Do You Need An International Drivers Licence For Your Next Road Trip?

** This post was originally published in May 2015 but was updated in July 2019 to reflect accurate information. 

So you’ve planned an exciting road trip for while you’re abroad on your next trip. You’ve booked the car, planned the route and have already decided on car games to pass the time.

But is there something you’re forgetting?

Depending on what country you’re visiting, sometimes your current drivers licence isn’t considered valid for driving and you might need something a bit extra in order to rent a car and head out on your road trip.

Have you ever heard of an International Driving Permit? It may be critical to your next trip!

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What is an International Driving Permit

An International Driving Permit (we’re going to call them IDP’s in this post) is a special permit for tourists visiting another country, allowing you to drive internationally without further tests or applications, provided your driver’s licence is valid in your home country.

It is also a requirement for renting a car in many countries. These permits are accepted worldwide, in over 150 countries, as a recognisable form of identification and are officially sanctioned by the United Nations.

An IDP is a translation of your driver’s licence and must be carried with your domestic driver’s licence if you’re driving in a country where they are required.

To help you plan your trip, here are some of the things you need to think about when you’re planning a road trip overseas.

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Why do you need an International Driving Permit?

An IDP is a document that validates and translates your driving licence for foreign countries. They also entitle you to drive in all countries without needing any other documents or questions.

In many countries, your current drivers licence is not enough alone to drive in a foreign country, it must be carried along with an IDP.

It is also a requirement for renting a car in many countries and failure to have one can sometimes be a criminal or civil offence and can have serious consequences. It can also trigger an exclusion under your travel insurance policy if you’re claiming for loss caused while driving a car overseas. 

remote petrol station

How do International Driving Permits work?

An IDP carries your identification details in nine languages (including English, Spanish, Japanese, Greek, German, Arabic, Russian, Chinese and French) in case you need to communicate with foreign authorities who can’t read or understand your regular drivers licence.

It is valid for 12 months from the date of issue, unless your domestic drivers licence expires during this time. It is not a stand alone document, so you can’t just carry an IDP when you’re driving overseas. It must be carried alongside your regular drivers licence at all times.

An IDP can only be issued to people over the age of 18 with a valid Australian drivers licence. This includes P plates but you can’t get an IDP if you’re still on your learners permit. 

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international driving permit

Applying for an International Driving Permit

Where do you get an IDP: Depending on which state in Australia you live in will depend on where you get your IDP. Here’s a list of where you will need to visit for your state –

  • Victoria – RACV
  • New South Wales – NRMA
  • Queensland – RACQ
  • Western Australia – RAC
  • South Australia – RAA
  • Tasmania – RACT
  • Northern Territory – AANT

You can either apply online or visit your closest branch for any of the listed places above. Alternatively, you can also use the Australian Automobile Association website to apply for an IDP Australia wide.

Check out the AAA permit website to start your application process.

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Cost: A costs $42 AUD for an IDP Australia wide.

How to apply for an IDP: It’s simple to apply for an IDP, you can just fill in the online application form for your state and you’ll typically receive your IDP within 3 to 10 business days depending on your state.

If you’ve just realised at the last minute that you need an IDP you can also visit your closest RACV store (or the equivalent store in your state as listed above) where you can pick up a permit on the spot.

aerial photography

What countries do you need an International Driving Permit for?

It is recommended that you obtain an International Driving Permit if you’re planning to drive in any foreign country, especially if it not an English speaking country. It’s just a little bit of extra pre-caution and protection in the case that something goes wrong in translation.

Check out the IDP Directory on the AAA website to check the status of the country you’re travelling to and find out if an IDP is required.

IMPORTANT TIP: There are lots of websites offering fake or counterfeit IDP’s. These documents are forged and illegal and can get you in a lot of trouble if you’re not careful. In Australia, only the Australian Automobile Association and their State and Territory Motoring Clubs are authorised to issue IDPs.

For more information and everything you need to know about International Driving Permits, visit the Australian Automobile Association

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Emma is a travel photographer and blogger, living in Melbourne, Australia with her husband Thom in between adventures. She started Explore Shaw to share her experiences, travel tips and destination advice, and to inspire others to travel the world and their own backyard whenever they can.

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Just two twenty-something married Aussies, visiting as many places as we can in between normal life, and hoping to inspire and offer advice for your travel planning.

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