Driving abroad can be a fantastic adventure. Getting behind the wheel of your own vehicle when travelling offers an unbridled freedom and a unique opportunity to really explore your destination.

This is true whether you’re planning to rent a car for an epic road trip across foreign highways or simply considering bringing your car for an overland journey.  Having the freedom to explore at your own pace is incomparable and some of our best trips began modestly in car rental offices.

However, this freedom does come at a price and often requires a bit of bureaucratic legwork…

In this post we will look at why you should consider getting  an International Driving Permit (IDP). This article will give you a comprehensive overview of IDPs, helping you understand why you might need one and how to get it.

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What Is An International Driver’s Permit?

An International Driving Permit (IDP) is a document that permits you to drive a motor vehicle in a foreign country. It kind of acts as a supplement to your native driver’s licence. Maybe think of it as your driver’s licence translator, introducing your driving credentials to the local authorities, in their own language.

It is however crucial to understand that an IDP is not an international driver’s licence as such a thing doesn’t actually exist. Rather, the IDP is a permit that accompanies your native driver’s license, confirming that you do hold a valid license issued in your home country.

When travelling, you must always carry both your IDP and your national driver’s license if you intend to get behind the wheel. You may well be asked for it before you are allowed to rent a car abroad.

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Where Are They Valid?

International Driving Permits are currently accepted in over 150 countries worldwide, making them incredibly handy for international explorers who wish to rent a car or drive abroad.

We will not print a full list of these countries here but will say that it includes many countries across Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas.

Note that even if you have an International driver’s permit, it’s still always a good practice to confirm the driving requirements of your destination country before you travel in order to avoid annoying complications.

What Happens If I Don’t Have an IDP?

Venturing out without an IDP, in a country that requires one, can lead to a whole host of complications and problems. For instance, car rental companies may refuse service if you cannot present an IDP along with your native license.

Perhaps even worse, you may encounter legal issues once you get on the road if your papers are not quite in order.

In a run-in with local authorities, lacking an IDP could lead to delays, fines, or even arrest in extreme cases. Moreover, in the unfortunate event of an accident, the absence of an International Driver’s permit might complicate insurance matters, potentially leaving you with substantial repair bills to cover. Thus, securing an IDP is a prudent and sound step in your travel preparation.

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    How Do I Get an IDP?

    The process for obtaining an IDP varies depending on your native country. Typically, it requires filling out a form, submitting a couple of passport-style photos, a copy of your native driver’s licence, and a small fee.

    If the process seems daunting or time-consuming, there are service providers, like the International Drivers Association who can take the hassle out of the process for you. These are third party companies  that specialise in assisting applicants worldwide and helping them with acquiring these permits. Yes, they charge a fee for their services but can considerably streamline the application process and expedite the issuance.

    Furthermore, dealing with these companies often proves far less stressful and far more efficient than navigating through government bureaucracy (if you have ever had to call the DVLA in the UK, you know the pain of lost hours) They offer readily available customer support to answer your questions and provide guidance, ensuring a smoother, quicker path to your IDP.

    Do note that there is currently something of a rise in unethical companies targeting travelers and digital nomads in fake international drivers licence scams so do be sure to do due diligence.

    FAQs About Getting an International Driving Permit

    Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about getting an International Driving Permit.

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    Final Thoughts on International Driving Permits

    Navigating foreign roads can and should be an exhilarating part of your travel experience, not a source of stress. An International Driving Permit helps to pave the way for this, acting as an important tool in your international journey.

    By getting yourself an IDP, you will not only conform to international driving regulations but also arm yourself with a document that could prevent all manner of potential problematic hitches during your travel. From car rentals to run-ins with the local law enforcement, an IDP can save you from numerous complications.

    Whether you decide to handle the process yourself or engage a service provider, remember that bagging yourself an International Drivers Permit will only ever help to ensure a smooth and enjoyable drive on your overseas trip.

    See you on the road guys!


    And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!