Do I Need a Licence for an Inflatable Kayak?


Written by David Myers

October 2, 2019
kayaking with doggo

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One of the most common questions we get is whether or not you need a license for an inflatable kayak in the UK. The answer to this question depends mainly on where and how you’re going to use your kayak.

Do I need a license to use my kayak in the sea?

No you do not. There’s no legal requirement to purchase a license if you’re going to use your kayak only in the sea. So if you’re on a strict budget then sea kayaking is probably the discipline you want to learn!

Do I need a license to use my kayak on a canal?

Yes. If you want to use your kayak in any of the canals in the UK then you must purchase ‘Canals and rivers’ license. The amount you pay depends on how often you’re going to be using the canals.

There are multiple options for you to pick from (price are accurate as of 02/10/2019)

  • 12 month pass – Costs £53.71 and allows unlimited use of canals and rivers.
  • 30 day explorer pass – Costs £37.44 and allows 30 days of use of canals and rivers. That is 30 days in 12 months, and doesn’t have to be 30 consecutive days. This is good if you’re a weekend warrior kayaker!
  • 1 month pass – Costs £28.08 and allows you one month of unlimited use of canals and rivers.
  • 1 week pass – Costs £18 and allows you one-month unlimited use of canals and rivers.

Do I need a license to use my Kayak in a river?

Yes. The above options also include river access, however, you also have the options below if you think you’re only going to be using your kayak on rivers:

  • 1 month – Costs £16.85 and gives you unlimited access to all the UK’s rivers for 1 month.
  • 1 week – Costs £11.23 and gives you unlimited access to all the UK’s rivers for 1 month.

Where can I buy the license?

You can purchase the license from the Canal and River Trusts website. Here is a direct link (

Why do I need to buy a license?

The Canal and River Trust is responsible for maintaining over 2,000 miles of canals and rivers. These rivers left to their own devices would soon become unusable if wasn’t for the constant maintenance performed by the Canal and River trust.

It’s for that reason that they require licenses from everyone who wants to use the rivers or canals. This includes canoes, kayaks, inflatable boats, narrowboats, paddleboards, and rowing boats.

If it floats, it needs a license!

Is there another way?

Yes, there is! For £45 a year you can become a member of British Canoeing ( and that membership will give you access to all the waterways as well as insurance, access to competitions, a subscription to Paddler magazine as well as a bunch of other nifty perks. We highly recommend this option.

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