How to Get a Provisional Driving Licence, aka Learner’s Permit, in Ireland

I remember when I got my learner’s permit at age 16 in the States. It was an exciting thing since where I lived you could take the written theory test at age 15 years and nine months then take the driving/road test when you were 16 years old. Now, many years later, I am going through the process again to be able to drive in Ireland. Though I possess a valid U.S. driver’s license, as a resident I need an Irish permit to drive here as there is no option to convert my American permit into an Irish one. “American citizens are permitted to drive with a U.S. driver’s license for the duration of a visit to Ireland; i.e., as long as their status is that of tourist and not resident. Once you decide to become resident in Ireland, regardless of how long you have been in the country, you must apply for an Irish driver’s license.” If you’re from an EU/EEA country, it might be possible for you to convert your permit, so pursue that using this form.
Night Traffic in Cork City
There are several steps in the process to earn an Irish driver’s permit and this doesn’t even consider the steps required to purchase/own a vehicle. Here are FAQs for your reference. Below, I’ve detailed the steps with details and links to make it simpler for you. Though steps 2 and 3 must be done in advance, in a pinch you can take care of steps 1, 4, 5, and 6 in one morning/day (though I recommend doing step 1 in advance as well).

1. Study the Official Study Book. We bought our copy at Eason’s for €17.99. It covers the Rules of the Road. The test questions are straight from the Official Study Book.

2. Locate A Test Site. If you are unfamiliar with the site location, look up directions in GoogleMaps or some other directional resource and leave ample time to get there on test day, taking bus schedules, traffic, or parking into consideration.

3. Schedule the Theory Test. Be sure your information is accurate when you schedule your test as this saves time when you check in on test day. As a driver of cars, you will be taking the test for Category B licence. If you do not have Internet access, you may schedule your test by phone or post, …but then again how could you be reading this blog? You provide payment details when you schedule the test so the cost is charged (€35.60) at the time of your appointment, unless you reschedule several days in advance.

4. Take the Theory Test. On test day, bring your confirmation printout and identification with you. Arrive at the test site at least 20 minutes before you’re scheduled so you can check in. Lockers are provided to place your personal belongings as mobile phones and the like are not permitted in the testing room. This also means you can bring your Study Book to fit in some last-minute reading then stow it with your handbag or jacket in a locker. Available lockers have the key in the lock, which you’d then take with you. The 40-question test is done entirely on a computer with a touch screen. You have a certain number you can answer incorrectly and still pass. I think it’s five.

5. Undergo and pass an eye test. This must be done within a specific time frame of when you will be applying for the Provisional Permit, so though you can schedule a time to receive an eye test on the day of your Theory Test, if you do not pass the Theory Test, you might as well postpone the eye exam. When you get the test done, provide the necessary information that this is for your learner’s permit so the doctor can complete the necessary form. It costs about €15 at SpecSavers.

6. Get your Provisional Permit. If you passed the Theory Test, what you have is a piece of paper saying you have proven your knowledge enough to get the Permit. Unlike in the States where the test is administered in the same location as the permit is issued, you need to go to the local Motor Tax Office to apply for the actual Provisional Permit. For your 1st Learners Permit, the fee is €15 and you need your eye test paperwork, pass paper from the Theory Test, passport, and two passport-style ID photographs. In terms of the photos, any photo booth will be of help for this. I strongly recommend that when you are having a good hair day and feeling pretty, just go to a photo booth and get official pics taken so you have them on-hand for such an occasion. To get to the Motor Tax Office in Cork City, take the #5 bus from Patrick’s Street in the direction of Cork Institute of Technology (CIT). Ask the driver when you get on if he goes to the Motor Tax Office on Model Farm Road to confirm and if he can stop by it as you don’t know where you are going. When I did this, I was rewarded with the driver stopping on the corner across from the Motor Tax Office even though there is no set bus stop there. The office is on the left side of the building and the queue is shorter in the mornings.

Those who wish to Apply for the Driving Licence be aware that the Road Safety Authority has announced nine additional measures to protect learner and inexperienced drivers. The biggest impact is always to our wallets, so you should know that All new first time learner permit holders with effect from 6th December 2010 for motorcycles and 4th April 2011 for cars will be required to undertake mandatory initial basic training (IBT) with an approved driving instructor (ADI). The course will be 16 hours for motorcycle and 12 hours for car licences.“ The cost of such would be around €300 according to the price comparison website,

Helpful links:

Embassy of the United States – Driving in Ireland


Driving licence in Ireland – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

YouTube Video – Driving in Ireland (Ring of Kerry).

Rick Steves’ Europe: Surviving Driving in Ireland

Visit Ireland – Planning Your Trip: Driving

Driving tests in Ireland-Information from – 6 Month Rule

13 thoughts on “How to Get a Provisional Driving Licence, aka Learner’s Permit, in Ireland

  1. There is also an official CD for windows computers which gives you randomly assorted official questions in an accurate test-like situation. It times you and tracks your results over time so you know when you are ready to take the test. Great information, and definitely ask the bus driver because mine let me off exactly where yours did, Evin!

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  4. Gary,
    Yes there is now a website called Driving Lesson Booker where you can search for and book driving lessons online. At the moment it only really covers Dublin and surrounding areas. Google driving lesson booker to find it.

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  6. So Erin – tell me how long did it take you to pass the final test? Being an American myself – I had been driving since 16 in America – so by the time I came to Ireland – I had been driving with a full license for about 22 years. It took my 4 times and a lot of money to pass the final test here ! Drove me nuts 🙂

    • Hi Lisa, I went to take the test and it was cancelled on account of bad weather so I have to reschedule. But with a new baby and the fact that I walk everywhere on a daily basis, I’ve not felt the push to take the test. It is frustrating to not have our country’s driving license standards recognized abroad on a residential level (they are accepted if you are a tourist just visiting, in case any of my other readers are worried about that). Pretty satisfying once you pass the final test though, isn’t it? Thanks for reading! – eVin

  7. Pingback: Transition from an American Driver’s License to an Irish Driving Permit | Slainté

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