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Essential guide to international driving permits
iVisa | 11 min read | Updated on Nov 16, 2023

Who never dreamed about a road trip, whether traveling with friends or on a romantic getaway? Renting a car can be a fantastic way to explore a new country, visit hidden gem spots, and cover the itinerary at your own pace.

As you plan your next trip abroad, you may wonder if you need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive legally in your destination. This essential guide to International Driving Permits will help you understand what they are, why you may need one, and how to obtain one. Read on to make this dream trip a reality!

couple car driving

Introduction to the International Driving Permit

Traveling to a foreign country is an exciting adventure, but driving abroad requires some extra preparation. If you plan to operate a vehicle overseas, you may need to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP). An IDP is a helpful document that translates your driver's license into multiple languages, making it easier for foreign authorities to understand your credentials.

International Drive Permit: Definition and purpose

Simply put, an International Driving Permit is a document that acts as an official translation of your valid driver's license. Note that an IDP doesn’t replace your license but rather supplements it. This permit allows you to drive a motor vehicle legally in 174 countries.

This document contains your personal information, a passport-sized photo, and a translation of your driver’s license into ten languages recognized by the United Nations. When renting a car in a foreign country, you’ll usually have to present your International Driving Permit with other travel documents.

The IDP system reinforces road security, proving you can drive a car wherever you are.

Countries that require an International Driving Permit

Each country has its own traffic laws and rules and also driving license requirements. In many destinations, you’ll need an international driver’s permit to rent a vehicle in foreign car rental agencies, and in some others, you'll be able to use your national DP. All of the following countries accept the IDP for foreign nationals driving during a trip:

Afghanistan Germany North Korea
Albania Ghana North Macedonia (formerly Macedonia)
Algeria Greece Norway
Andorra Grenada Oman
Angola Guatemala Pakistan
Antigua and Barbuda Guinea Palau
Argentina Guinea-Bissau Palestine
Armenia Guyana Panama
Australia Haiti Papua New Guinea
Austria Honduras Paraguay
Azerbaijan Hungary Peru
Bahamas Iceland Philippines
Bahrain India Poland
Bangladesh Indonesia Portugal
Barbados Iran Qatar
Belarus Iraq Republic of the Congo
Belgium Ireland Romania
Belize Israel Russia
Benin Italy Rwanda
Bhutan Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire) Saint Kitts and Nevis
Bolivia Jamaica Saint Lucia
Bosnia and Herzegovina Japan Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Botswana Jordan Samoa
Brazil Kazakhstan San Marino
Brunei Kenya Sao Tome and Principe
Bulgaria Kiribati Saudi Arabia
Burkina Faso Kosovo Senegal
Burundi Kuwait Serbia
Cabo Verde Kyrgyzstan Seychelles
Cambodia Laos Sierra Leone
Cameroon Latvia Singapore
Canada Lebanon Slovakia
Central African Republic Lesotho Slovenia
Chad Liberia Solomon Islands
Chile Libya Somalia
China Liechtenstein South Africa
Colombia Lithuania South Korea
Comoros Luxembourg South Sudan
Costa Rica Madagascar Spain
Croatia Malawi Sri Lanka
Cuba Malaysia Sudan
Cyprus Maldives Suriname
Czech Republic Mali Sweden
Democratic Republic of the Congo Malta Switzerland
Denmark Marshall Islands Syria
Djibouti Mauritania Taiwan
Dominica Mauritius Tajikistan
Dominican Republic Mexico Tanzania
East Timor (Timor-Leste) Micronesia Thailand
Ecuador Moldova Togo
Egypt Monaco Tonga
El Salvador Mongolia Trinidad and Tobago
Equatorial Guinea Montenegro Tunisia
Eritrea Morocco Turkey
Estonia Mozambique Turkmenistan
Eswatini Myanmar (Burma) Tuvalu
Ethiopia Namibia Uganda
Fiji Nauru Ukraine
Finland Nepal United Arab Emirates (UAE)
France Netherlands United Kingdom (UK)
Gabon New Zealand United States of America (USA)
Gambia Nicaragua Uruguay
Georgia Niger Uzbekistan
Nigeria Vanuatu
Vatican City (Holy See)
Venezuela
Vietnam

You can check the exact requirements for each country on the International Driving Permit website.

Are you traveling to a country that isn’t on this list? Then you should consult the local regulations and how to get an international driving license for this destination. Just be cautious not to be a victim of international driver's license scams.

Differences between an International Driving Permit and a Driver's License

An International Driving Permit (IDP) and a Driver's License are different documents with distinct purposes. Here are the main differences between the two:

  • Validity: A valid driver's license is only recognized as an official document in the country where it was issued, while an IDP allows you to drive in multiple foreign countries. Be aware that your IDP is linked to your driver’s license, so if the local license expires, so will the IDP. So keep an eye on your driver's license issue date and your international driving permit issue date as well.

