If visiting or intending on becoming a UK resident whilst obtaining a full and valid Canadian driving licence, this section explains whether you licence is valid in the UK and if it can be exchanged for a GB licence.
Canada is one of the UK’s designated countries which means that holders of a full and valid Canadian driving licence can drive in the UK.
Great Britain residents and visitors
Canadian driving licence holders who are either visiting Great Britain, or have become GB or UK residents can drive in the UK for up to 12 months on their Canadian driving licence.
Canadian driving licence holders who are resident in the UK will need to exchange your Canadian driving licence for a UK licence after 12 months of becoming resident to continue driving.
The DVLA allows five years to exchange your licence from when you first became a resident of the United Kingdom.
Foreigners studying in Great Britain
As Canada is a designated country, an individual studying in Great Britain may drive on a full and valid Canadian driving licence for 12 months and exchange your licence for a GB licence if you have one. If you do not yet have a driving licence, you will first need to apply for a GB provisional driving licence. You can then take a driving test and if passed, receive a full driving licence once you have been in Great Britain for a minimum of six months.
Driving in the UK
A significant difference whilst driving in the UK compared to Canada, is in the UK, we drive on the left. Driving on the left can initially be confusing for those with no experience, especially when changing gears with the left hand instead of the right, correct lane discipline and distancing from the side of the road and traffic systems such as roundabouts and the many mini roundabouts found in the UK.
The UK also still use the imperial system in terms of speed limits – miles per hour (mph),in comparison to Canada’s metric system of kilometres per hour (km/h). Other than this, UK speed limits are similar to those found in Canada.
Many foreign drivers taking to UK roads often take a short two hours or so driving course. This isn’t a legal requirement, but this course known as refresher driving lessons operated by qualified driving instructors enable foreign drivers to practice driving on the left, in a right hand drive vehicle under the professional guidance of an instructor with dual controls. All instructor offer this service and is designed to increase confidence, driving skills and awareness on UK roads.
Exchanging Canadian driving licence for UK driving licence
Providing you are a UK resident and hold a valid and full Canadian driving licence, you can exchange your licence for a GB licence for up to five years since you became a resident. A fee will apply.
NOTE: Unless you can provide proof that you passed your Canadian driving test in a manual transmission vehicle, you will be granted a British licence that will allow you to drive only an automatic transmission vehicle. In the UK it is beneficial to hold a manual driving licence. See automatic or manual for a comparison and benefits of both transmission types in the UK.
If you intend on obtaining a UK driving licence that allows you to drive manual transmission vehicles and have been granted a GB licence that permits you to drive automatic transmission only, you will need to retake and pass the practical driving test in a manual transmission car. You will not need to take the theory test. Upon obtaining your new GB driving licence, the driving licence code ’78’ shown on your licence signifies that you have restriction to vehicles with automatic transmission only.
UK car insurance for Canadians
Car insurance in the UK can be expensive. If you are looking for car insurance whilst using your Canadian driving licence, you may be better speaking in person to a car insurance broker who deals with specialised car insurance for foreign drivers. As your licence is non-UK and the fact that you will have zero no-claims bonus, this may be expensive. See car insurance help for a run down on the common insurance types in the UK.
You may also find some car insurance providers will not insure with a foreign driving licence. Ultimately, if you do not intend on driving too often or are not staying in the UK for a long period of time, it may be cheaper to hire a car.
If you are a UK resident and have exchanged your Canadian driving licence for a UK licence, car insurance may initially be expensive as any previous no-claims bonus will be lost and you will need to once again build up your no-claims bonus from zero.
Driving licence foreign country codes
If you have exchanged your Canadian driving licence for a GB driving licence, the foreign country code CDN will appear in the information section of your new licence. Your new GB licence may also show the category ’78’ which permits you to drive vehicles with automatic transmission only, regardless of whether you passed the Canadian driving test in a manual or automatic transmission.
If you can prove that you passed your Canadian driving test in a manual transmission however, you will be granted a GB licence permitting you to drive vehicle with automatic and manual transmission. For further information on the various codes and categories and their meanings, see driving licence explained for further information.