My (long) road to getting a UK driver’s license

US driver's license and UK driver's license.

Last week I finally passed my driving test and officially became a licensed driver in the UK! 😎 I’ve been in the UK for nearly two years at this point and had been unable to drive on my own for nearly a year of that time as you only have one year allowance on a US drivers license before your ability to be entrusted with a vehicle on the roads here expires.

Even with the pandemic and the limited need to drive regularly, it still felt like a BIG DEAL to finally get this done.

  • July 23rd, 2020

    Theory test appointment #1

    FAILED 🚫

  • September 1st, 2020

    Theory test appointment #2

    PASSED βœ…

  • December 7th, 2020

    Driving test appointment #1

    RESCHEDULED (center closed) 😒

  • February 8th, 2021

    Driving test appointment #2

    RESCHEDULED (center closed) 😒

  • May 4th, 2021

    Driving test appointment #3

    RESCHEDULED (test instructor couldn’t make it) 😒

  • June 22nd, 2021

    Driving test appointment #4

    PASSED βœ…

As I mentioned above, I had one year to get my license after moving in July 2019, but due to COVID-19, all testing centers were closed for a full 4 months of that year. Even if I had started the process right away, there would have been little chance of completing it while also moving and getting settled, and starting a new job in the first eight months.

In order to get a UK driver’s license, you need to complete a theory test and a driving test, both of which are notoriously difficult (the pass/fail rate on each is about 50% for first-time takers I hear).

The theory test consists of a segment with multiple choice questions and a segment that is interactive and tests your ability to recognize and react to road dangers. The first part was a pain in the ass and harder than you might think. The best resources I found were the DVSA Highway Code book and the app that allows you to take mock quizzes.

The driving test consists of both self-directed and guided driving segments, one or more manoeuvres (parallel or bay parking, etc) and “show me/tell me” questions like how would you check your power steering is working, how would you check oil levels (under the hood), how would you turn on your fog lights, etc. I had to wait six months to sit this test due to COVID-19, and I opted to take some lessons from a local driving instructor (Stuart from LDC) in the lead-up to my appointment, which I highly recommend. I’m pretty confident I would not have passed on my first time had I not done this.

Because I a) work from home and b) have a lovely wife that can drive I didn’t realize how much I missed being able to run around in the car by myself until I could again.

Now, time to find some places to go. πŸš—

3 responses

  1. Wow, that long waiting time must have been terrible! But I’m glad you got it! My driving license is my biggest prized possession and I love driving (even though driving here in Bangladesh is more stressful than fun, even in highways).

    I heard there are good road trip destinations in the UK so maybe I’ll visit there someday. My bucket list has ‘driving in other countries’ in it and so far I’ve only driven in Thailand, the US, and a little bit in India. πŸ˜€

    1. I’ve only driven in a few countries (US, Barbados, and UK I think? πŸ€”). The UK is quite a different experience as the roads are super narrow, twisting, and everyone drives fast. It is a drivers dream in a lot of ways. πŸ˜‰

  2. Requirements seem a lot deeper than in the US. I have never seen the need to know how the vehicle operates (power steering) or what needs to be done to maintain it (check the oil). Like learning ;how to handle personal finances, this depth should probably also be required knowledge to have when a person is on their own and responsible for their own expenses and possessions. Also makes me wonder if there are big differences in requirements between states for getting a drivers/driving license. I doubt it because I think I did not have to take a test in TN to get my license because I already had a valid CA license but I think this east was not the same in moving from other states. Come to think of it, I guess here we only get a driver’s license and so only have to know “the rules of the road” so we can safely move our vehicles about on the streets and highways. A driving license perhaps implies that driving includes know how your vehicle operates as well as what’s required when one is actually doing that. Fascinating!

Comments welcome!