If you plan to drive abroad, you may need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to operate a vehicle legally. An IDP is a translation of your driver's licence and is recognised in over 150 countries.
Obtaining an IDP is a straightforward process without any background checks required. But it is crucial to understand the requirements and regulations of the country you plan to visit.
In this article, we will guide you through the steps to obtain an IDP, provide helpful tips for driving abroad, and explain why having an IDP can give you the confidence to easily explore new destinations.
What is an International Driving Permit?
An International Driving Permit (IDP) is a legal document the United Nations provides to allow you to drive in a country that requires more than just your national driving licence. It is a multi-language translation of your domestic driving one.
Note that its name is International Driving Permit, not Licence. The IDP allows police who pull you over to verify your identification information even if they don’t know English.
- An IDP is a translation document only valid when used alongside your current licence
- It’s not something that can completely replace your driver’s licence
- You must apply for an IDP from the country where you obtained your driver’s license.
Local driving licences may only be accepted in some countries. Photo by oceane2508 - stock.adobe.com
An IDP is only good for 1-3 years from the date of issue, and it requires that you hold a valid licence in your home country. You cannot use an IDP to drive in your native country lawfully.
When driving abroad, you must carry both your IDP and your national driving licence at all times. This ensures that you are legally allowed to operate a vehicle in a foreign country and have the necessary documentation to present to authorities if requested.
Tips: Have more questions? Head to the official website for more information now.
How is the IDP different from the Inter-American Driving Permit?
The Inter-American Driving Permit (IADP) document allows drivers from North, Central, and South America to drive a private motor vehicle in another country legally. Similar to IDP, it is only valid when accompanied by a valid licence from the home country.
Police officers may ask to examine your driver's permit when needed. Photo by Framestock - stock.adobe.com
How to get an international driver's permit?
If you are asking “How do I get a driver's permit?” you have come to the right place! In about five minutes of reading time, this article will walk you through each stage of the process and show you how it's done.
Step 1: Check the eligibility and prepare materials
Regardless of your nationality, a valid International Driving Permit requires the following:
- You must be at least 18 years old to rent a car worldwide; in some places, you must be at least 21.
- Your licence must also be valid for at least six months after the issuance date of your IDP, and you cannot apply if your licence has been suspended or revoked.
To apply for the permit, you must fill out an application form and submit it along with the following:
- Two identical colour passport-style photos.
- A signed copy of the front and back of your driving licence. You must provide your original, valid passport if presenting an outdated paper-based licence.
- An application fee (US: $20; UK: £5.50).
It's important to note that provisional licence holders cannot apply for an IDP.
Passports and other identity papers are essential to apply for the IDP. Photo by Gael Fontaine - Stock.adobe.com
Step 2: Determine which types of IDP are required
An IDP might be one of 3 distinct types (in the ordering of popularity):
- 1968 - The Vienna Convention on road traffic
- 1949 - The Geneva Convention
- 1926 - The Paris Convention.
The type of IDP you require will depend on the country you're visiting, so be clear about which one is needed. You can use the toolbar of Dovetail Consultancy or this comprehensive list to identify which kinds easily.
Step 3: Locate the nearest office offering the service
Getting a Triple-A international driver's licence is a simple process. And the quickest way to apply is by visiting your nearest Post Office branch that offers this service. Skip this step if you want to apply by email or mail.
If you are staying in the UK, the brand finder of the Post Office can come in handy. Or else, use this website to check a list of all the recognised institutions that can issue IDPs by the AIT/FIA.
US citizens can apply through the American Automobile Association (AAA). It is currently the only organisation the U.S. Department of State authorised to issue an international driver's licence.
For Canadian residents, you can apply for the IDP through the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) by downloading the CAA application and submitting it.
Which Countries Require An International Driver's Licence?
Most countries require an IDP for foreign drivers, including popular tourist destinations such as Japan, Brazil, and Turkey. And some others don’t. In this case, you can use the IDP Country Checker to see if the countries you travel to require it.
UK drivers do not need an IPD when driving in the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein. However, you may need one to drive outside of Europe or in certain EU countries. For instance, Cyprus, Belgium, Croatia, and Italy have reported that an IDP is still needed.
A driving permit can help improve road safety by ensuring that every driver is authorised to drive. Photo by LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS - stock.adobe.com
Some car rental agencies may also require an IDP for renting a car. Thus, it is always advisable to check with the car hire companies, car rental sites or the embassy of the country you are visiting to confirm the driving licence requirements. Moreover, there are exceptions.
