Steps to learning to drive
Learning to drive and passing your test is an important personal achievement. However, many people are uncertain about how to get started with driving lessons and feel confused about the various steps involved in getting a licence.
This page aims to provide practical guidance and advice on learning to drive in Ireland. It includes information on the 4 key steps you will need to complete to get a full Irish driving licence.
The steps to learning to drive are:
- Pass the driver theory test
- Get a learner permit
- Practice driving
- Pass the driving test
Step 1: Pass the driver theory test
The first step to learning to drive in Ireland is to pass the driver theory test.
The theory test is a computer-based examination of motoring rules and practices appropriate to the category of vehicle (car, work vehicle, bus, truck, motorcycle or moped) you want to be licenced to drive.
The driver theory test checks your knowledge of:
- The rules of the road
- Risk perception
- Hazard awareness
- Safe driving behaviour
There are 3 things you must do to complete this step:
- Revise official RSA material. You should use the official revision materials to increase your chance of passing the test the first time. You can buy online learning subscriptions, books and CD-ROMs on the theory test website.
- Book a test. You can book and pay for your driver theory test online. You can take the test at centres throughout Ireland (pdf). The test is offered in Irish and in English and candidates with special needs are catered for. See the RSA driver theory test FAQ’s for more information.
- Provide appropriate ID. The RSA has published a list of acceptable forms of identification you must show on the day of your theory test to be able to take the exam. You will not be allowed to take your exam and you will lose your test fee if you do not have correct identification.
The following table outlines the cost of driver theory tests:
Driving licence category
|BW (car/tractor & work vehicles) or AM (motorcycle/moped)||€45|
|C (truck) or D (bus)||€72|
|C (truck) and D (bus) combined||€84|
A duplicate driver theory test certificate costs €15.
The fee for making an appeal is €15 which is refunded if successful.
Step 2: Get a learner permit
When you pass your theory test, you should apply to the NDLS for a learner permit. A learner permit allows you to learn to drive on public roads in Ireland and you must always have it with you when you are driving.
You cannot take driving lessons without a valid learner permit and, in most cases, you cannot take a driving test until you have had your first learner permit for at least 6 months.
How to apply
Before applying for a learner permit, you need to make sure you are eligible to learn to drive in Ireland and have the documentation you need. To apply for a learner permit for any vehicle, you must:
- Be normally resident in Ireland
- Meet the minimum age requirement
- Have a driver theory test pass certificate (dated within 2 years of issue)
You must also have passed an eye test for driving. You must submit a satisfactory eyesight report (dated within one month) with your first learner permit application. The eyesight report must be completed by a registered optometrist or medical practitioner. Read more on the NDLS website.
You can find out what other documentation you will need to apply on the NDLS website.
- New learner permit and renewal applications - €35
- Category added or removed - €35
A learner permit is not a full driving licence and you must keep to several important restrictions when driving on a learner permit in any type of vehicle. You must:
- Be accompanied when driving. If you hold a learner permit for a car, truck or bus, you must be accompanied and supervised at all times by a qualified driver. A qualified driver is a person who has held a full driving licence in the same category for a continuous period of 2 years. If you hold a learner permit for a motorcycle, you must complete your Initial Basic Training (IBT) before you can drive unsupervised (see ‘Practice Driving’ below for further information).
- Display L plates. Learner permit holders for all categories (except work vehicles) must display ‘L’ plates while they are driving. Learner permit holders for motorcycles must display ‘L’ plates on a yellow fluorescent vest that is clearly visible on the front and back of the driver’s body.
- Stay off motorways. As a learner permit holder, you are not permitted to drive on a motorway.
- Not tow trailers. Certain learner permit holders driving cars, trucks or buses must not tow a trailer. Read more about learner permits for trailers.
- Not carry passengers for payment. As a learner permit holder, you must not carry any passenger for payment or reward. If you hold a learner permit for a motorcycle, you cannot carry any passengers until you pass your test.
- Keep to disqualification thresholds. As a learner permit holder driving any type of vehicle, you must keep to a reduced drink driving limit and penalty point disqualification threshold.
