How to get an international driving permit so you can always drive or rent a car when you are abroad. How to prepare the necessary documents and file.
It’s allowed to drive your own car while abroad if you have the proper documents. For the most part, all that you need besides your personal ID documents is an international driving permit, (literal translation of your domestic drivers license) that’s easy to obtain and that also allows you to drive or rent a car in a foreign location.
There are no driving tests involved since the permit is issued based on the national license you already own and you’ll only have to cover a small fee and provide the proper photos.
How to Get the Permit?
The permit is issued by an institution such as the International Drivers Association, and it takes about a week to produce it if you already have all the documents needed for it. You can get the permit online or you can visit the actual office and wait in line to complete the process faster.
The permit can only be issued if you have a valid driving license and you’ve completed the proper tests and training that are required to do so and have demonstrated a rigorous understanding of local driving rules. You’re also required to carry proof of identification with you if you want the permit to be considered valid. When abroad, that’s usually a passport.
Where does the Permit Apply?
The permit is valid in 150 countries all over the world. It comes in ten languages and covers most of the country you may visit as a tourist. China doesn’t recognize the permits and if you want to drive in China you’ll have to get local tourist permits.
Some countries also have bilateral treaties which allow their citizens to drive across the border with a national license. Canada and the US have such an arrangement for instance, and so do the US and Mexico. Russia also allows US citizens to drive up to a year with a national license only.
Who Can Use an International Permit?
You can drive with an international permit if you’re over 18 years old. Some countries allow their citizens to have a national license when they are younger than that but this doesn’t apply to an international permit and they won’t be allowed to get one even if they can drive in their own country.
The permit can also be used only for driving a personal vehicle. You can’t use it to drive a bus or a truck and those would require you to have a separate license.
What Happens If You Don’t Have The Permit?
It’s required by law to have a permit with you while driving abroad. You’ll also need to have a national license with you and a passport to prove your identity. If you’re caught without any of those documents, you need to pay a fine.
In some cases, the fines can be rather strict and especially so if you’ve made some other traffic violation along the way. Some countries may even impound your car until the matter is resolved and you find the proper documents. It’s best to be careful about it and avoid the issue altogether. That way you won’t ruin your trip by having to deal with the traffic authorities.