Learning to drive

Introduction

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 obtaining a licence.

This document 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. These are:

  1. Pass the driver theory test
  2. Get a learner permit
  3. Practice driving
  4. Pass the driving test

Driver testing in Ireland is carried out by the Road Safety Authority (RSA). The National Driver Licencing Service (NDLS) is the body responsible for issuing learner permits and driver licences.

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 you wish to be licenced to drive.

The driver theory test checks your knowledge of:

  • The rules of the road
  • Risk perception
  • Eco-driving
  • Hazard awareness
  • Good driving behaviour

There are 3 things you must do to complete this step:

  1. Revise official RSA material. You should use the official revision materials to increase your chance of passing the test the first time. You can purchase learning portal subscriptions, books and CD-ROMs on the theory test website.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

You can read detailed information about what the theory test involves, how to book a test and how to prepare for it in our ‘Driver theory test’ document.

Cost

The cost of a driver theory test is:

  • 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.

Get a learner permit

Upon passing 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 require. To apply for a learner permit for any vehicle, you must:

To apply for your first learner permit, you must visit an NDLS centre. You can read guidance for the completion (pdf) of your learner permit application form, as well as a full list of acceptable documents, on the NDLS website.

Cost

New learner permit and renewal applications - €35

Category added or removed - €35

Rules

A learner permit is not a full driving licence and you must adhere 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 by your IBT instructor (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. 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.
  • Adhere to disqualification thresholds. As a learner permit holder driving any type of vehicle, you must adhere to a reduced drink driving limit and penalty point disqualification threshold.

Practice driving

Under the RSA’s Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) scheme, you are required to complete compulsory lessons with an RSA Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) before you can take a test.

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 (pdf) on EDT. 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 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.

You can read detailed information (pdf) about what IBT involves, including the full syllabus (pdf), and how to enrol on a course near you on the RSA’s dedicated webpage.

Pass the driving test

Once you have completed your mandatory training and learnt to drive safely and confidently, the next step is to apply for your driving test.

You can read detailed information about driver testing in Ireland in our Driving tests document.

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 obtain a copy of the relevant form from your local Motor Tax Office.

Find out more about how to book a test.

Cost

The following table outlines the cost of a driving test for different categories of vehicle:

Category of Vehicle Fee
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 30 to 40 minutes, depending on traffic conditions. 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 five miles in a variety of road and traffic conditions and will be examined on your practical skills.

The motorcycle test is similar to the test for cars and work vehicles. Read more about preparing for and taking a test.

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 two years. Once you have this certificate, you can apply for a full driving licence. The following table outlines the cost of driving licence applications:

Licence type Fee
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 should study the list and work on the mistakes before you sit another driving test. You will generally be unable to schedule a further test for a period of three weeks. 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.

Further information

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.

Road Safety Authority (RSA)

Moy Business Park
Primrose Hill
Ballina
Co Mayo
Ireland

Opening Hours: - Lines open Monday - Friday 8.30am - 5pm
Tel: 096 25800
Locall: 1890 406 040 (Note: rates charged for using lo-call numbers may vary
Fax: 096 25252

Page edited: 25 June 2020