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Transport and Driving in the UK

Driving on the left-hand side of the road is only one thing expats need to adjust to when driving in the UK. Insurance, taxes, getting a driver’s license, and lots of other red tape do not make driving in the UK easy. Luckily, you can always fall back on planes, trains, and coaches in the UK.

If you wish to import your car into the UK or exchange your driver’s license for a local one, you will soon learn that there is a whole new set of laws and rules to deal with. Add to this the stress of having to learn to drive on the left-hand side of the road (as is the case for most expats) and you will find that things might get more complicated than you have expected. If you don’t want to drive yourself, there are a lot of ways to get to the UK and around by plane, train, coach, and ferry.

Driving a Car in the UK

If you want to import your own car into the UK, keep in mind that you might have to pay import duties and VAT. After six months or when you become a UK resident, you also have to register your car in the UK and pay vehicle taxes. When that moment comes, your car needs to fulfill certain requirements and you will have to submit additional paperwork. Another challenge is exchanging your driver’s license for a British one. Whether this is possible or if you have to take a driving test all over again largely depends on where your original license was issued. In most cases, however, you can keep using your old license for 12 months before exchanging it for a British driver’s license. When you hit the roads, you should keep in mind that large cities can be exceptionally nerve-wracking. This particularly applies to the Greater London area. But no matter whether you dive into urban traffic or hit the highways, remember that you need to abide by UK traffic laws.

Public Transportation in the UK

There are many ways of getting to the UK. One of the most popular one is by plane, traveling for example through one of the six airports serving the Greater London area. Many expats from the European mainland also like to cross the English Channel, either by ferry or by train, using the Channel Tunnel from Calais to Folkestone. There are also different companies which offer connections to the UK by coach. The advantage of this way of traveling is that it is often quite cheap. Public transportation in the UK, particularly in and around bigger towns and cities, offers another convenient way to get around. You can get almost anywhere by train, coach, or bus. Bigger cities also offer taxi and minicab services to ease the commute. Although the situation is still not perfect, many stations and modes of transportation in the UK are wheelchair accessible.

InterNations Expat Magazine