It’s allowed to drive abroad using your own car or the car you’ve rented. In order to do so, you need to have a document called an international driving permit and it’s valid only if you also have a national driving license as well.

It’s one of the easiest documents to obtain since all that you need to do is apply to it and base it on the license that you already have. Once you have the permit you’re allowed to both drive and rent a vehicle in most countries in the world.

Which Countries Require You to Have an International Permit?

Most countries in the world recognize an international permit as a legal document. About 150 of them in total require you to have the document with you. Others recognize some other form of international travel document based on a bilateral agreement.

China, for instance, doesn’t recognize any international document used for driving and you need to obtain a domestic permit while there. It does offer special permits for tourists that are easier to get than a national driving permit.

What Can You Use The Permit For?

The permit can be used to drive while abroad and it’s a necessary document if you plan to rent a car in a foreign country. However, it can be used as proof of insurance and you’ll need to get your insurance separately. Sometimes an insurance policy for foreigners may be a bit more expensive than it otherwise would.

It can’t be used as an ID document. To prove your identity, you’ll have to provide another document, such as a passport. Most countries require foreigners to have a passport with them at all times.

How Long is the Permit Valid for?

The permit is valid for a year and after that, it can be renewed. However, some countries only allow you to use the permit for a year after which you’ll have to obtain a local permit of some kind. That time is enough to cover the needs of most tourists.

If your national permit expires you’ll also lose your driving privileges abroad. The domestic permit lasts for about five years and it’s not always possible to renew it while abroad. It’s best to get your international permit with the national one, and you’ll have nothing to worry about for five years.

How to Get the Permit?

The permit is usually issued by the same institution that issues national licenses. You can apply for it online depending on the country so check which website you can trust on Truely, but you can also go to the local office if you need the permit right away. There’s a form you need to fill out and you need to show a copy of your national license. You should also provide two passport photos and there’s a small fee to cover as well.

The permit will be issued in about a week if you send it by mail and sooner than that if you want to wait in line to get it. It’s ready to be used as soon as you obtain it.

Age Restrictions

You need to be more than 18 years old in order to use an international driving permit. That’s true even if your country allows you to drive before that. The same goes if the country you’re visiting allows you to get a national permit before you’re 18.

If you’re purchasing an insurance policy while abroad (and you should) chances are that you’re going to have to pay extra if you’re under a certain age. The same goes for those who got their license recently.

Which Kind of Vehicles You’re Allowed to Drive

An international permit is issued for driving a personal vehicle and that’s the only vehicle you’re allowed to drive with it. You won’t be allowed to drive a truck or a bus even if you have a national license for it.

If you plan to drive abroad commercially you’ll need to get an additional permit for this person. It’s usually provided by the employer and it’s more difficult and more expensive than the international permit that we’ve discussed here. Which vehicle is considered to be commercial is determined by the number of seats it has and its weight.

Road Signs

Road signs are pretty much the same in every country in the world with one notable exception. The color of the signs can signify something different than you’re used to, in a foreign country. It’s usually a good idea to familiarize yourself with the local regulations before taking a trip.

This will help you get around easier and it will make you safer by allowing you to understand other drivers and their mindsets while on the road. Most countries have traffic rules explained on tourist websites, so make sure to check them out first.

Driving Culture

There’s also a matter of driving culture, which isn’t really about the law as much, as it is about the approach to driving in general. It too differs from one country to the other and it can affect how you drive significantly.

Try to learn about it before you go, but also take things slowly at first and observe how others are driving on the road in front of you. It will help you a great deal and help you blend in faster. Everyone is also a lot safer when they are on the same page.

 What Happens If You Don’t Have The Permit?

It’s required by law to have an international driving permit with you while driving. There’s a fee if you don’t and the amount can range depending on which country you’re in and if this is your first offense.

Some countries may even impound your vehicle until the issue is resolved. The matter is always made worse if you’ve made any other traffic violations while not having the proper documents. In rare cases, you may even get deported for not having the permit with you. The best way to avoid all of these issues is to simply obtain the permit before your trip and have it with you at all times.


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