Do we really need an international driving permit?

International Driving Permit International Driving Permit

There’s a lot of conjecture when it comes to international driving permits (IDPs), do you need one or don’t you? I guess it depends on who you listen to. I’ve read travel bloggers who say they’re not necessary, and others who swear by them.

I didn’t have one the last time I lived and travelled overseas, but then again I didn’t need one because I never drove. And on this trip I have no idea if I’ll be driving or not. Sarah has her heart set on buying a home on wheels in Europe, but we’ll have to wait and see if that happens or not, after all, we’re not made of money.

So what is an IDP anyway? Basically, they allow motorists to drive in over 150 countries without further tests or applications provided your domestic drivers licence is valid. It is also a requirement for renting a car in many countries.

IDPs are accepted worldwide as a recognisable form of identification and are officially sanctioned by the United Nations (wow, they must be important!). It is a translation of your driver’s licence and must be carried with your domestic driver’s licence at all times.

In Australia, or more specifically in my home state of Victoria, only the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV) and constituent members of the Australian Automobile Association (AAA) are authorised to issue IDPs. The RACV issues IDPs through RACV Shops.

International Drivers Permit Information

  • An IDP is not a stand-alone document, so have your driver’s licence with you as well.
  • Is valid for 12 months.
  • If you are applying for an IDP in person at an RACV shop, you are not required to print out and complete an IDP application form.
  • Passport photos must be on photographic quality paper. Standard copy paper will not be accepted. Head shot cut outs from ‘other’ photos will not be accepted.
  • An IDP is valid for 12 months from the date of issue unless the holder’s domestic driving licence expires or is revoked in the meantime. IDPs cannot be post dated under any circumstances.

It in no way diminishes the obligation of the holder to conform strictly to the laws and regulations relating to residence or the exercise of a profession which are in force in each country visited. So, for all you Aussies reading this post, don’t go driving on the left hand side of the road in America, ok?

Special notes

  • IDPs may NOT be issued to persons under 18 years of age regardless of whether they hold a national driving licence. In addition, IDPs cannot be issued to holders of Learner Permits Licences or other limited/restricted use licences, issued under the directive of a State Court of Law.
  • IDP’s can be issued to External Territory licence holders from Norfolk Island, Christmas Island and Cocos Keeling Islands.
  • There is no upper age limit for the use of IDPs.

Which countries require you to carry an IDP?

Different countries have different identification requirements when driving a vehicle. Some countries require international motorists to possess an IDP. Check your destination’s International Driving Permit requirements before you go.

How do I apply for an IDP?

To obtain an IDP you can apply by post or in person at your nearest RACV Shop.

To apply by post

Print and fill out the IDP application form. Send your completed form and a clear copy of your current Australian Driver’s Licence (both front and back), a recent passport size photo and payment including postage fees to –

RACV Shop
550 Princes Highway
Noble Park North, VIC, 3174
AUSTRALIA

Another option is to send your application to a family member or friend who can arrange the IDP on your behalf and send it back to you.

If you are applying for or requesting the reissue of an IDP from overseas, you are also required to provide:

  • proof that you are not resident in the country from which you are making the application (e.g. Copy of Australian passport)
  • proof of travel plans to other countries (e.g. Travel agent itinerary), and
  • the date of your return to Australia (e.g. Visa)

I’m not sure why you’d bother with these dot points above, after all, you can just get a friend to organise one for you (leave them a photo when you leave) and they can send it to you!

Download an IDP application form (PDF 178KB)

To apply in person

Visit your nearest RACV Shop with your current Australian Driver’s Licence and a recent passport size and style photo. Passport photos must be on photographic quality paper, standard copy paper will not be accepted. Head shot cut outs from ‘other’ photos will not be accepted. IDP photos are available for purchase at selected RACV Shops.

Note: When applying for an IDP in person at an RACV shop, an application form is not required.

How much does an IDP cost?

An IDP costs $35.50 each. This does not include the added cost of postage if applying by mail.

Related IDP guides and booklets

These are some helpful booklets and guides to help you have a safer journey when driving overseas.

So there you have it, all you need to know about IDPs according to the RACV. It could be 100% right, or it could be made up rubbish to get you to part company with $35.50 of your hard earned cash. Only time will tell if we’ve made the right decision.

Have you travelled without an IDP and been caught out? Have you rented cars overseas without an IPD? Share your stories in the comment section below.

3 Comments on Do we really need an international driving permit?

  1. In our 2 year nomadic journey we only needed it in 1 country out of 35 – Bali, when we got pulled over… We could of bribed them and maybe that would have been cheaper then 2 international drivers licenses…. But I wi probably get another one, better safe then sorry 🙂

    • From my research that’s a very common story. But like you I figured it’s better to be safe than sorry. Time will tell and in 12 months I’ll be able to do a follow up blog on ‘why I wasted $35 getting an international driver’s permit!’.

  2. I’m trying to remember … I don’t think they even looked at our IDP in the US, only our NZ licence. In Germany and Iceland I think they looked at both?

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