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11 Feb 2019
Jamie Gibbs Jamie Gibbs

Everything you need to know about International Driving Permits

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Passport, International Driving Permit, tickets

If you’re thinking of driving abroad, make sure that you have the right documentation to drive there beforehand.

What is an international driving permit?

If you plan on driving abroad, chances are you’ll need an International Driving Permit – also known as an IDP.

In a nutshell, an IDP lets you drive in over 140 countries, including the USA. 

It’s used as a complement to your UK driving licence, not a replacement – so make sure you have both with you when you drive abroad.

The IDP translates your licence details into a number of languages. There are three different types of permit - the one you'll need will depend on the country you're driving in. 

Read more: No-deal Brexit warning for UK drivers

International driving permits and Brexit

On 29 March 2019, the UK will leave the European Union. In line with this, the rules around international driving permits will change.

If the UK leaves the EU without an exit deal, motorists travelling to Europe are urged to get an IDP.

Because different countries have different rules around driving permits, it's a little confusing as to what permit you'll need.

If you're travelling to the following EU countries, you'll need the newly-created 1968 IDP:

  • Austria

  • Belgium

  • Bulgaria

  • Croatia

  • Czech Republic

  • Denmark

  • Estonia

  • Finland

  • France

  • Germany

  • Greece

  • Hungary

  • Italy

  • Latvia

  • Lithuania

  • Luxembourg

  • Netherlands

  • Norway

  • Poland

  • Portugal

  • Romania

  • Slovakia

  • Slovenia

  • Sweden

These EU countries may require a 1949 IDP:

  • Cyprus

  • Iceland

  • Ireland

  • Malta

  • Spain

And you may need a 1926 IDP if you're driving through Liechtenstein.

As you can see, if you're travelling between countries eg from France to Spain, you'll need two separate permits.

Any country outside the EU may also require an IDP. You can see the full list of countries on GOV.UK.

If the country you're visiting isn't one of those that recognise the IDP, it's best to get in touch with the local embassy for specific rules on driving there.

Read more: A whistlestop guide to driving abroad

When do I need an IDP?

In some countries, it’s a legal requirement. In others it’s not compulsory, but car rental companies might not let you hire a car without one.

To make things easier all round, it’s probably worth your while getting an IDP, just in case. This isn’t a replacement for your driving licence, though – you’ll still need to have that with you at all times while driving abroad.

Note that a small selection of countries put restrictions on drivers, even with an IDP.

Once you have it, your international driving permit is valid for a full year. If you’re the sort of person who likes to be prepared, you can delay the start date of your IDP for up to three months.

Read more: A guide to holiday car hire

 Driving abroad

What happens if I drive without one?

Again, this will vary by country, but chances are you could be hit with a fine or have your car confiscated if you aren’t able to show a valid IDP with your driving licence.

If you’re in a hire car when this happens, then the hire car company is likely to charge you for the cost of releasing the car from the police.

Read more: Avoid these holiday motoring traps 

How can I apply for an IDP?

To be eligible for an International Driver’s Permit, you must:

  • be over 18 years of age

  • be a UK resident

  • have a valid, full UK driving licence

Be aware that, although the minimum age to get an IDP is 18, some countries insist that you must be over 21 to hire a car.

The IDP costs £5.50 and you can get one at your local Post Office – just make sure you bring along:

  • your driving licence

  • a passport-sized photo that you’ve signed on the back

  • another proof of ID e.g. your passport 

First published 7 May 2016

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