An international driving permit (IDP) or international driving license is a document that allows you to drive private vehicles in countries that recognize IDPs. It translates your national driving license into various languages so you can show it when asked by police etc.
However, some countries require that drivers and motorcycle riders always carry their original driving license with them. Not a copy. The following are the most important things you need to know about an international driving license:
- You must have your regular driver’s license to be allowed to apply for an international permit. Either that or a certified translation of your national driving license. This is very rare, though, as it takes several months and costs quite some money. Some countries might allow you to use translations done by diplomatic or consular offices in some instances, but this is something you’ll have to check up on with the authorities in question.
- An international driving permit allows its bearer to drive vehicles covered by their regular national driving license. So if you got your car driving license in France for example, which only applies to cars weighing less than 7.5 tons, you cannot drive trucks weighing more than that with your IDP, even if it’s indicated on the permit.
- If you want to drive a motorcycle in any country using an international driving license, you need to specify that when applying for it unless it is stated on the document itself.
- Most countries do not require an international driving license for foreigners living there. However, some might ask for it nonetheless as a matter of policy or preference. Check out the local laws before getting behind the wheel of a car abroad!
- The validity period varies from one country to another and also depends on what type of vehicle you are going to drive. For example, in Canada and Barbados, IDPs are valid for only one year, while in Australia they are valid for 12 months.
- Applications must be submitted to the countries’ own national automobile association. Depending on which country you reside in and where you want your international permit to be issued, it will determine where you need to send your application form. This is why it’s important to contact the local authorities if you want more information about that or to know who exactly has the right contacts (you may not get a reply from embassies even though they handle such requests). Also, certain countries require an apostille (certification), which can take up several weeks depending on how much work there is at any given moment.
- Last but not least, when driving outside your home country, do always carry with you your national driving license plus the international permit. Make sure you have a valid passport with you too—in case you get stopped by the police. Do not forget too, read up on local traffic laws before hitting the road – or at least have a good phrasebook ready!
Which Countries Require an IDP?
This piece covers some of the countries where you may be required to have an IDP. We’ve tried to cover every country so if the one you wish to visit isn’t on this list, don’t hesitate to check the rules of that state or country to avoid rubbing shoulders with the law enforcers. Here are the countries that require an International Driver’s Permit:
- Czech Republic
- Hong Kong
- Japan (The International Driving Permit is accepted in lieu of a Japanese driver’s license for up to 60 days. For more extended stays you must get a full Japanese license )
- New Zealand
- Saudi Arabia
- South Africa
Note that the details are subject to change so please check with respective countries before applying for your IDP. The actual purpose of this document is to show you whether you really need one and, if yes, how they actually work and which countries accept them.
How can I get an International Driver’s License?
The rules for getting an international driving permit depend on which country issues it. Usually, people who live in Europe can get them very easily at their local automobile clubs (in Austria the “ÖAMTC,” in Germany the “ADAC,” etc.). Getting one for Americans or Australians is more difficult. They need to contact the corresponding organization in their home country. You can also use the International Drivers Association website to obtain it quickly and easily.
There are four different kinds of international driving permits, but they all work basically like this: You need two (or three) passport-sized photos, and you pay a fee (usually between 20 and €30). You then receive your permit by mail, which usually takes about one week. The rules for how long it is valid also differ from country to country. Most of the time, an IDP has a validity of one year only.
Do I need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to rent a car? Yes.
The International Driving Permit or IDP is basically a multi-language translation of your personal driver’s license. As mentioned above, for the IDP to be valid, it must be accompanied by your regular driving license.
Although in some countries you will be able to pick up the car with your original driver’s license without any problems, we 100% recommend that you obtain your IDP so that you do not have any unforeseen problems on your trip.
If you read the terms and conditions of any international car rental company, you will see that they all make reference to the IDP being mandatory.
What Happens if I Drive without an IDP?
First of all, in most countries, it is not allowed to drive with an IDP only. So the first step when you cross any border should be asking for your national driver’s license back and then using your international driving permit instead.
If you are stopped without a national driver’s license, you might get into trouble since everybody has to have one (however, there are few exceptions like Australia). But if the police forces find out that you don’t have an IDP, they can put you in jail or at least find you heavily until the moment when they see your national driver’s license!
The Bottom Line
On the whole, it seems that if you mainly stay in your home country, an international driver’s license can be a good alternative to your national one. However, if you don’t want to drive abroad, it might not be worth getting one at all: Getting stopped without national and IDP would probably mean big trouble, so better don’t risk it.
Opal Miyamoto is an American Freelance Essay Writer. She is not just friendly and communicative but also very open to new connections. She loves to cook, write, paint and of course, travel!