Guidance

Run international bus or coach services and tours

What UK bus and coach operators need to do to provide services, tours, holidays and trips into Europe and other countries.

You can run 3 main types of international bus or coach services:

  • a regular service - this follows a timetable and picks up and drops passengers at fixed points on a specified route
  • a special regular service - this is a regular service that only carries specified types of passengers (for example, taking workers between home and work)
  • an occasional service - this covers all types of journeys not counted as a regular or special regular service (for example, one-off tourist trips)

How you apply and the fees you need to pay depend on:

  • which type of service you want to run
  • which countries you want to operate in

Apply for an operator licence

To transport passengers internationally by road, you need either a:

Register your vehicle trailers

You must register these types of trailers before you drive to or through most EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway:

  • commercial trailers weighing over 750kg
  • non-commercial trailers weighing over 3,500kg

Register your trailer to take it abroad.

Get approval to run a regular service or a special regular service

Regular services

A regular service follows a timetable and picks up and drops passengers at fixed points on a specified route.

It can take up to 6 months to get a regular service authorised.

Special regular services

A special regular service is a regular service which only carries specified types of passengers. For example, it might take workers between home and work. It’s not allowed to transport any other types of passengers.

Special regular services need to be authorised from 1 July 2021. It can take up to 6 months to get them authorised.

Where you can run regular services and special regular services

You can only run a regular service or special regular service from the UK to EU countries. You’re not allowed to travel through the EU to non-EU countries.

You cannot transport passengers between 2 stops within the EU, except on services operating between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Apply to run your regular service or special regular service

To apply, download and fill in the application form.

Apply to run a regular or special regular international bus or coach service

This file is in an OpenDocument format

This file may not be suitable for users of assistive technology.

Request an accessible format.
If you use assistive technology (such as a screen reader) and need a version of this document in a more accessible format, please email gov.uk.publishing@dvsa.gov.uk. Please tell us what format you need. It will help us if you say what assistive technology you use.

Send the completed form to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) with:

  • the application fee of £180 (this is non-refundable if your application is unsuccessful)
  • supporting information for your application

You can email your application and supporting information to DVSA if you’re paying by credit card.

DVSA International Road Haulage Permits Office
irhp@dvsa.gov.uk

Or you can send your application by post.

International Road Haulage Permit Office
Hillcrest House
386 Harehills Lane
Leeds
LS9 6NF

You need to send the following information with your application form:

  • the service timetable
  • fare scales
  • information about the type and volume of the service that you plan to provide
  • a map on an appropriate scale that shows the route and the stopping points where passengers are to be picked up and set down
  • a driving schedule so that driving and rest periods can be checked for compliance
  • a list of partners or sub-contractors (if there are any), with a copy of their operator licence
  • any extra information you think is relevant to support your application

If you’re applying as a consortium

If you want to act as a consortium with other operators to provide a pooled service, nominate one to apply on behalf of all the partners. They should be based in the country where the route begins or ends.

What happens next

  1. DVSA will ask each country on the service’s route to approve the application. Each country has 4 months to decide.

  2. The countries will tell DVSA if they’ve approved your application. If they do not give DVSA a decision within 4 months, they’re counted as having approved your application.

  3. DVSA will make a final decision on your application within 6 months of the date you sent it.

  4. If your application is approved, DVSA will ask you to pay the ‘grant charge’ - this is a fee for each year you want the service to run.

  5. Pay the grant charge and pay for certified copies of your authorisation for each vehicle.

  6. DVSA will send your authorisation and certified copies.

Pay the grant charge

The grant charge validates your authorisation for each year you want the service to run.

You can choose to validate the service for between 1 and 5 years. After 5 years, you need to renew your service and pay the application fees again.

You get one free copy of your service authorisation. You need to pay for each extra certified copy of your service authorisation you need. These must be carried in your vehicles.

Fee type Cost
Grant charge per year £38
Each certified copy of the service authorisation £13

Example You apply to run a regular service between London and Paris. You want the service to run for 5 years.

You pay the grant charge for 5 years (£38 multiplied by 5 = £190).

You need 10 copies of the service authorisation for your vehicles (£13 multiplied by 10 = £130).

You pay DVSA a total of £320 (£190 plus £130).

Getting your authorisation documents

DVSA will send you the service authorisation and certified copies when you’ve paid the grant charge and for the copies.

The service authorisation includes:

  • the authorisation pages, which give details of the service - it has a unique number on it
  • the timetable
  • the fare table
  • the drivers’ hours schedule
  • a map of the route
  • a list of subcontractors involved in running the service (if applicable)

Documents your driver needs to carry about the service

Your driver needs to carry copies of:

  • the regular service’s authorisation
  • the contract (or equivalent document) between you and the company providing any additional vehicles, if applicable

For special regular services, the driver also needs to carry copies of the contract between you and the service’s organiser.

