International driving permit: do you need one?

BMW M235i 2014 side desert
16 Oct, 2019 11:45am Tom Barnard

Driving abroad? Check out the rules and apply for an International Driving Permit

If you’re driving abroad, it’s often the case that being the proud owner of a full UK driving licence covers you from a purely legal point of view. However this will change if you are travelling to Europe and Britain leaves the EU without a deal. In countries further afield, it’s often a good idea to have something more than a British licence to hand to the police just in case of a problem.

That’s where the International Driving Permit (IDP) comes in. It’s issued by the authorities here in the UK, but printed in multiple languages to ensure that anyone who needs to see your driving licence abroad is able to understand it. This may be police or enforcement officers, but hopefully it’s much more likely to be an agent at a car hire desk. 

• Driving in France: top tips

Some countries do make it a legal requirement to carry and International Driving Permit, so in those cases it becomes a sort of de facto international driver’s licence (or international license as our American friends would say) as you can be in trouble if you drive without it. In other countries carrying your IDP is voluntary, but it’s definitely worth having up your sleeve for the reasons mentioned above. In particular, it's occasionally the case that foreign car rental firms will refuse a hirer who can’t show an IDP, even if it’s not actually a legal requirement to have one.

This online guide will help you determine whether an IDP is necessary on your foreign travels, and will also steer you in the right direction when it’s time to apply.

At the moment (pre-Brexit), there’s no legal requirement for UK licenced drivers to apply for an International Driving Permit when driving in France or in any other EU country, though it is recommended in certain countries including Italy and Portugal. The rules for Europe post-Brexit, if Britain leaves without a deal, are also covered in our guide below.


Driving abroad

For those drivers heading beyond the EU borders, it’s vital that you check whether an IDP is needed, as driving abroad without a valid licence is not only illegal, but could have implications for insurance. 

What is an International Driving Permit?

Don’t worry, you won’t be expected to take another driving test, as the IDP is essentially a translated copy of your UK-issued driving licence. It means foreign officials are able to quickly check your credentials without delay. Do remember to keep your driving licence with you at all times, too, as the IDP is not valid on its own.

It's always best to check with the relevant tourist offices or embassies to get the exact details of what you need to do, but to make things simple for you here's a list of all the countries that require an International Driving Permit, or IDP. If you're hiring a car, you should check with the firm you are using to see if they require a permit.

Where do you need an International Driving Permit outside of Europe?

• International Driving Permits are compulsory in countries highlighted in bold, they are recommended everywhere else. 

Afghanistan

Guam

Nigeria

Algeria

Guatemala

Oman

Angola

Guinea Bissau

Pakistan

Argentina

Guinea Republic

Panama

Armenia

Guyana

Papua New Guinea

Australia

Haiti

Paraguay

Bahamas

Honduras

Philippines

Bahrain

Hong Kong

Portugal

Bangladesh

Hungary

Qatar

Belarus

Iceland

Reunion

Belize

India

Russian Federation

Benin

Indonesia

Rwanda

Bhutan

Iran

Sabah (Malaysia)

Bolivia

Israel

Sao Tome and Principe

Bosnia

Italy

Saudi Arabia

Botswana

Japan

Senegal

Brunei

Jordan

Serbia

Bulgaria

Kazakhstan

Seychelles

Burkina Faso

Kenya

Sierra Leone

Cameroon

Kiribati

Singapore

Canada

Korea (South)

South Africa

Cape Verde

Kuwait

Spain

Central African Republic

Laos

Sri Lanka

Chad

Lebanon

St. Lucia

Chile

Lesotho

St. Vincent

Colombia

Liberia

Sudan

Comoros

Libya

Surinam

Congo (Democratic Republic of)

Macau

Swaziland

Congo (Republic of)

Macedonia

Syria

Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

Madagascar

Taiwan

Czech Republic

Malawi

Tanzania

Djibouti

Malaysia

Thailand

Dominica

Mali

Togo

Dominican Republic

Mauritania

Trinidad & Tobago

Egypt

Mauritius

Tunisia

El Salvador

Mexico

Turkey

Equatorial Guinea

Montenegro

Uganda

Eritrea

Mozambique

Ukraine

Ethiopia

Myanmar

United Arab Emirates

Gabon

Namibia

USA

Gambia

Nepal

Yemen

Georgia

New Caledonia

Zambia

Ghana

Nicaragua

Zimbabwe

Guadeloupe

Niger

• Note that for Brazil, Iraq and Somalia a different type of IDP is required.  

Will I need an International Driving Permit after Brexit?

The Department for Transport (DfT) has advised that should the UK leave the EU without a deal on 31 October 2019, British motorists who wish to drive in Europe will be required to purchase an IDP.

The DfT says the “version of the IDP you would require depends on which EU country you are visiting”, and that drivers “may be turned away at the border or face other enforcement action, for example fines, if you don’t have the correct IDP."

Driving abroad: everything you need to know

This is because there are three different types of IDP. One is governed by the 1928 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic, while the others is covered by agreements from 1949 and 1968. Different countries have their own requirements for licences from countries outside of the EU, so you may need more than one permit after the UK leaves the EU. 

Check from the list below to see which permit you will need, and remember you may need more than one if you are passing through a country on your way to another.

Check which type of IDP you need

Andorra: 1949 IDP  

Austria: No IDP needed for visits up to 6 months 

Belgium: No IDP needed for visits up to 185 days

Bulgaria: No IDP needed for visits up to 3 months 

Croatia: You will need a 1968 IDP only if you are under 18 for driving a car

Cyprus: Need a 1949 IDP

Czech Republic: No IDP needed for visits up to 3 months

Denmark: No IDP needed for visits up to 90 days 

Estonia: No IDP needed

Finland: No IDP needed

France: Need a 1968 IDP

france speed limit sign

Germany: No IDP needed for visits up to 6 months

Greece: No IDP needed

Hungary: No IDP needed for visits up to 12 months

Iceland: No IDP needed for visits up to 1 month

Ireland: No IDP needed for visits up to 12 months

Italy: Need a 1968 IDP

Latvia: No IDP needed


Subaru XV - side

Liechtenstein: No IDP needed

Lithuania: No IDP needed for visits up to 185 days

Luxembourg: No IDP needed for visits up to 185 days

Malta: No IDP needed for visits up to 12 months 

Monaco: Need a 1968 IDP 

Netherlands: No IDP needed 

Norway: No IDP needed for visits up to 90 days

Poland: No IDP needed for visits up to 185 days

Portugal: No IDP needed for visits up to 185 days

Romania: No IDP needed

Slovakia: No IDP needed

Slovenia: No IDP needed for visits up to 90 days

Spain: No IDP needed*

Switzerland: No IDP needed

Sweden: No IDP needed for visits up to 185 days 

* In Spain, you will not need an IDP for visits up to 9 months after the date the UK leaves the EU. Then you will not need an IDP for visits up to 6 months. You will need a 1949 IDP for longer visits.

How to get an International Driving Permit

To get hold of an IDP, you need to be a resident of Great Britain or Northern Ireland, be over 18 and have passed your driving test. It costs £5.50 and you can apply for one from certain larger branches of the . Be sure to get one in plenty of time before your trip, as there was a shortage of IDPs ahead of the last Brexit deadline in March. 

If you're still unsure about the requirements for the country you wish to visit, the relevant embassy for details.