News The whats, hows and whys of international driver’s licences

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The whats, hows and whys of international driver’s licences

Whether you’re planning an epic road trip or you just want to get about a bit more easily on holiday, if you’re driving overseas you may need an international driver’s licence.

The process for getting one is quick and easy, especially if you apply in Australia, and can make your travel experience a lot more straight forward.

What is an international driver’s licence?

An international driver’s licence, also known as an international driving permit (IDP), is a globally-recognised document that essentially translates your Australian driving licence into nine languages. These are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Greek, Japanese, Russian and Spanish.

This UN-sanctioned document allows you to drive overseas without having to take extra tests. You can also use it as ID in other situations, such as in a bar. In some countries, it’s a legal requirement to have an IDP if you are going to drive there. In others, you’re required to you have an IDP alongside your regular licence if you want to hire a car.

An IDP is valid for 12 months (so long as your domestic licence is valid in that time) from approval. It’s a lot easier to get your licence in Australia than it is while you’re travelling.

If you are overseas, or you don’t realise until you’re overseas that you want to drive, you need to post your application back to Australia with your photos and scans of your driving licence. Application time varies depending on where in the world you are, but it is longer than the standard eight-day turnaround.

If you end up driving in a country that requires an IDP but you risk it without one, you could find yourself in financial strife. If you end up in an accident, it’s unlikely that you’ll be covered by your travel insurance – which means you may face a hefty bill for damages and hospital care.

Which countries require an international driver’s licence?

More than 150 countries recognise the international driving permit, making it a very useful travel tool wherever you go. Remember too that in many places that it’s a legal requirement if you’re going to drive.

According to car insurance provided RACV, for most travel destinations it’s recommended, required, or not required to have an IDP.

Some of the most common countries where you’re not required to have one include New Zealand, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

However, you definitely need one if you want to drive in countries like France, India, Japan and Spain.

For some other countries, like Canada, Germany and the USA, it’s highly recommended that you have one. This can help with insurance and car hire purposes.

In some countries, however, you need to do things a bit differently. In Vietnam, for example, you need to get a temporary Vietnamese driving licence. This test includes a test in the local language. To get one of these, you’ll need to apply in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City.

To find out more about whether you need an IDP you have two main options. Please visit the Australian Automobile Association’s website or the RACV website.

Where can you get an international driver’s licence?

To get an international driver’s licence, you can apply online or in person at an Australian Automobile Association club. As of August 2019, the application costs $42 and can take up to eight business days to complete. This can be quicker if you apply in person at one of these AAA member clubs.

You will require a recent passport-style photo and a current driving licence (L platers are not eligible).

You can apply online using the International Driving Permits website or through the AAA site.

Information correct as of 12 August 2019. All prices and figures taken from specific websites, such as the AAA and IDP sites linked to within the text. Please check prices with processing times before making an application.

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