What is an International Driving Permit?

Last updated by mustard.co.uk on April 20th, 2021

Alert: Some on the information on this page may no longer be relevant post-Brexit. For the most up to date information, please visit GOV.UK

If you’re planning a road trip, you might need an international driving permit (IDP), in addition to your UK driving licence. Or if you plan on hiring a car in a foreign country, you’ll need to check whether or not you need an IDP and if you do, it’s up to you to arrange one.

 — here’s what you need to know:

What is an International Driving Permit and do I need one?

An international driving permit (IDP) is essentially a translated version of your UK driving licence that’s recognised in more than 140 countries across the globe. 

There are three types of permit and they last for varying lengths of time. 

  • 1926 permit (valid for 12 months)
  • 1949 permit (valid for 12 months)
  • 1968 permit (valid for three years unless your UK driving licence expires first)

There’s a handy country list at GOV.UK, driving abroad to look up whether you need one and which type is required. Remember that if you’re driving through several countries, you might need more than one type of IDP. 

If you’re heading somewhere a bit more off the beaten track and it doesn’t feature in the government’s list, it’s worth asking the embassy of the country you’re visiting if you need one. If you’re hiring a car from a locally-based rental company, they should also be able to advise you. 

How to get an international driving permit

The good news is that if you need an IDP, it’s easy to get one. All you need to do is apply for one in person at the Post Office. At the moment, it’s not possible to apply for an IDP online.

To be eligible for an IDP, you must:

  • Live in the UK
  • Have a full UK driving licence
  • Be aged 18 or over

An IDP currently costs £5.50 and in order to get one, you will need to take with you: :

  • Your full UK driving licence 
  • A recently taken passport-size photo
  • Your passport as proof of ID if you have an older style paper driving licence

It’s worth being aware that some firms offer their services in getting you an IDP but charge considerably more. If you can’t get to a Post Office, someone else can apply for one on your behalf but they must have all the correct paperwork. Alternatively, the AA offers an IDP mail order service but you will need to pay a small fee on top of the £5.50.

What other documents do I need if driving abroad?

If you’re taking your own car, you’ll need to take your V5C logbook and your insurance certificate (always make sure your policy covers you to drive outside of the UK).

If you’re hiring a car in the UK and taking it abroad, you’ll also need a VE103 certificate. This shows you have permission to take and drive the car outside the UK. You can apply for one at:

Needless to say, wherever you go, you should find out whether you need any extra equipment, for example, a warning triangle, emissions permit, or a GB sticker.

Find lots of useful information in our guide to driving abroad.

Do I need an international driving permit to drive in Europe?

In most cases, if you’ve got a photocard driving licence, then you don’t need an IDP to drive in the EU, Switzerland, Iceland, or Liechtenstein. 

However, there are a couple of exceptions and you might need an IDP if you have:

  • A paper driving licence.
  • A driving licence that was issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man. 

You can check if you need an IDP at GOV.UK, driving abroad.

Don’t forget that if you are travelling within the EU, you’ll need a green card that shows you have car insurance. Bear in mind that most policies will only give you third-party only cover (even if you have a comprehensive policy in the UK). If you want to cover yourself for more events whilst you’re abroad, you should speak to your insurer.

It’s also worth knowing that you’ll need one green card per vehicle or insurance policy. For example if you have a car and a caravan, you’ll need a green card for each. 

Your insurer will post a green card to you or they’ll tell you how to download one to print off (it’s usually free). To avoid disappointment, you should allow up to six weeks for your insurer to send you a green card by post. 

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