Do You Need An International Driver’s Permit?

Countries That Require an International Driver's Permit

Find out which countries require an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) and get insights into why this is a must-have for your next road trip!

As someone who’s ventured across various terrains and navigated through countless foreign roads, I can’t stress enough the importance of an International Driver’s Permit (IDP). Picture this: you’re cruising down the scenic routes of Tuscany or navigating the bustling streets of Tokyo, and then you’re halted by a local officer.

Without an IDP, this dream drive can quickly turn into a daunting ordeal. The IDP isn’t just a piece of paper; it’s your ticket to a smooth driving experience in foreign lands.

Let’s dive into why some countries hold this permit in such high regard and what it truly entails.

The Importance of an International Driver’s Permit (IDP)

The open road, where freedom knows no bounds! There’s nothing quite like embarking on an expedition through uncharted territories, uncovering hidden treasures and secret hideaways. But, let me enlighten you from my own escapades, that freedom can swiftly turn into a logistical labyrinth if ill-prepared.

The IDP is not just a trivial document; it’s your golden ticket to a hassle-free travel across the globe. Consider it your international passport to the highways and byways of our planet.

Buckle up and let the adventure begin!

Do You Need an International Driver's Permit?

What Exactly is an IDP?

An International Driver’s Permit: the multilingual wingman for your driver’s license. It won’t replace your original, but it’s the trusty sidekick that vouches for your driving skills when you’re out exploring the world.

Imagine that you’re at a roadside checkpoint in Italy and the officer doesn’t speak a word of English. Your regular driver’s license might as well be written in hieroglyphics to him! But with your IDP in hand, and it’s like having a universal translator and you’ll be able to avoid a travel delay and possible fines.

  • Official Translation: The international driving permit translates your driver’s license details into ten different languages. It ensures that no matter where you are, local authorities can understand your driving qualifications.
  • Validity: Typically, an IDP is valid for one year from the issue date. However, it’s essential to remember that it’s only valid when accompanied by your original driver’s license.
  • Recognition: Over 150 countries recognize the IDP, making it a widely accepted document for international travelers.

How Does IDP Differ from a Regular Driver’s License?

  • Purpose: While your driver’s license proves you can drive, the international driving permit proves you can drive internationally. It’s like having a translator for your license.
  • Issuance: Your local driving authority issues your driver’s license, but recognized automobile associations issue the IDP.
  • Language: Your driver’s license is typically in one language, usually your country’s official language. In contrast, the IDP covers multiple languages to cater to international needs.
  • Requirements: To get an IDP, you need a valid driver’s license. It’s not a standalone document but rather an addition to your driving credentials.

The Role of IDP in International Travel

Navigating the winding roads of Tuscany or cruising along Japan’s coastal highways sounds like a dream, right? But here’s the catch: to truly enjoy these experiences, you need more than just a sense of adventure and a valid driver’s license. Enter the International Driver’s Permit.

Facilitating Driving in Foreign Countries

Think of the IDP as your golden ticket. It’s what allows you to rent cars and generally be on the right side of the law in many foreign countries. Without it, you might be left stranded at a rental counter, helplessly witnessing your dream road trip vanish into thin air. Don’t let that happen!

Do You Need an International Driver's Permit?

Serving as a Recognized Form of Identification

Beyond just driving, the IDP serves another crucial role: it’s a universally recognized form of identification. In a foreign land, where your regular ID might draw blank stares, the IDP stands out as a familiar friend to local authorities. Whether you’re checking into a hotel in Bangkok or getting pulled over for a routine check in Spain, flashing your IDP can smooth things out.

In simpler terms? The IDP is like your travel buddy. It speaks the local language, knows the rules, and ensures you’re always welcome, no matter where the road takes you.

Read more: 5 of the Best Road Trips in Europe

Countries That Mandate an IDP

The world is vast, and so are its driving regulations. While some countries are pretty relaxed about foreign drivers, others have strict international driving permit requirements. Let’s embark on a quick global tour to understand where your IDP will be your best travel companion.


Europe is an absolute dream for road trippers, with its romantic roads in France and autobahns in Germany. But hey, here’s the deal: every country has its own set of rules, you know? Some are pretty chill, while others are all about that strict mandate for an IDP.

To be more specific, here’s the list:

  1. Austria: Foreign drivers must have an IDP alongside their original driver’s license and two original passport photos. Without it, you risk hefty fines.
  2. Bosnia and Herzegovina: An IDP is required for all non-European Union licenses.
  3. Greece: While Greece accepts many foreign licenses, an IDP is recommended, especially for non-EU drivers.
  4. Hungary: Drivers from outside the EU and EEA must have an IDP.
  5. Italy: All non-EU drivers should carry an IDP. It’s especially crucial for a rental car.
  6. Poland: Non-EU and non-EEA license holders need an IDP.
  7. Spain: If your valid license is in a language other than Spanish, an IDP is essential.
  8. Turkey: An IDP is mandatory for all foreign drivers.

Read more: Europe Travel Tips: 10 Things You Need to Know


Driving through Asia is like navigating a tapestry of diverse cultures, terrains, and traffic rules. Countries like Japan and South Korea have stringent IDP requirements, while others might be more flexible.

Some of the countries that require an international driving permit are:

  1. Japan: Japan strictly requires an IDP based on the 1949 Geneva Convention. Other versions won’t be accepted.
  2. South Korea: An IDP is a must in Korea, especially to rent a car.
  3. Thailand: While many tourists drive with their home country’s license, an international driving permit is legally required in Thailand.
  4. Malaysia: An IDP is recommended, especially for those planning to drive for an extended period.

Read more: How to Visit Japan on a Budget

Middle East

  1. Saudi Arabia: Without it, you risk deportation or hefty fines.
  2. Qatar: An international driving permit is mandatory in Qatar, and driving without one can lead to deportation.
  3. United Arab Emirates: It’s a must-have for all foreign drivers.
  4. Oman: Known for its stunning landscapes and ancient forts, