Learning to drive a manual car over here is becoming ridiculously complicated and trying to get the correct legal information is almost impossible; so much is open to personal interpretation. Try to see if you can follow:
I have a full, unrestricted NSW (Australian) driver’s licence that legally allows me to drive both manual and automatic cars – I just happened to learn in an automatic. In the UK, you need to specifically learn either automatic or manual – if you learnt to drive an auto you have to go back onto a provisional licence and pass a new driving test to drive a manual. However, as Australia is listed as a “designated country” my licence is valid in the UK. Hypothetically, if I’d learnt to drive a manual in Australia before coming to the UK there would be no problems, it’s just that I am trying to learn over here.
My driving instructor was sceptical about this apparent loophole; that I could learn to drive a manual in the UK and not have to take any driving tests. He called all of the relevant departments and they all gave him the same answer – nowhere does it say that I have to, so then I shouldn’t worry about it.
Today, I tried to rent a dual control car for a few hours so a friend could give me some lessons because I can’t afford to keep using a driving instructor. When I got to the rental office though they wouldn’t let me rent the car on my full valid licence because their insurance only lets them rent it to drivers on a UK provisional licence. They said that I could rent a normal manual car instead. How does that even make sense?!
And here comes the other complication: I then couldn’t rent a normal manual car because I’d been in the UK for more than 12 months and I’m meant to forfeit my NSW licence for a British one. I’ve looked it up on two slightly different UK Government Website pages. The first, about exchanging your licence for a British one, states: “You can exchange your driving licence up to 5 years after becoming resident in the UK so long as your licence remains valid.” The second page, for driving in Great Britain on a non-British licence, says: “You can drive in Great Britain on your full, valid driving licence for 12 months from when you became resident. You need to exchange your licence after 12 months – you have 5 years since you became resident to do this.”
So, what does that mean? I interpret that to say I should change my licence between one and five years after becoming a resident – unless my licence expires before then. Or does it mean that although I can still change my licence up to five years after I become a resident without having to do any tests, I can’t use my licence to drive after 12 months? WHY CAN’T IT JUST CLEARLY SAY THAT?!?!
I just don’t want to pay 50 quid to exchange my licence only to then have to pay another fee when I move back home. I actually have no idea what that fee would be because the NSW RTA website is even more confusing than the UK version. The fact I’m a dual citizen seems to complicate things further because I wouldn’t be a temporary visitor and I’ve already had a NSW licence. I’d be an Australian citizen with a British licence.
I’m trying to do things the right way, by checking the laws and learning in a dual control or with a certified instructor. Part of me just wants to give up on the whole malarkey.