Reading Time: 4 minutes

Photo by why kei on Unsplash

An international driving permit is a document allowing a person to drive abroad. It’s an easy document to obtain if you already have a national license. It takes about a week to get the permit delivered to your home if you’ve ordered it online and covered a small fee.

The permit can then be used and in some countries, you’ll need to have it with you if you plan on driving on your own. The document is also valid for long enough to cover most tourist and business trips.

Is it a Permit or a License?

The proper term is a “permit” but many use “license” informally. Technically speaking it’s your national license that allows you to drive since it’s the document that you get once you pass a driving test, and the permit isn’t valid without it.

If you notice that a document advertised to you is called a license – chances are that it’s not a valid document and you’re getting scammed. The use of the term in advertising is quite common, however.

Being able to Drive Abroad

The most important reason to get an international driver’s license is the fact that you need to have it in order to drive abroad. Countries require you to have a license and to show it to the proper authorities once they ask for it and therefore you shouldn’t even go on a trip abroad without one.

The permit also needs to be valid meaning that it hasn’t expired and that it’s issued by a legitimate institution. This also goes for the national permit. If it expires your international permit won’t be considered valid either. It’s also required to carry an ID document with you, and for foreigners, that’s usually a passport.

Renting a Car

Most if not all major rental agencies require you to have an international driving permit in order to get a car. The permit doesn’t address car insurance and you’ll probably need to pay for it separately and to have proof of doing so as well.

The amount you’ll have to pay for insurance on a rental car often depends on how you plan to use a car and how old you are. Higher rates are paid by younger drivers and for longer road trips as well.

Avoiding Penalties

There’s a penalty for those who can’t produce a proper permit when they are stopped by the traffic authorities. The best way to avoid those fines and penalties is by having the document with you at all times and being prepared if you’re ever pulled over. Having legal troubles while traveling abroad can make your whole trip more miserable and you don’t need that.

The penalties mostly come in the form of a fine but you can also have your vehicle impounded and in some rare cases you can even get deported for not having a permit with you.

It makes Communication with Authorities Easier

An international driving permit is translated into ten languages and has all the information about a driver written on it. In some countries, it will be enough to simply hand the permit to the officer and they’ll have all the information they need. This makes it easier to avoid confusion when you’re pulled over.

It’s especially important if you’re in a country where speaking English isn’t that common and you may have trouble explaining yourself. The languages used on an international permit are: English, Arabic, Russian, Japanese, Portuguese, Chinese, German, Spanish, and French. This will get you covered on most trips you may plan to take.

It’s Inexpensive

Getting an international driving permit is rather inexpensive and especially so when compared to the cost of obtaining most other documents needed for international travel. There’s only one fee that you have to cover and it’s usually around $20.

Additional expenses are also minor and they can include the cost of the photos you need to provide in order to produce the document and the cost of copying your national driving permit and the proper forms. That’s all that it takes to get a permit that lasts a year.

What The Permit isn’t?

The permit has its purpose but it’s not an ID document, and that’s something to keep in mind if you plan to use it as such. The document is only valid if you have an additional ID with it, that will prove your identity.

That can be a passport or a national ID depending on what country you’re visiting and what the local rules and regulations are. In some countries, tourists can be fined for not having proof of identification so don’t rely on the permit in that regard.

Limits of an International Permit

There are limits as to who can use an international permit and for what purpose. It can only be used by those who are over 18 years of age. This is true even when your country issues national licenses for those who are below that and if the country you’re visiting is.

It can also be used only for driving a personal vehicle only. You won’t be allowed to drive a truck or a bus with an international license. There’s a limit as to how heavy a personal vehicle can be and how many seats it has – and those requirements pretty much only cover ordinary passenger cars.

Traffic Laws and Regulations

Local traffic laws and regulations applicable to those with international driving permits. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with those laws before the trip and to make sure to follow them while driving abroad. Simply doing so will make the trip more pleasant and easier.

It’s also useful to observe the overall culture and attitude towards driving and behavior on the road. Following along with these isn’t mandatory but it helps keep you safe on the road and allows you to blend in and drive with peace of mind. If you ever do get stopped by the traffic authorities while abroad make sure to be respectful and courteous.

This content is a joint venture between our publication and our partner. We do not endorse any product or service in the article.