I am a UK citizen with a provisional UK license - I've learned to drive but failed the test the only time I attempted it.

Currently I am in Mexico and plan to stay on this side of the Atlantic for some months. I'd like to go to Costa Rica and other countries but it seems like getting to certain areas in them is very difficult if you don't rent a car.

Is it possible to apply for a driving license and take a driving test in any of the American countries, as a foreigner? Or, is it possible to rent a scooter without a full driving license?

  • 1
    Countries (or their constituent states, like the US and Canada) make drivers licenses available to residents. Each jurisdiction defines "resident" for itself, and I've never heard of a jurisdiction that will only let you apply for a license if you already have one from somewhere else. Still, I think you're unlikely to find a jurisdiction which will define you, a UK citizen, as one who can apply for a license. Jan 13, 2022 at 2:13
  • Pro-tip: Stay in hostels and make friends with people who do have drivers licenses and want to go the same places that you want to go to. Or learn to hitch-hike
    – Peter M
    Jan 13, 2022 at 4:13
  • If you failed the driving test in the UK, why do you think you could pass it in a foreign country with different driving rules? You probably aren't even allowed to take the test without a local provisional license. Jan 14, 2022 at 16:59
  • @DJClayworth Plenty of excellent drivers with a decade of experience and zero accidents have a chance to fail if they take the standard driving test, simply because the test has an inherent element of unfairness. I don't know if OP is a good driver or not, but failing the test once is not proof of them being a bad one.
    – JonathanReez
    Jan 14, 2022 at 20:13
  • You did not learn to drive if you failed the test. You failed to learn to drive at a basic level of competence. That's how the authorities (and insurance companies) view it. Don't convince yourself you are now able to drive anywhere. Jan 15, 2022 at 6:02

2 Answers 2


What driving license you'll need is going to vary from country to country - but taking Costa Rica as an example you wouldn't be able to drive even if you did manage to get a license on that side of the pond:

The driving licence requirements in Costa Rica state that you must have a full driving licence valid in your country of residence. It is recommended that you also have an international driver's licence.

  • The OP seems to want to make some sort of application incountry for a local drivers license.
    – Peter M
    Jan 13, 2022 at 15:42
  • @PeterM how I'd read it was that they were thinking of getting one where they are now (Mexico) and using that on their travels to other countries Jan 13, 2022 at 15:50
  • 1
    The OP says "take a driving test in any of the American countries". So not just Mexico. But your answer is still technically applies. No country is likely to issue a drivers license to a non-resident (cue arguments about licenses for undocumented peoples in various US states), hence the OP would need to use a license from their country of residence - of which they don't have.
    – Peter M
    Jan 13, 2022 at 16:03
  • @PeterM indeed.. and it also seems fairly common for car rentals to require the renter to have a license in their "country of residence" Jan 13, 2022 at 17:19
  • Isn't the country of residence for OP currently Mexico?
    – kiradotee
    Jan 16, 2022 at 5:57

Purely to indicate the kind of problems you will have, let me tell you how this would work if you decided to do this in Canada (specifically in Ontario, but the regulations are going to be similar in all provinces).

A provisional UK license gets you nothing. You are not legally allowed to drive at all with a provisional license, not even with someone else supervising you. You need a full license from your home country.

If you are not allowed to drive, then you are not allowed to take a driving test.

To take a test you are going to need to apply for a learners permit in the country where you want to take it. In Ontario this is a lengthy process involving multiple tests and months of practice. Other countries will be different, but it is unlikely you can just take a test without a full license from your home country.

  • This might be the case all over now, but I do remember people going on holidays abroad coming home with a fresh driving license, which then would be exchanged for a home license. They put a stop to those exchanges, not to the countries having very easy to get licenses.
    – Willeke
    Jan 14, 2022 at 17:32

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