Step 3: Practice driving
Under the RSA’s Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) scheme, you must complete compulsory lessons with an RSA Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) before you can take a test.
- If you hold a learner permit for a car, bus or truck, you must undergo Essential Driver Training (EDT)
- If you hold a learner permit for a motorcycle, you must complete Initial Basic Training (IBT)
However, these mandatory lessons alone will not prepare you for your test. RSA guidance (pdf) is clear that you should practice driving as much as possible on all types of roads and in all types of traffic situations with an ADI prior to arranging a test. You can access details of ADIs located across the country.
There is no set cost for EDT or IBT lessons and each driving instructor determines their own price. You should shop around and compare the prices and services offered by different ADIs to get the package that is best for you.
Essential Driver Training (EDT)
EDT is a training course that teaches fundamental driving skills to learner car drivers. The RSA has published detailed guidance on EDT (pdf). The course is made up of 12 individual 1 hour sessions.
At each EDT session, your ADI will check your learner permit and record the session with a stamp and signature in your official EDT logbook. You must produce your completed EDT logbook (pdf) on the day of the driving test.
You can also nominate a sponsor to accompany you during your EDT sessions. Your sponsor should be an experienced licence-holder who can support you in preparing for your test.
If you have a full driving licence from a country that does not have a licence exchange agreement with Ireland, you will only be required to complete 6 EDT sessions before taking the Irish driving test. The RSA have published a detailed handbook on Reduced EDT (pdf).
Initial Basic Training (IBT)
Once you have passed your theory test and obtained a motorcycle learner permit, you are not allowed to drive on a public road until you have completed your IBT.
IBT is a 16-hour mandatory training course, broken into 4 separate modules, that teaches basic riding skills to learner motorcyclists. IBT courses are only available at RSA approved IBT training centres and may only be delivered by RSA approved IBT instructors.
Step 4: Pass the driving test
Once you have completed your mandatory training and learnt how to drive safely and confidently, the next step is to apply for your driving test.
You can read about driver testing in Ireland.
How to apply
You can apply and pay for your test online at RSA.ie. You will need a debit or credit card and a valid email address.
Alternatively, you can download an application form for a driving test (pdf) and apply by post. You can also get a copy of the relevant form from your local Motor Tax Office.
Find out more about how to book a test.
The following table outlines the cost of a driving test for different categories of vehicle:
Category of Vehicle
|Categories A, A2, A1, B, BE, AM and W||€85|
|All other categories||€120|
|CPC Driving Test (Bus and Truck Category)||Part 1 - €120
Part 2 - €32
What does the test involve?
A driving test is designed to make sure that you:
- Know the Rules of the Road
- Possess the knowledge and skill to drive competently in accordance with those rules
- Drive with proper regard for the safety and convenience of other road users
The test lasts about 65 to 100 minutes, depending on traffic conditions and the vehicle category. At the beginning of the test, you will be asked technical questions about the rules of the road and the functionality of your car. You may also be asked to point out different parts under the bonnet, such as how to check oil levels, or which part is the engine.
You will then drive about 5 miles in a variety of road and traffic conditions and will be examined on your practical skills.
Getting your result
When you return to the test centre, your examiner will bring you back into the examination room to give you the result. If you pass, you will be given a Certificate of Competency, which is valid for 2 years. Once you have this certificate, you can apply for a full driving licence.
The following table outlines the cost of driving licence applications:
|New Driving Licences and Renewals||€55|
|Three Year Licence (Age or Medical Grounds)||€35|
|One Year Licence (Medical Grounds)||Free|
|Replacement or Duplicate Licence||€35|
|Exchange a Foreign Licence||€55|
If you fail your driving test, you will be given a detailed list of your mistakes. You will need to apply for a new test through the online customer portal MyRoadSafety. Once you’ve reapplied for your car driving test, you will automatically be sent another booking invitation 6 to 8 weeks after your failed test. If you are not satisfied with the results of your driving test, you can appeal.
To work as a professional truck or bus driver, you need a Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC). You can learn more about how to get a Driver CPC.
You can get more information from the RSA website. You can apply for your driving test online (see ‘How to apply’ above) or send your completed application form and fee to the Driver Testing Section of the RSA at the address below.