Suppose you have a valid US driving licence or one written in English, for instance. You do not need an IDP in certain countries such as Ireland, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Canada, and Mexico.
If an IDP is required or recommended, you can apply by visiting a Post Office branch that offers this service.
Where To Apply For An International Drivers Licence?
The American Automobile Association (AAA) is the exclusive provider of international driver's licences (permits) in the United States.
In the UK, The Post Office offers instant IDPs that can be purchased without an appointment, as long as you acquired a full UK licence and are currently living in Great Britain.
In other countries, you can visit your nearest authorised vendor that offers the service to apply for an IDP. It's important to note that you must apply for an IDP in the same country that issued your national driving licence.
Note: Only one directory, internationaldrivingpermit.org, is approved by AIT/FIA for use by all organisations worldwide that issue IDPs. Beware of any unauthorised sellers claiming they can get you an IDP (likely a fake one).
When Do You Need An International Driver's Licence?
The need for an IDP depends on the country you plan to visit and your home country's driving licence requirements. Generally, an IDP is required in countries that do not recognise your home country's driving licence or have different driving rules and regulations.
Without one, travellers have reported being fined or forced to wait at the police station while their regular driver's licence is being verified. Applying for an IDP is easy and affordable, so why not do it to avoid any potential troubles?
Extra notes: Some driving routes will require more than one IDP. Thus, it is recommended that you check with the embassy or consulate of the country you plan to visit to determine whether you need an IDP.
For instance, to get from France to Cyprus (1949 IDP), you must travel through Sweden, Norway, Poland, and Monaco (1968 IDP).
Having this permit will give you peace of mind when driving abroad. Photo by rh2010 - stock.adobe.com
What If You Need To Rent A Car When Travelling Abroad?
If you plan to hire a vehicle abroad, you may need to obtain an IDP in addition to your existing driving licence. It's best to check with the rental company to confirm if an IDP is required.
Additionally, consider getting car hire excess insurance to protect yourself against charges for any damage to the rental vehicle. You can purchase excess protection for as little as £7 a day.
Since August 2021, UK drivers no longer require an insurance green card to drive their vehicles in the EU. However, it's always a good idea to check with your insurance company to ensure you have adequate coverage when driving abroad.
Additionally, depending on the country you are visiting, you may need specific equipment in your vehicle. For example, reflective jackets and warning triangles are mandatory in many countries. You may also need to purchase emission stickers or permits weeks before your trip.
For instance, as of September 28, 2021, vehicles registered in the UK must display the letters "UK" when driven in the EU. This national identifier can be incorporated into the vehicle's number plate or displayed as a separate sticker.
If your vehicle does not have the UK identifier on the number plate, you must obtain a UK sticker. The RAC offers breakdown cover for home and roadside assistance, providing complete peace of mind during your trip.
It's not worth taking any risks when behind the wheel in a foreign country. Do your homework and get ready ahead of time to have a driving experience that is both safe and trouble-free.
Tips For Driving With Confidence Abroad
It’s recommended to keep your passport, the IDP, and insurance details with you while driving. Photo by WavebreakmediaMicro - Stock.adobe.com
Driving in a foreign country can be intimidating. Besides acquiring an International Driving Permit, there are several tips you can follow to drive with confidence abroad:
- Familiarise yourself with local driving rules: Make sure you understand the local rules of the road, including speed limits, traffic signs, and signals. Take some time to research the driving laws and regulations of the country you'll be visiting before you leave.
- Plan your route in advance: Take some time to plan your route before you start driving. Use a GPS or map to familiarise yourself with the roads and highways you'll be travelling on. This can help you avoid getting lost and reduce stress while driving.
- Know the speed limits: It's important to be aware of the local speed limits, both rural and urban, and to drive safely within them. For instance, the speed limit on trunk roads in France is 80 kph, and on motorways, it is 130 kph (or 110 kph) in dry weather.
- Stay alert and focused: Driving in a foreign country can be tiring, so make sure to take breaks when you need them. Avoid driving for long periods of time without stopping, and stay alert and focused while you're on the road.
- Be prepared for emergencies: Make sure you have all the necessary documents, such as your passport, driver's licence, and insurance information, with you while driving. Keep emergency contact information and a first aid kit in your car, and make sure your phone is fully charged.
In the following paragraphs, you will find some helpful information about driving in the world's most visited countries. From understanding local driving laws and customs, these tips will help you make the most of your adventure on the road.
