Driving abroad? Check out the rules and apply for an International Driving Permit
If you’re driving abroad, it’s often the case that being the proud owner of a full UK driving licence covers you from a purely legal point of view. However even in those countries where that does hold true, a UK licence printed in English is not going to be much help when you’re explaining to an irate traffic cop that you didn’t notice the speed limit, or misunderstood a no-entry sign.
That’s where the International Driving Permit (IDP) comes in. It’s issued by the authorities here in the UK, but printed in multiple languages to ensure that anyone who needs to see your driving licence abroad is able to understand it. This may be police or enforcement officers, but hopefully it’s much more likely to be an agent at a car hire desk.
Some countries do make it a legal requirement to carry and International Driving Permit, so in those cases it becomes a sort of de facto international drivers licence (or international license as our American friends would have it) as you can be in trouble if you drive without it. In other countries carrying your IDP is voluntary, but it’s definitely worth having up your sleeve for the reasons mentioned above. In particular, it’s occasionally the case that foreign car rental firms will refuse a hirer who can’t show an IDP, even if it’s not actually a legal requirement to have one.
This online guide will help you determine whether an IDP is necessary on your foreign travels, and will also steer you in the right direction when it’s time to apply.
At the moment (and pre-Brexit!), there’s no legal requirement for UK licenced drivers to apply for an International Driving Permit when driving in France or in any other EU country, though it is recommended in certain countries including Italy and Portugal.
•Driving in France
For those drivers heading beyond the EU borders, it’s vital that you check whether an IDP is needed, as driving abroad without a valid licence is not only illegal, but could have implications for insurance.
What is an International Driving Permit
Don’t worry, you won’t be expected to take another driving test, as the IDP is essentially a translated copy of your UK-issued driving licence. It means foreign officials are able to quickly check your credentials without delay. Do remember to keep your driving licence with you at all times, too, as the IDP is not valid on its own.
It’s always best to check with the relevant tourist offices or embassies to get the exact details of what you need to do, but to make things simple for you here’s a list of all the countries that require an International Driving Permit, or IDP. If you’re hiring a car, you should check with the firm you are using to see if they require a permit.
Where do you need an International Driving Permit?
It’s recommended to get an International Driving Permit if you intend to drive when visiting the countries with an asterix below.
Papua New Guinea
Sao Tome and Principe
Central African Republic
Congo (Democratic Republic of)
Congo (Republic of)
Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
Trinidad & Tobago
United Arab Emirates
• International Driving Permits are compulsory in countries highlighted in bold, they are recommended everywhere else.
• Note that for Brazil, Iraq and Somalia a different type of IDP is required.How to get an International Driving Permit.
How to get an International Driving Permit
To get hold of an IDP, you need to be a resident of Great Britain or Northern Ireland, be over 18 and have passed your driving test. It costs £5.50 and you can apply for one from the Post Office, the AA or the RAC. If you’re still unsure about the requirements for the country you wish to visit, these organisations should be able to give you some more personalised help, too.
Driving abroad: everything you need to know
- • Holiday car hire: scams, tips and how to get a great deal
- • Driving on the right: we take out left-hand drive test
- • European breakdown cover: top tips
- • International driving permit: do I need one?
- • Driving in France
- • Driving in Spain
- • Driving in Italy
- • Driving in the USA