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06 Jan 2021
Jamie Gibbs Jamie Gibbs

Everything you need to know about International Driving Permits

A British passport and International Driving Permit 

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

IDPs are different from green cards, which are used as proof of car insurance abroad.

READ MORE: Driving abroad - green cards


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Impact of Brexit on driving abroad

As of 1 January 2021, the UK’s transition out of the EU is finished.

If you have a photocard driving licence, you won’t need an IDP to travel to an EU country.

If you have a paper licence or are travelling to a non-EU country in Europe, you may need to get an IDP before you travel.

READ MORE: Travelling to Europe in 2021 and beyond


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 IDP 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.

To see the full list of countries where an IDP is a requirement, visit GOV.UK


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.


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.

At the moment you can't get an IDP online, but you can get one for £5.50 from 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.


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