  • Language: An IDP contains a translation of your license into ten languages recognized by the United Nations. In contrast, a driver's license is only written in the language of the issuing country.

  • Requirements: In some countries, a driver's license alone may not be sufficient to legally operate a vehicle. In contrast, an IDP is specifically designed to meet international driving requirements.

  • Documentation: An IDP is a supplementary document that must be carried with your driver's license at all times while driving abroad. Your driver's license is your primary identification and should also be carried with you.

Limitations of a valid driver's license

As you can see, local authorities in foreign countries may not recognize your driver's license due to language barriers or other requirements. Otherwise, an IDP can help overcome some of these limitations and provide a universal form of documentation for international driving.

Advantages of an International Driving Permit in a foreign country

Getting an International Driving Permit (IDP) can offer many advantages when planning a road trip abroad. Here are some of the main benefits:

  • Legal driving: An IDP allows you to drive legally in many foreign countries that require it. This can be essential to avoid fines or legal problems!

  • Smooth car rental process: Many car rental companies in foreign countries require an IDP as part of their rental agreement, making the process smoother and quicker.

  • Easy communication with authorities: An IDP provides your driver's license translation into multiple languages recognized by the United Nations, making it easier to communicate with foreign authorities in case of an accident or traffic stop.

  • Flexibility: An IDP allows you to drive in multiple foreign countries, providing more flexibility when planning your road trip itinerary.

  • Peace of mind: With an IDP, you can rest assured that you have the proper documentation to legally operate a vehicle in foreign countries, which can provide peace of mind while on your road trip.

In conclusion, obtaining a valid license to drive abroad is a worthwhile investment if you plan a road trip. It can help you drive legally, communicate with foreign authorities, rent a car more easily, and provide peace of mind while traveling.

tahoe lake united states

How to get an International Driving Permit

You must meet some requirements to get an international driver's permit. The process may differ depending on your country, so it’s essential to check your country’s government division for transportation affairs or competent authority for further instructions on how to get an international driving license. You can learn the general requirements and procedures to apply for an International Driving Permit.

Eligibility criteria to apply for an International Driving Permit

To be eligible for an IDP, you must be at least 18 years old and possess a valid driver's license issued by your home country. Additionally, you must be a permanent resident or a citizen of the same country issuing the IDP. For example, if you apply from the US, you need a US driver's license and US resident permit or be an American. Remember that an IDP cannot be issued to a person with a suspended or revoked driver's license.

IDP application process

The application process for an IDP may vary depending on the country of issuance. However, in general, the following steps are typically required:

  • 1. Complete an application form: You can obtain an IDP application form from a local automobile association or online from the relevant authority in your home country. Be cautious about not purchasing a fake IDP online; search for a reputable service.

  • 2. Provide required documents: You must provide a photocopy of your driver's license, two passport photos, and payment for the IDP fee. If you need new passport-style photos, use our digital passport photo service for 100% government compliance.

  • 3. Submit the application: Submit the completed application form and required documents to the relevant authority or automobile association in your home country.

  • 4. Receive your IDP: If your application is approved, you will receive your IDP in the mail or can pick it up in person. Sometimes, you may also have access to a digital IDP with your driver information.

Required documents for an IDP application

To apply for an International Driving Permit, you will need the following documents:

  • A valid driver's license issued by your home country.

  • Two passport-sized photographs.

  • A completed IDP application form.

  • Payment for the IDP fee.

IDP fees and validity period

The International Driving Permit cost and its validity period can vary depending on the country of issuance. In the United States, the fee for an IDP is $20, and the document is valid for one year from the date of issuance. It is important to note that an IDP cannot be renewed, and you will need to apply for a new one once the current one has expired.

Benefits of having an International Driving Permit for frequent travelers

An International Driving Permit (IDP) can be valuable if you travel a lot. Have you ever considered substituting noisy and tribulate air trips for calm and fun road trips? Here are some of the benefits of having an IDP:

Convenience and Flexibility

An IDP allows you to drive in a foreign country without getting a separate driver's license. This can be especially useful if you plan to rent a car or use a car-sharing service during your travels. Additionally, an IDP is recognized in over 150 countries, making it a convenient and flexible option for frequent travelers.

Insurance coverage

Some rental car companies and car-sharing services require foreign visitor drivers to have an IDP and their regular driver's license. An IDP can also provide an additional layer of insurance coverage in case of an accident or other unforeseen circumstances.

