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UK motorcycle licences: Can you ride abroad?

Jas Murphy November 26, 2020

Now that you’ve got a full motorcycle licence, you may be dreaming of a tour across borders. But before you jump on a ferry with your wheels, check out the licencing laws. Being legal to ride in the UK doesn’t necessarily mean you can ride elsewhere. As a general rule of thumb, only riders with full UK motorcycle licences to ride abroad can broaden their horizons on two wheels. You’ll have to stick with the power and weight ratios you adhere to at home when you take your motorcycle out of the UK.

Of course, different countries have different licencing laws. We’ll look at some of the favourite European rides in more detail in this blog. We’ll also cover general details of motorcycle licences to ride abroad or across America on two wheels. Ready for a world tour? Read on!

Preparing to ride a motorbike in Europe

It’s not just remembering which side of the road you need to keep to when riding in Europe (right), you also need to be aware of different road rules. You won’t need an international licence or permit to join a European ride, but insurance needs to be checked and other documents will be needed. Make sure you have your passport too!

As a general rule, if you have a full motorcycle licence, you’re good to go on European roads. A CBT won’t cut it abroad, only an A1, A2 or an A licence is acceptable on foreign roads.

The same power restrictions for those licences apply too, so don’t think you can hop across the channel to try out a higher-powered bike. You’ll need to carry your full motorcycle licence to ride abroad along with your insurance documents. You’ll need a European Health Insurance card and the original Vehicle Registration Certificate V5 for your bike too.

Different countries have different road rules and expectations of the kit you should be carrying when you’re riding. As with most things, it’s always wise to prepare before you go. Making sure you have the right motorcycle licences to ride abroad is part of that prep.

Riding a motorcycle in France, Germany or Spain

Europe offers a diverse landscape and some amazing roads. Whether you’re looking for breathtaking peaks, miles of flowing roads with little traffic, or refreshing coastal views, you’ll find it in Europe. There is no Europe-wide regulation of traffic rules or speeds. Each country has its own idiosyncrasies and traffic style. You’ll do well to do some research before you leave. Below are some details for three European countries close to the UK and their rules for riding on their roads.


France has mountains, plains and coastal regions that are great for exploring on a motorcycle. Both long and shorter tours here will take you through beautiful scenery. It’s one of the preferred countries for UK motorcyclists eager to explore further afield. It’s easy to get to and there’s plenty to see. Bikers need to have their headlights on during the day and children under five can be taken as pillion passengers as long as they have an approved seat and well-fitting helmet. Filtering is out, aside from the cities of Paris, Lille, Marseille, Bordeaux, and Lyon. It’s on trial in these places with a speed limit of 50km p/h. You’ll need to carry a high-visibility vest in case of an accident.


The changeable weather of Spain makes it advisable to pack waterproofs for a tour. Famous for its pilgrim’s routes, (usually) fine weather and fabulous mountains, Spain offers variety and a slightly warmer climate to home. Here you can avoid a traffic jam by filtering and only take pillion passengers aged 12 or older unless they’re your kids, in which case, 7 is the youngest. Of course, pillions need a helmet that fits properly too. Safety jackets must also be carried, like France and Germany.


Germany caters for motorcyclists interested in a comfortable cruise along winding rivers as well as those looking for an adrenaline rush in the mountains. Variety is one thing this country isn’t lacking when it comes to motorcycling. Similar to France, you’ll need to keep your headlight on in the daytime. There is no filtering and all motorcyclists should carry a safety jacket and first aid kit. Spare glasses or contact lenses must be carried by anyone who needs to wear them on the road.

Motorcycle riding in America

If you’ve dreamed of crossing the states on a motorbike, personally recreating the lone rider image of the movies, you’ll need to plan ahead. America is A LOT bigger than the UK, so take your time and try not to rush through the 4,000 miles between coasts.

It’s advisable to take your regular UK driving licence, motorcycle licence and an International Driving Permit. Other paperwork will include a tourist visa, passport and any motorbike hire documentation with insurance details too. It’s super easy to take your own motorbike though, so don’t think you’ll have to hire wheels. The road rules are quite different in the USA; it’s not simply a matter of riding on the right-hand side of the road. Make sure you’re aware of the differences to avoid being pulled over by the police.

The basics of motorcycle licences to ride abroad

Once you’re past the UK licencing stages of CBT and AM licences, you’re able to spread your wings a little. Get your supporting documents in order – insurance, vehicle registration details and a European Health Insurance card along with your passport. You’ll need to carry these with you wherever you ride in Europe. If you’re planning a trip to the US, you’ll need an international driving permit too.

Check the local road rules for where you’re heading. One of the joys of travelling is finding out the different ways people do things elsewhere. Road rules are part of that but you don’t want to be caught on the wrong side of the law.

The freedom of the road is yours in whichever country you’d like to explore by motorbike once you have your full motorcycle licence. If you’ve always wanted to ride off into a foreign sunset, or take a group tour, get in touch – we often organise motorcycling tours in Europe and would be happy to chat with you about what we have planned for 2020.


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