Do I Need A Licence For An Inflatable Kayak? Beginner’s Guide


The short answer is yes. If you want to enjoy the thrills of navigating your kayak in the UK, you need a licence. 

But how much does it cost and why do you need it? 

We’ll answer all your questions below so that you can worry less and kayak more.

When Do I Need To Buy A Kayak Licence?

Luckily, you don’t need a kayak licence for the sea, but that means you’ll only be allowed to use your no-licence kayak at sea.

However, you need to purchase a licence to have access to the canals and rivers in the UK. The “Canals and River” licence offers you a lot of options depending on your kayak length, type of kayak, and the period you need it for.

If you want to explore UK’s over 5000 waterways that stretch on 2000+ miles, it’s an investment worth making.

How Much Is A Canoe / Kayak Licence?

The Canal River Trust Organization has the list of updated prices valid from April 1st 2020 to March 31st 2021.

Remember that your inflatable kayak is probably around 220-240 cm, which means you have to look at the below 5m boat length. The prices also differ between powered and unpowered boats. While most inflatable kayaks are non-powered, you may want a motor one. 

Here’s what you can expect:

Boat Length Canals and rivers Rivers only
12 mo 6 mo 3 mo 12 mo 6 mo 3 mo
Portable unpowered under 5m £55.05

£53.68 (pp)

Boats under 5.5 m £552.57

£538.75 (pp)











* Courtesy of The Canal River Trust Organization

Here are a few clarifications before moving on:

    • These prices are accurate starting from April 1st 2020, but they’ll probably change starting from April 1st 2021, so be sure to check here again.
    • The licence covers your access on British canals and rivers, plus access to water points. This licence doesn’t include extras such as windlasses that you can buy from boaters shops.


  • You can purchase short-term passes as well. For instance, the one-month pass is about £28 and it gives you unlimited access to the UK’s waterways for a month. Conversely, the 30-day explorer pass that costs about £38 can be used during 30 non-consecutive days. So, if you only go kayaking during the weekends, this is a good choice for you. Don’t forget the £18 one-week pass if you’re not sure whether you’ll stick to kayaking! 
  • The river-only options are cheaper, for both long-term and short-term passes. As such, one-month unlimited access for rivers is £17 and one-week unlimited river access costs £11.23.


Why Do I Need A Licence For My Inflatable Kayak?

You don’t just need a licence for your kayak because it’s the law. But remember that the UK has thousands of canals stretching on thousands of miles, and maintenance isn’t cheap.

Your licence fee ensures that everyone can enjoy access points and ramps, plus clean water. 

You can also add insurance to your licence if you want to stay protected against accidents. 

In Conclusion. Is There A Cheaper Way To Get My Kayak Licence?

Remember: if it looks like a boat and floats like a boat, it needs a boat licence.

The prices above are reasonable, but yes, there’s a cheaper way to enjoy the UK’s waterways. If you enrol in The British Canoeing Organisation, your annual fee drops to £45. 

This licence grants you more perks than simple access to the UK’s canals and river. As such, you get insurance, Paddler magazine subscription, plus you can take part in various competitions.

This option is profitable whether you need a long-term or a short-term kayaking licence.

So – what’s left? Just for you to have fun out there!