Legal compliance

In some countries, an IDP is a legal requirement for foreign drivers. By having an IDP, you can ensure that you are legally compliant and avoid any potential legal issues while driving in a foreign country.

What to do if you lose your International Driving Permit

Losing your International Driving Permit (IDP) can be frustrating, but taking the necessary steps to replace it as soon as possible is essential. Read some instructions below.

Steps to take immediately after losing your IDP

If you lose your IDP, the first thing you should do is report it to the local authorities and get a police report. This can help you get a replacement IDP faster and protect against potential identity theft. Additionally, you should notify your home country's embassy or consulate in the country where the IDP was lost.

IDP replacement process

In most countries, to get a replacement IDP, you must follow the same application process as you did when you got the original IDP. This includes completing a valid form, providing the required documents, and paying the IDP fee.

Depending on the service you used to apply for your International Driving Permit, you can ask to re-print your document or issue a duplicate.

Cost and time frame to replace an IDP

The fees to replace your IDP can vary depending on the country of issuance. In the United States, the fee for a replacement IDP is $20. The time frame for receiving a replacement IDP can also vary, but it typically takes 2-3 weeks to receive the document in the mail in the US.

Arizona Grand Canyon

How to renew an International Driving Permit

If you are a frequent traveler and your International Driving Permit is nearing its expiration date, you may need to renew it. Here's what you need to know about renewing your IDP.

IDP renewal process

As with the previous processes, renewing an IDP may have different steps from country to country. Generally, it’ll be similar to getting a new IDP. Here are what you should do to renew your IDP:

  • Step 1: Contact the organization issuing your original IDP to confirm their renewal process.

  • Step 2: Complete the IDP application form.

  • Step 3: Provide the necessary documents, which may include your current driver's license, passport, and two passport-sized photos.

  • Step 4: Pay the IDP renewal fee.

Validity period and expiration date

The IDP validity depends on the country of issuance. In the United States, an IDP is valid for one year from the date of issue or until the expiration date of your driver's license, whichever comes first. It's important to note that an IDP cannot be renewed more than six months before its expiration date.

Should I apply for an International or Inter-American Driving Permit?

When traveling in North, Central, and South America, the Inter-American Driving Permit is also an option. However, it’s valid only on the American continent, so if you often travel to Europe, Asia, or Oceania countries, the International Driving Permit is a better choice.

You better check if the American country you’re traveling to is on the IDP list above. If it’s not, probably it’ll accept the Inter-American Driving Permit. It's best to check the local regulations before searching for car rentals.

Tips for safe and responsible driving with an International Driving Permit

Driving in a foreign country can be an exciting and adventurous experience, but it's important to understand the local traffic laws and regulations to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip. Here are some safety tips to check before picking up the car keys abroad:

Understanding local traffic laws and regulations

  • Research the traffic laws and regulations of the country you’ll be driving in before your trip.

  • Familiarize yourself with the local driving customs, including speed limits, traffic signs, and right-of-way rules.

  • Be aware of any specific requirements for driving in the country, such as carrying specific documents or equipment.

Road signs and markings

  • Learn the local road signs and markings, as they may differ from what you are used to in your home country.

  • Attention to signs indicating speed limits, no passing zones, and other important information.

  • Be aware of special road markings, such as pedestrian crossings or bicycle lanes.

Cultural differences in driving practices

  • Be aware of cultural differences in driving practices, such as driving on the opposite side of the road or different rules regarding passing and merging.

  • Stay alert and aware of your surroundings, as other drivers may sometimes follow different driving practices than you.

  • Respect the country’s driving customs, even if they differ from what you are used to. For example, you can’t go to the UK and keep driving on the right-hand side.

By understanding local traffic laws and regulations, being aware of road signs and markings, and respecting cultural differences in driving practices, you can enjoy a safe and responsible driving experience with your IDP.

So, is it worth getting an International Driving Permit?

In conclusion, an International Driving Permit is essential for safe and legal driving abroad. Ultimately, getting an IDP comes down to personal preference and travel plans. However, for those who plan on driving abroad or renting a car during their travels, an IDP is a small investment that can provide valuable benefits and peace of mind.

Getting other travel documents

Now that you know everything about the International Driving Permit, you can also check other travel documents you may need. Do you need a visa? Does your destination require a Health Declaration? We can help you with that! Use our Visa Checker Tool and get entry permits easily and quickly. We do the hard work for you so you can focus on your travel plans!

Disclaimer
  • iVisa is NOT affiliated with any government agency. This site does not provide legal advice and we are not a law firm. None of our customer service representatives are lawyers and they also do not provide legal advice. We are a private, internet-based travel and immigration consultancy provider dedicated to helping individuals travel around the world. You may apply by yourself directly on the various government websites. For government source information, please visit our product pages.

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