Driving as an expat – can I use my UK license abroad?

If you're moving overseas you may be thinking about how you're going to get around whilst you're there. Some people who live in a city are more than happy to rely on public transport, which you might find is vastly superior to services in your own country! But if you need to drive, can you use your UK license abroad?

In this article

What We’ll Cover

  • Driving in Kuwait

  • Driving in the UAE

  • Driving in Qatar

  • Driving in China

  • Driving in Saudi Arabia

If you feel like you would benefit from driving, you’ll need to know how the system works. Are you able to use your existing license to get up and running, or will you need to apply for a new one? Here we look at some of the countries we serve most regularly for new expats, to give you an idea about what to expect.

DRIVING IN KUWAIT

If you’re visiting Kuwait, you’re able to drive on an International Driving Permit or a full UK license. If you are applying to become a resident of Kuwait however, you will not be allowed to use your UK license abroad in this case and must apply for a Kuwaiti one as soon as your visa is granted. This is a simple process as you can simply convert your existing license, but you must provide:

  • Passport photos
  • Translation of your license into Arabic
  • An attested version of your UK license (this must be completed in the UK)
  • Valid work and residency permit
  • Valid medical examination certificate stating your blood group

This exempts you from any tests or exams to obtain your Kuwaiti license and can usually be done in an afternoon.

DRIVING IN THE UAE

Driving in the UAE is not as common for expats as the use of taxis and public transport is popular due to it being both reliable and affordable. If you do wish to obtain an Emirati license however, you must convert your UK license. To exchange your license you will need to provide:

  • A valid eye examination certificate
  • Your valid Emirates ID card
  • Dependant on your job title, you may need to provide an No Objection Certificate from your sponsor.
  • Your passport
  • Passport sized photographs (take at least 8 to be sure)

To convert your license to an Emirati one, you need to be a resident with a valid visa and work permit. You will not need to translate a UK license into Arabic in the UAE. If you have all of your documents and they meet the criteria the process is a simple one and can take just 20 minutes to complete.

DRIVING IN QATAR

Expats who have residency permits can drive for up to 12 months on a UK license in Qatar with no need for any further tests. You will need to apply for an International Driving Permit however which can be done at any Post Office which offers this service. Just advise a member of staff that you with to use you UK license abroad and they will provide the form, you can use the branch finder and use the filter option to see which is your closest branch offering this service by clicking here. This is valid for your full 12 months in Qatar and you can’t apply more than 3 months before you travel and intend to use the IDP.  For the Post Office to issue your document, you must present:

  • A completed IDP form available here
  • A passport photo, signed on the reverse by yourself

After the 12 months however, you will need to sit a driving test in Qatar, which includes a practical and a theory test. You will then be issued a full Qatari license. As driving here can be hair-raising at best, you should feel more prepared for a test here after a year of driving, or as ready as any local!

DRIVING IN CHINA

It is illegal in China to drive on any license other than Chinese. You can only apply for a Chinese license once you are a resident with a visa and you can use your existing UK license to skip the practical test. There is however a multiple choice theory test you must undertake which available in English, you must pass this before you are issued your new license. If you do pass, this will be mailed out to you. To obtain the Chinese license you must be in possession of:

  • A valid medical exam certificate
  • A work permit
  • A valid UK license

There are companies in China that specialise in aiding foreigners get their new license, as there can be many language barriers in the process. Some even drive you to the test centre and help you through the process of form-filling, as your name will be translated for your new license.

SAUDI ARABIA

You are eligible to drive for up to 3 months on UK and selected other foreign driving licenses in Saudi Arabia. After that however you must apply for a new one. Saudi Arabia allow the direct conversion of UK licenses for an SKA version. You must hold a residency visa (Iqama) for this service however and the full list of documents required are:

  • A valid residency visa (Iqama)
  • A medical and eye exam certificate including your blood group (this can be done at the licensing agency)
  • A translation from English to Arabic of your license
  • An application form completed
  • In some instances, a letter from your employer

This process can be done in one morning and you will leave with your valid license if everything is in order and you pass the medical and eye tests.


All the countries listed above drive on the right hand side of the road. It would be a good idea to make sure you are familiar with the road regulations and laws in the country you will be driving in, as these are often more strict even though the driving style is a lot more “laid back”! For example, in Gulf countries it is illegal to have any alcohol in your system at all whilst driving. Road rage and rude gestures can also be punishable with a fine and even imprisonment, so it’s important to make sure you’re prepared before you get behind the wheel.

If you need your license attesting or translating we can complete this for you. Wherever your documents were issued, we can help have them processed for you! Get in touch with our team via our live chat system, send us a text message on WhatsApp,give us a call on 0330 088 1142 or email us at sales@vitalconsular.com.

key takeaways

Key Takeaways

Even if you have a valid UK license, it’s important to check the requirements in your destination country before you start driving there. Some countries allow you to drive with your UK license for a period of time before you have to convert it to a domestic license, but always confirm this with the authorities beforehand to avoid any fines. If you do have to convert your license, it’s usually an easy process though you may need to have your UK document legalised to present it in the country you’re residing in. You don’t need to travel back to the UK for this however, as we can handle everything for you!

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Melanie Clarke
Melanie is a Digital Marketer and TEFL Specialist at Vital Consular. Before taking up a Marketing role, she spent 3 years building up a rich knowledge of global legalisation processes on the operations team. When she's not working, Melanie enjoys attending music events and pursuing many creative interests including screen printing and merchandise design.
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