If you plan on driving in another country, you may need an international driving permit (IDP). Luckily, they’re easy to get, provided you meet the basic requirements.
Read on to find out why you might need an international driving licence and how to apply for one.
What is an international driving permit?
Sometimes referred to as an international driving licence, an international driving permit (IDP) is a translation of your local driving licence. It allows you to drive in countries that accept it. Some countries that require an IDP include the USA, India and Argentina. (You can get the full list here.)
You must travel with your domestic driving licence as well as your IDP.
- Certifies that you have a valid licence in your home country
- Helps local authorities read and understand your licence
- Shows what kinds of vehicles you are legally allowed to drive
- Helps keep everyone safe on the road, across the globe
It’s a grey document with white pages, in A6 size. It includes different languages as follows:
- The official language(s) of the issuing country (front cover)
- French (the last two pages)
- Other languages, which must include English, Russian, and Spanish (translation of the the first page of the French text that appears on the last two pages)
There are three types of international driving permits:
Each one gets its name from the year of the international convention it originated from, namely the 1926 Paris International Convention, the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic, and the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic. If a country is signed on to more than one agreement, the most recent one is the one to follow.
Before you apply for your ID, find out which type pertains to the country you’re travelling to, as there are different rules that apply. While the 1949 type is only valid for one year, for example, the 1968 version is valid for three years, provided the local driving licence it corresponds to is still valid.
Some countries, like Singapore and Saudi Arabia, require that you have an IDP for car hire. Others, like Estonia, Uganda, and Taiwan (among others), require you to have an IDP for longer stays. In the United States and South Africa, you will need to show an IDP for insurance purposes if you’re involved in an accident.
The only country that still recognises the 1926 agreement is Somalia.
If you’re planning to drive in more than one foreign country, there’s a chance you’ll need more than one type of IDP.
Is a UK driving licence valid internationally?
A UK driving licence is valid in some countries but not others. It all depends on the agreements your destination country has with the UK.
Some countries require you to get an IDP. If you do get an IDP, be sure to travel with your UK driving licence as well. The IDP will only be valid if it’s accompanied by the valid local licence that supports it.
A UK photocard driving licence allows you to drive in the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
Find out more about driving in and travelling to the EU here.
If you have a paper driving licence or one issued in the Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey, or Gibraltar, you may still need to get an IDP.
It’s really important to take these rules seriously — you’ve got to comply with the laws of the country you intend to drive in. If you get stopped and can’t produce a valid licence, you may get a fine or a citation, where you’ll have to appear in court. There’s also a chance that your vehicle could be seized.
How to get an international driving licence in the UK
The good news is that getting an IDP is simple and inexpensive. In fact, you can get one from your local post office on the same day you apply for it. This service is available to you if you hold a full valid Great Britain driving licence, even if you’re a foreign national in the UK.
We’ll take you through the steps.
How can I get an international drivers licence in UK?
First, make sure that you can tick these boxes.
- 18 years of age or older?
- Currently living in the UK?
- In possession of a valid full UK driving licence?
If you meet the requirements, follow these steps:
STEP #1: Check to see if you need an IDP
To do so, you’ll have to take into consideration where you’re travelling to and how long you’re staying. In some cases, like travelling within Europe for shorter periods, it’s not necessary to get an IDP. Many countries have different rules for longer stays. For example, you don’t need to get an IDP for Spain for the first six months of your stay there.
The post office provides this easy-to-use country checker tool that will help you figure out whether you need an IDP. All you need to do is enter the country you’ll be travelling to, and it will tell you if you need an IDP, what type and how long it will be valid for.
If you don’t need an IDP, it will tell you how long you can drive in your destination country with your UK licence.
STEP #2: Confirm which type of IDP you need
The post office checker tool will be able to tell you which type of IDP you need, too. You can also double-check it on the UK government website.
If you’re unsure, get in touch with the embassy of the country you’ll be visiting. Remember that different rules may apply depending on how many months you’re planning to drive for and if you’re hiring a car.
If you’re moving abroad, check to see what the regulations are in your new country. Some countries will allow you to exchange your UK driving licence for a local one without needing to take a driving test. Others will require you to take a test to ensure you understand the rules of the local roads.
STEP #3: If you need an IDP, all you need to do is head to your local post office
This is a super-simple process — you can get your IDP over the counter.
You can apply up to three months in advance of your trip. It’s important to note, however, that the post office won’t be able to backdate an IDP for you, so keep that in mind when deciding when to apply.
Take the following documents with you:
- Your full valid UK driving licence, whether it’s a photocard version or a paper licence.
- Your passport as proof of ID, if you have a paper licence.
- A recent, clear passport-size colour photo against a light grey or cream background. It should show a true likeness of your whole face, facing forward. Remove your glasses for the photo to prevent glare.
- Your application fee of £5.50. You can pay with cash or debit card.
If you’re unable to make the application yourself, someone else can do it on your behalf, provided they have all the supporting documents with them.
How long does it take to get an international driving licence?
The process is very quick. Provided you have all the correct documentation ready to go, it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to process over the counter at the post office.
To find your nearest branch, you can use the search tool on the post office’s website.
If you need to get in touch with the post office to ask questions about your application, you can use their online contact form or call them on 0345 722 3355.
If you plan on driving abroad, you may need to get an IDP.
- There are three types of IDPs: 1926, 1949, and 1968. The type you need depends on the country you’re travelling to.
- You can apply for an IDP at your local post office. It’s a simple, over-the-counter process and can generally be turned around while you wait.
- Different rules apply depending on factors like your length of stay and whether you’re hiring a car. To stay in compliance, do your homework before applying by using the post office checking tool and contacting the embassy of the country you’re visiting if you’re unsure.
- Be sure to travel with your IDP and your UK driving licence, as your IDP will only be valid if you have both documents.
And remember that having the right travel insurance is an important part of any trip — it helps to keep you and your family safe wherever you are. Happy travels!