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Everything you need to know about International Driving Permits

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

Passport, International Driving Permit, tickets

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 your drive abroad.

The IDP translates your licence details into a number of languages 

 

When do I need an IDP?

While the UK is still a member of the European Union, you’re able to travel to any of these countries with your UK driver’s licence:

  • any other country within the EU

  • Iceland

  • Liechtenstein

  • Norway

  • Switzerland

If you want to hit the road outside of these areas, you’ll likely need to get 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 Driver’s 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.

Which countries require an IDP?

For quick reference, take a look at the map below to see which countries recognise International Driving Permits.

Remember that EU / EEA countries don't require an IDP, just your full UK driving licence.

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.

Full list of countries that recognise International Driving Permits.

Countries that recognise IDP

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.

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

You can also apply for one by post or, if you’re travelling abroad via the Eurotunnel, at Folkestone.

 
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