Do I need an international drivers licence or permit?

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Do you remember the moment when you got your driver’s licence? The freedom of being able to go wherever you want, whenever you want is a totally liberating feeling (assuming you have a vehicle, of course)!

So liberating, that when you go overseas to explore a new country, you probably want that ability to drive – even if it’s on the other side of the road! This leaves many travellers wondering if they need a special international driver’s licence or not.

Do I need a licence to drive overseas?

Wherever you are, you definitely need a driver’s licence to operate a vehicle, however, you usually don’t have to apply for a new licence in the country you’re visiting. In most countries, your licence from home will work. No matter where you are, you must be authorised for the vehicle you are trying to drive.

It’s always best to double check before you leave, as there are some countries that do require you to get a locally issued licence like Vietnam and Laos. For these countries, you’ll need to do a written test in the local language as well as take a driving test. Of course, this isn’t much help to visitors staying for a short time.

What is an international driving licence?

You can’t actually get an international driving licence; instead, it’s referred to as an international driving permit (IDP). You need an IDP plus your valid driver’s licence from Australia to drive a car or motorbike. The IDP can be issued by an associate member of the Australian Automobile Association (AAA) – you just have to make sure your IDP allows you to operate the vehicles you intend to use.

Photo credit Getty/Swissmediavision

It’s best policy to get an IDP before you go overseas, as most countries will require you to have one. You can check this list to find out if your final destination requires one.

Is it compulsory to have one?

In some cases, you only need to carry a translation of your licence in their language, like in Spain. Google Translate works, but it might be safer to get the translation notarised by a lawyer. At the end of the day, an IDP will be your safest bet.

Why would I need one?

There are many reasons why you need an IDP. If you want to drive around a new country at your leisure, then you’ll need an IDP to hire a car. Many rental companies will require you to have an IDP, and they won’t give you the keys until you provide them with one – especially in European countries.

Next, you need one to make any interaction with a police officer smoother than not having one. It’s a big time saver for everyone involved should you get pulled over. There are many places in the world that require you to have a form of ID on you at all times, and this is a bit safer than carrying a passport.

Where can I get one?

Like we mentioned earlier, you can get an IDP from anywhere that is an associate member of the Australian Automobile Association (AAA). However, you can also apply online at AAA’s website here.


TID is an Australian online travel insurance company.

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