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I've read that in the UK, in order to drive a manual transmission car, you must hold a driver's license that shows you took your test with a manual transmission.

I have a Canadian driving license (British Columbia). In BC there is no such restriction on transmission type, and therefore my license does not indicate that I can drive a manual transmission.

My wife and I will be vacationing in the UK next year and are planning to rent a car. I have driven a manual transmission for years and have no problem driving one, but will it be legal in the UK, or do I need to specifically rent a car with an automatic transmission?

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    I am curious if there are any other countries that have this distinction on their license (the transmission type). I have seen vehicle type and tonnage, and visual handicap, but never a transmission type. Odd. – Burhan Khalid Nov 6 '14 at 10:31
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    @BurhanKhalid: in many countries, DLs can have various restrictions (e.g. mine has "must wear glasses or contact lenses") and in some countries one of those is "automatic transmission only", and if you do your test in an automatic you will get this restriction. Usually in these jurisdictions, anyone who is capable will do their test with a manual transmission. South Africa is another example. – Max Nov 6 '14 at 11:00
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    @BurhanKhalid There is one in France, Germany, the Netherlands… – Relaxed Nov 6 '14 at 14:37
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    @BurhanKhalid Australian drivers licences from all states include a manual/auto type. Most people taking the driving test do so in a manual car, if you cannot pass with a manual licence, you can take the test in an automatic. – Bruce Chapman May 12 '15 at 7:20
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    Before they were standard equipment, my license was endorsed for mandatory outside (wing) mirrors, for eyesight reasons. Then they dropped it. – Andrew Lazarus Nov 5 '15 at 14:58
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Yes you can. Because a Canadian license permits you to drive manual transmission cars back home, it's taken as permission to drive one abroad. Since there isn't a specific 'manual transmission' license there is no other approach that could be taken.

I have rented manual cars in Britain many times on an Ontario license.

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    Same goes for U.S. driver's license! – Elad Nava Dec 4 '18 at 23:56
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I hired two manual cars from two separate UK rental places (Enterprise being one of them) in January 2015. No problems whatsoever. Insurance was very reasonable for a week each time. I've held my BC licence for the past twelve years. They did not ask about past claims, accidents or even whether I had driven a right-hand vehicle before. No restrictions on transmission type either.

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Yes, you can come as a visitor and present your Canadian driving licence and hire a car with manual transmission. If you were to stay twelve months, however, you would have to exchange your Canadian licence (note there is no exchange for US licences) and would then be granted only a UK licence to drive automatic vehicles unless you could prove that you had passed your test in Canada on a vehicle with manual transmission. This exchange of licences without further testing is a relatively recent concession for holders of licences from certain areas.
If, after a year, you wished to continue to drive vehicles with manual transmission, you would have to sit a UK driving test on a vehicle with manual transmission.

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  • Can you include some references to support this answer? – phoog Nov 12 '19 at 22:38
  • ‘Designated countries’ are: Andorra, Australia, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland and Zimbabwe. If you have a full driving licence from any of these there is a possibility of exchange, otherwise you have to sit another driving test once your period as a visitor expires. – John MacLeod Nov 20 '19 at 2:39
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You read correctly. A UK driving license differentiates between automatic and manual, and those with automatic licenses are not allowed to drive manuals.

I'm not sure about the conditions of Canadian licenses in the UK, however if you acquire an international driving permit then this distinction doesn't apply no matter which country you are from.

Also worth noting that generally you will pay the UK rental company more for an automatic version of the same car.

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    Careful, your wording sounds like you're saying they're correct and won't be able to use it, despite your middle paragraph saying 'not sure'. My NZ one doesn't differentiate and I had no problems with it in the UK, but this was a while back now. – Mark Mayo Nov 5 '14 at 22:27
  • To be specific, I said that they read correctly: "I've read that in the UK, in order to drive a manual transmission car, you must hold a driver's license that shows you took your test with a manual transmission." - This is correct. – user5043 Nov 6 '14 at 0:13
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    Yup, but their title question, coupled with your first sentence is just a bit confusing. I'm not saying you're wrong - your answer is correct, I just nearly downvoted and argued on my first couple of reads, until I grasped what you were addressing. The other upvotes on my comment seem to indicate others think so too :/ – Mark Mayo Nov 6 '14 at 0:15
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    To drive a manual transmission car, you need a license that allows you to drive a manual transmission car. In the UK you get that license by doing your test on manual transmission. In Canada, you apparently get it no matter what. Since UK accepts the Canadian license, and the Canadian license allows it, it is allowed. – gnasher729 Nov 7 '14 at 11:05
  • Too many people here are confused on the rules. * If you come to the UK as a short-term visitor, your existing licence (or International Driver's Permit, will allow you to drive a car with manual transmission for a period of up to 12 months – John MacLeod Jan 29 at 0:54

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