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Transport Options in Northern Ireland

Public transport in Northern Ireland is primarily operated by Translink, who manage most of our bus and rail network. If you are using public transport regularly, you may be able to save money by using a travel pass.

Different services operate under different names, for example:

Belfast is covered by Metro (pink buses) and Glider services (long purple ‘rapid transport’ buses)

Ulsterbus operates local bus and town services (blue/white buses)

Coach services between large towns are operated by Goldline (gold/blue/white buses)

Train services are operated by NI Railways and the Enterprise train from Belfast to Dublin is jointly operated by Translink and Irish Rail.

Reduced timetables are operated on weekends and on public holidays and access to public transport at night time is mainly limited to airport routes.

In addition, bus services between Derry/Londonderry and Belfast to Dublin, and to/from Belfast International and Dublin Airports are also offered by AirCoach. 

A range of private taxi providers operate across Northern Ireland, which offer a convenient but sometimes expensive transport option. In smaller towns and rural areas, access to taxis, particularly overnight, is limited, and it is best to pre-book where possible.

In Belfast, Value Cabs and FonaCab are the largest providers, and taxi ranks are also available; these are generally in the city centre or at some points of entry, and are London-style black cabs. It is also possible to user Uber in Belfast and the surrounding areas.

All legal taxis should display taxi license plates. Many taxis accept payment by card, but check with your driver beforehand.

Learning to drive

If you are paying someone to teach you to drive or ride, they must be registered with the Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA). Only Approved Driving Instructors (ADIs) and Approved Motorcycle Instructors (AMIs) can charge money for teaching you to drive or ride. You can confirm if an instructor is registered by asking to see their license which they should carry at all times. When learning to drive you must not drive unsupervised but instead should be accompanied by your instructor.

Try and choose an instructor who is: an approved driving instructor that is reliable, punctual and has a car that suits you. You should take advice from your Approved Driving Instructor on: how to prepare for your theory test, all aspects of driving, what books to read and when to take your test how to practice.

Completing the driving test – The process

The practical driving test includes an eyesight check, safety questions and about 40 minutes of driving which involves a section of independent driving. The following section contains all the information you’ll need to know.

Eyesight Check

The eyesight test requires you to read a number plate that is a certain distance away. If you fail this, your test will not continue. After you have passed the eyesight test you will be asked two vehicle safety check questions.

Vehicle Safety Questions

These are basic safety checks that a driver should carry out to make sure the vehicle is safe for use. Although some checks may involve the candidate opening the bonnet to identify where fluid levels would be checked, pupils will not be asked to touch a hot engine or physically check fluid levels. The examiner will ask you one ‘show me’ question, where you’ll have to show them how you would carry out a vehicle safety check. You’ll also be asked one ‘tell me’ question, where you’ll have to explain to the examiner how you would carry out the check. For example, the examiner might ask you to identify where the windscreen washer reservoir is and tell them how you would check the windscreen washer level. If you give the wrong answer for one or both questions, you’ll be marked with one driving fault.

During the Test

During the driving test the examiner will give you directions which you should follow. Test routes are designed to be as uniform as possible and will include a range of typical road and traffic conditions. The examiner will ask you to carry out set exercises. Throughout the test you should drive in the way your instructor has taught you. If you make a mistake, don’t worry about it, it might be a less serious driving fault and may not affect your result. You will then be examined on your general driving and on one reversing exercise. The reversing exercise will be chosen from reversing around a corner turning in the road or reverse parking, either on road or into a parking bay. You will also be asked to carry out an emergency stop exercise. The examiner will be looking for an overall safe standard of driving. You can make up to 15 driving faults and still pass the test (16 or more results in failure). However, if you commit one serious or dangerous fault you will fail the test. If at any time your examiner considers you to be a danger to other road users your test will be stopped.

Independent Driving

There will be a section where candidates will be asked to drive independently. For all other parts of the test, examiners will give candidates step-by-step instructions. In the independent driving section of the test, you’ll have to drive independently by either following traffic signs, a series of directions or a combination of both. To help you understand where you are going when following verbal directions, the examiner will show you a diagram.

After the Practical Test

When the driving test is over, you can call your instructor over (if they didn’t go with you on your test) so that they can hear the result and feedback with you. This feedback is beneficial for your ongoing development whether you have passed or failed.

Using an Interpreter

If required you may bring your own interpreter for your practical test as long as they are over 16 years of age. You will be responsible for arranging your interpreter and for any necessary fees.

