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International driving permits: What you need to know

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An international driving permit (IDP) lets you drive in more than 140 countries, including the USA.

The IDP is used as a complement to your UK driving licence, not as a replacement. So make sure you have both with you when you drive abroad.

There are 3 different types of international driving permit, and if you’re planning to drive in multiple countries, you might need more than one international driving permit.

Here's what you need to know.

International Driving Permit with British Passport

You need an IDP when you're driving in or through certain countries. There are 3 types of IDP, depending on which particular piece of legislation the country follows:

  • 1926 IDP
  • 1949 IDP
  • 1968 IDP

Let's take a look at some of the most popular holiday destinations:

Country IDP requirements
Spain
You don't need an IDP if you're there for less than 6 months
Greece
You don't need an IDP
France
You don't need an IDP
Turkey
You need a 1968 IDP
Germany
You don't need an IDP if you're there for less than 6 months. But if you have a paper licence or a licence from the Isle of Man, you need a 1968 IDP.
USA
You need a 1949 IDP. If you have a paper licence, take another form of photo ID with you like your passport. If you're involved in an accident, you might need to show the IDP to your insurance company.
Italy
You don't need an IDP
United Arab Emirates (UAE)
You need a 1968 IDP
Portugal
You don't need an IDP if you're staying for less than 6 months
Ireland
You don't need an IDP if you're there for less than 12 months

You can find the full list of countries and their IDP requirements at GOV.UK.

Remember, the IDP isn't meant to replace your driving licence or car insurance policy. You still need to make sure your car insurance covers you to drive abroad.

What our motor insurance expert says

"Before you drive abroad, check your car insurance policy documents to make sure you have cover for driving abroad. Many insurers offer up to 30 days' third-party cover to drive in Europe, and you can usually upgrade this at an extra cost.

"If you're driving outside the EU, you may also need a green card as proof of insurance. Check the Foreign, Commonwealth Development Office before you travel."

When might I not need an international driving permit?

In some countries it’s not compulsory to get an international driver's licence. But most hire car companies require it, so if you're hiring a car it's better to get one anyway.

So long as you have a photocard driver's licence, you don't need an IDP to travel in:

  • The EU
  • Switzerland
  • Norway
  • Iceland
  • Liechtenstein

Many of these countries let you drive without an IDP for a certain period of time. This is usually 6 months.

You can’t apply for an IDP online. To get an IDP you need to apply in person at the Post Office.

You must:

  • Be at least 18 years old - but some countries insist that you must be over 21 to hire a car
  • Be a UK resident
  • Have a valid, full UK driving licence

When you go to the Post Office, make sure you take with you:

  • Your full driving licence
  • A passport-sized photo that you’ve signed on the back
  • If you have a paper licence , your passport as a form of ID

The IDP costs £5.50.

How long does an international driving permit last?

This depends on which IDP you get:

  • 1926 IDPs last for 1 year
  • 1949 IDPs last for 1 year
  • 1968 IDPs last for 3 years

The consequences depend on the country. But if you're caught driving without a valid IDP, you could:

  • Be given a fine
  • Have your car confiscated
  • If you’re in a hire car, the hire car company is likely to charge you for the cost of releasing the car from the police

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