Updated 2 years ago

Can expats drive in Scotland? Are they allowed to use their national driver's license or do they have to obtain a new one? Find out in this article.

If you are moving to Scotland, you will perhaps want to move around freely, without having to use public means of transport. Nationals of some countries are allowed to drive in Scotland with their original driver's license. Others may have to exchange their national driver's license against a Scottish one. In all cases, make sure to inquire with relating authorities in your home country before proceeding.

Vehicle import

If you intend to stay in Scotland for at least 12 months and you are bringing your car, you have to declare it at Her Majesty Revenue and Customs (HMRC) within 14 days following your arrival. Online registration services are available on the Notification of Vehicle Arrivals (NOVA) service website (see the useful links provided below). Beyond that period, penalty fees of £ 50 per day will apply.

To import your vehicle, you will have to:

  • pay value added tax (VAT) and other fees
  • submit it to a technical test so as to make sure that it complies with antipollution and safety norms
  • register it at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and pay relating tax fees
  • change its registration plate for a local one.

Speed limits

Scottish road signs are usually displayed in miles per hour. Note that a mile is equal to 1,60934 km/h. Where there is no speed limit sign, the national speed limit applies.

On the highway, you are expected to drive at a maximum of:

  • 70 MPH (112 km/h) by car, bus or minivan
  • 60 MPH (96 km/h) if your vehicle is towing a caravan or a trailer.

On fast lanes, you are expected to drive at a maximum of:

  • 70 MPH (112 km/h) by car
  • 60 MPH (96 km/h) if your vehicle is towing a caravan or a trailer or by bus, minivan, truck and minibus.

In the city, you are expected to drive at a maximum of:

  • 30 MPH (48 km/h). However, you are likely to find 20 MPH (32 km/h) signs around residential neighborhoods and near schools.

In outskirts, you are expected to drive at a maximum of:

  • 60 MPH (96 km/h) by car
  • 50 MPH (80 km/h) by bus, minibus, minivan and if your car is towing a trailer or caravan.


Liquid petroleum gas (LPG) is also known as Autogas.

Charging stations for electric vehicles are known as EVC.

Drinking and driving

In the United Kingdom in general, a maximum of 50 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood is allowed. In case of excess, heavy fines apply.

 Good to know:

Roads and bridges in Scotland are toll free.

On roundabouts, priority is given to cars coming from your right. You must commit around the roundabout when turning left.

In cities, bus lanes are reserved only for buses and taxis during certain hours of the day.

Wearing the seat belt is compulsory both for the driver and for each passenger, whether in the front seat or in the back seats.

Less than 12 years old children who are less than 135 cm long must be placed in an appropriate car seat.

It is prohibited to use your phone while driving. You are advised to be particularly cautious while driving with a hands-free kit.

Driver's license

You do not have to exchange your driver's license if yours is still valid and has been issued in the European Economic Area (EEA).

Foreign nationals who do not come from the EEA, for their part, are allowed to use their national driver's license for a maximum of 12 months. Beyond that period, they are required to exchange their driver's license against a local one at the DVLA.

Documents to be produced are the following:

  • a duly filled D1 form
  • all identity documents
  • fees of £ 50.

Nationals of some countries, on the other hand:

  • may have to be UK residents
  • produce a valid driver's license
  • produce their original driver's license to the DVLA.

 Useful links:

Expat.com – Cars and transportation in Scotland Forum 
Notification of Vehicle Arrivals (NOVA) service www.gov.uk/nova-log-in
Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency www.gov.uk/government/organisations/driver-and-vehicle-licensing-agency
Her Majesty Revenue and Customs – Vehicle registration www.gov.uk/vehicle-registration
Apply for your first provisional driving license www.gov.uk/apply-first-provisional-driving-licence

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.