Advice on Foreign Driving Licenses

If you currently hold a driving licence issued outside Northern Ireland, rules regarding how long you can drive on your existing licence, and whether you can transfer this directly for a Northern Ireland driving licence vary depending on the country it was issued in.

For the most up to date guidance on driving in Northern Ireland, including on driving cars registered overseas, we recommend you consult the NI Direct website.

Motor Insurance explained

You need motor insurance before you can drive your vehicle in a public place. It protects you, your vehicle and other motorists against liability in case there is an accident. It provides financial compensation to cover any injuries caused to people or their property.

Types of Car Insurance:

Third Party only

This cover is the legal requirement. This level of cover ensures that compensation is available for injury to other people (including your passengers) or damage to other peoples’ property resulting from an accident caused by you. It doesn’t cover any of your costs as the result of an accident. Most insurance companies offer additional levels of insurance cover that go beyond the legal requirement. The precise nature of cover will vary from company to company.

Third Party & Theft

This provides the same cover as third party only and also insures you should your vehicle be damaged by fire or stolen.


This provides the same cover as third party theft and fire. However, it also covers you should your vehicle be damaged in an accident. Many additions to this level of cover are available from insurance companies including:

providing a courtesy car while your car is being repaired, legal expenses, insurance to recover your uninsured losses (such as your excess) roadside recovery schemes vehicle repairs in case of breakdown.

What to do if you’re involved in an accident

If you have an accident that causes damage or injury to any other person, vehicle, animal or property, you must give both your own and the vehicle owner’s name and address, along with the registration number of the vehicle to anyone having reasonable grounds for requiring them. If you don’t give your details then you should report the accident to the police as soon as possible within 24 hours. You must also report the accident to your insurer, even if you’re not intending to make a claim.

Any accident with an uninsured driver should be reported to the police. You should also report any accident to your insurer, who’ll advise you further if there is any claim. Additionally, the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) ensures that compensation is available to the innocent victims of uninsured drivers or hit and run (untraced) drivers.

Registration and Car Tax

If you bring your vehicle with you from your home country, then you may do so for up to six months in any 12-month period provided that it is fully registered and tax paid in the country of registration. If you wish to keep your vehicle in the UK for over six months, you will need to register your vehicle in the UK by contacting the DVLA.

Buying a car – new or used

For most people, it is expensive to buy a car. Most garage dealers and traders are honest. But some are not and you need to be careful before you buy. What the law says: When you buy a car from a garage dealer or trader, your consumer rights are protected in law. The car must be as described, of satisfactory quality and fit for any stated purpose. If you buy at an auction you don’t have the same rights if the cars are ‘sold as seen’. Check the auction’s conditions of sale before you buy. These conditions must be displayed prominently at the auction or in the catalogue.

If you believe the vehicle history is genuine and want to buy: do not pay in cash, don’t rush into buying a car until you are 100 per cent sure buy from the registered owner’s address shown on the V5 logbook.

If you buy a used car from a private seller, you have fewer legal rights. Before you buy, make sure you inspect the car and know what you are buying, bring a car mechanic with you (for a fee, the RAC or the AA will examine the car for you), take a test drive if you have adequate insurance cover.

Northern Ireland has three major airports: Belfast International Airport (BFS), George Best Belfast City Airport (BHD), and City of Derry Airport (LDY)

Belfast International Airport is Northern Ireland’s largest airport, and the second largest on the island of Ireland. It offers a range of regional and international flights, primarily to tourist destinations, and most major UK airports. It is located approximately 30-40 minutes from Belfast by road - there are a number of bus and taxi options for connecting to Belfast City Centre.

Belfast City Airport is located approximately 5-10 minutes by road from Belfast City Centre. It offers services to a range of UK and European airports, and offers connecting flights to most major London / UK airports.

Dublin Airport (DUB) is the largest International Airport on the island of Ireland, offering a wide range of direct and connecting flights to many popular international destinations. As it is located in the Republic of Ireland, you may need to check Irish government visa requirements if arriving via Dublin.

For bus options to and from the above airports, you can check timetables on the Translink website. Additionally, a range of airport services are also offered by rival firm, AirCoach. 

Northern Ireland has a range of ferry routes offering direct connectivity by car to and from Great Britain, with sailings from Larne (County Antrim) to Cairnryan (Scotland), operated by P&O Ferries, and Belfast to Cairnryan (Scotland), or Liverpool (England), operated by StenaLine.

A number of Ferry companies also offer sailings to and from the Republic of Ireland to Great Britain and France. If arriving into a Port in the Republic of Ireland, you may need to check Irish government visa requirements.

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