if anyone is injured by dialling 999.

Your safety is top priority. Get yourself to a safe space if required (e.g. always get out of your car and away from the carriageway on a motorway by getting over the side barrier and standing on the embankment away from traffic).

Take down the details of the other vehicles involved in the accident (name, contact details, car registration number, insurer details) and take photos (only if safe to do so) to record what happened.

Call your car hire company on the number they provide in case of emergencies and inform them of the situation. If you have your own car then call the insurance company and notify them of the accident.

Always remember to comply with speed limits, they are displayed in the UK in MPH. In the UK there are more and more speed cameras being deployed every year, average speed camera systems, and “smart” motorways with speed cameras so don’t chance it!

5. What if I don’t have a licence?

You will need to apply for a provisional licence and take a UK driving test. More details on the process can be found on the UK government website here.

Alternatively you may choose to relax and enjoy our wonderful UK rail system! Watch out for an upcoming blog post on getting around using public transport whilst you are here!



Categories: Travel