In France, in addition to the high visibility vest, you are also required to carry a warning triangle at all times. Photo by AUFORT Jérome - stock.adobe.com
- Carry a high-visibility vest for each passenger: To comply with French legislation, you must ensure that every passenger in your vehicle has a high-visibility vest in case of a breakdown or emergency.
- Always have a warning triangle: You must also keep a warning triangle in your vehicle at all times, in addition to the high visibility vest. You should double-check that your vehicle has one before setting out on the road, as it can serve as a useful signal to other motorists in the event of a breakdown.
- Carry a spare bulb kit: In case your car's lights ever stop working, the law in France requires you to have a spare bulb kit on hand. If you want to avoid paying a penalty, you should get a kit.
- Parking issues: Fear of parking is common in Spain, where drivers must get flexible to make the most of limited spaces. Keep an eye out for drivers who are more careless with their bumpers and who double park, and get the insurance that covers everything just in case.
- Plan the overtake: Utilise your turn signals and the left lane to get around slower traffic, but be aware that not all drivers are law-abiding. No turn signals are required for left or right-hand passes. Don't take it personally if a driver flashes their lights at you to let you know they're about to pass you.
- Stay away from the roundabouts: When possible, stay away from roundabouts, as they often get hectic due to traffic coming from both sides. Avoid them if you can, but if you must drive on one, only exit them from the outside lane.
The United States
Driving on the right in the US may take some getting used to if you usually drive left. Photo by DisobeyArt - stock.adobe.com
- Roads stay on the right-handed side: In the United States, motorists must stick to the right side of the road. It may take some time to adjust to driving on the right if you normally drive on the left.
- Cars with automatic transmissions: In the United States, the vast majority of vehicles have automatic transmissions.
- Right turns at red lights: In the US, it is permitted to make a right turn at a red traffic light, which can be confusing for drivers from countries where this is not allowed. It may take some time to get used to this rule, but it will become natural by the end of your road trip.
- Bring money for parking: Smaller lots and pay-and-display machines do not take credit cards. Make sure that you always have some coins on hand.
- Be aware of car thieves: Avoid leaving bags and coats in the car, as this can serve as an invitation for thieves. Make sure the boot is locked and the car is backed into a parking spot if you have to leave a lot of luggage in the car.
- Italian people are impatient: Be prepared to move as soon as the light turns green, as impatient Italian drivers are prone to honking.
- Different car fuels: To fuel your vehicle in Italy, choose either unleaded petrol or diesel. The colour of the pumps may be different from what you're used to in the United States, so keep that in mind.
Am I Required To Have An IDP In Foreign Countries?
No, it depends on the country you plan to visit. Some countries may require an International Driving Permit (IDP) in addition to your driver's license, but don't worry - it's an easy process to obtain one. By checking the driving laws and requirements of the country you plan to visit beforehand, you can ensure a smooth and hassle-free trip.
Drive responsibility to have the most fun times on the road. Photo by DisobeyArt - stock.adobe.com
Why Carry An IDP?
Carrying an IDP can be a great way to add extra convenience to your travels. It's a recognised form of identification in many countries, which means you can avoid potential language barriers or misunderstandings with law enforcement officials.
Plus, having an IDP in addition to your driver's license can help you feel more confident and prepared when driving in a foreign country.
How Do I Get An International Driving Permit In The USA?
Getting an International Driving Permit (IDP) is a simple and easy process!
Firstly, you should prepare a copy of your driver's license and two passport-sized photos. Then, you should visit any of the two authorised providers - the American Automobile Association (AAA) or the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA) to quickly obtain your IDP.
It's always exciting to have all your travel documentation in order, and having an IDP in hand will give you the confidence to hit the road and enjoy your travels to the fullest.
Is An International Driver's Licence Required In The Uk?
Yes, if you have a non-UK driving licence, you will need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in the UK. The IDP serves as a translation of your foreign licence into English and is required by law. However, if you have a driving licence issued in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, you do not need an IDP to drive in the UK.
Can I get an International Driving Permit online?
No, you cannot apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP) online. You need to apply in person at an authorised IDP vendor. However, you can usually download and print an application form from the website of the vendor or organisation that issues IDPs in your country. You can fill out the form ahead of time and bring it with you to the vendor's location to save time.
Crossing Borders with an International Driving Permit
In conclusion, if you're planning to drive in a foreign country, getting an International Driving Permit (IDP) is a smart move. It may seem like a hassle, but it's a small price to pay for the peace of mind that comes with knowing you're legally allowed to drive in a foreign country.
Don't let the fear of the unknown hold you back from exploring new places and experiencing new adventures behind the wheel. Get your IDP, hit the road, and enjoy the journey!