Your driver also needs to carry other vehicle documents and driver documents.

What your passengers need

Your passengers need to have either an individual or collective valid travel ticket throughout the journey. This needs to show:

  • the departure and destination points, and where appropriate, the return journey
  • the period of validity of the ticket
  • the price of the transport

The tickets might need to be shown to authorised inspecting officers during the journey.

Make changes to your regular service or special regular service

How you make changes to your service depends on how big the change is.

Make small changes to departure times

Email DVSA if you want to change departure times for your service.

DVSA International Road Haulage Permits Office
irhp@dvsa.gov.uk

It’s free of charge to make these changes.

Add, change or remove a partner from the service

Email DVSA if you want to change add, change or remove a partner from the service.

DVSA International Road Haulage Permits Office
irhp@dvsa.gov.uk

You’ll need to pay for updated copies of the service authorisation. DVSA will tell you how to do this when you request the change.

Make a complete change to the services

You need to send a new application if you want to make a complete change to the service, for example, changing the start or end destination. You’ll have to pay all the application fees again.

You then need to send your old service’s authorisation documents back to DVSA.

International Road Haulage Permit Office
Hillcrest House
386 Harehills Lane
Leeds
LS9 6NF

Renew your regular service or special regular service

You should apply to renew your regular service or special regular service at least 6 months before your current authorisation expires.

To renew your service, follow the same process as you do to apply to start a new service.

Get documents to run occasional services

An occasional service is a service that is not classed as a regular service or a special regular service. It includes things like one-off tourist trips.

Where you can run occasional services

You can run occasional services in:

  • 36 countries who are part of an international agreement called the Interbus Agreement - it covers all EU countries and 9 non-EU countries
  • 8 other countries the UK has separate agreements with

Interbus countries

The Interbus Agreement covers all EU countries, Albania, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Moldova, North Macedonia, Turkey, Ukraine and the UK.

You’re not allowed to transport passengers between 2 points within the EU, except in Ireland.

Non-Interbus countries the UK has agreements with

The UK has agreements with Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Norway, Russia, Serbia and Switzerland.

Get documents to run your occasional service

You do not need to apply to run an occasional service, but you must buy a document to give the service’s details.

You need to buy either:

  • an ‘Interbus Journey Form’ for services in EU and other Interbus countries
  • a ‘Transit Journey Form’ for services on the island of Ireland, and services to non-Interbus countries the UK has agreements with

If you travel through EU countries to reach non-Interbus countries the UK has agreements with, you only need a Transit Journey Form.

You need to carry the document in the vehicle during the international journey.

You can buy the documents from the Confederation of Passenger Transport. You need a credit or debit card when you call.

Confederation of Passenger Transport
admin@cpt-uk.org
Telephone: 020 7240 3131
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm
Find out about call charges

It usually takes about one week to get the documents after you’ve ordered them.

How much the documents cost

Document Quantity Cost
Interbus Journey Form Book of 25 forms £19.20
Transit Journey Form Book of 25 forms £19.20

The price includes postage and VAT.

If your occasional service picks up passengers in Belarus or Russia

You need an extra permit to pick up passengers in Belarus or Russia. Email DVSA to apply.

DVSA International Road Haulage Permits Office
irhp@dvsa.gov.uk

You need to include:

  • the name and address of the operator
  • your public service vehicle operator licence number
  • the make of bus
  • the vehicle number plate (registration number)
  • the destination
  • the number of passengers
  • the departure date
  • the arrival date

The permits are free of charge.

Get the right vehicle documents

Your driver will need to carry the right vehicle documents with them during international journeys. These include:

  • vehicle registration documents
  • vehicle and trailer insurance documents
  • GB stickers
  • vehicle operator licences and permits

Check what vehicle documents your drivers need to carry during international journeys.

Make sure your driver is eligible to drive abroad

Your driver will need to carry the right documents about themselves with them during international journeys. These include:

  • a valid UK driving licence
  • a valid Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) card
  • a valid passport
  • an international driving permit (IDP) if they need one for the countries they’re travelling in
  • healthcare documents

Check what documents your driver needs to carry about themselves during international journeys.

Check local road rules

Contact the British Embassy in the country for advice on whether restrictions will apply to your route.

Check the road rules for European countries on the AA website.

Check travel advice for countries outside Europe.

What to do if your vehicle is involved in a road accident

Your drivers should contact their insurance provider if they’re involved in a road accident in an EU country.

Any legal proceedings against either the responsible driver or the insurance provider of the vehicle need to be brought in the EU country, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway, depending on where the accident happened. You might have to make your claim in the local language.

You may not get compensation in some countries if the accident is caused by an uninsured driver or if the driver cannot be traced.

Get legal advice if you need more information about this.

Published 20 January 2021
Last updated 20 January 2021 + show all updates
  1. Added the cost of Interbus Waybills and Journey Forms for occasional services and how long it takes to get them.

  2. First published.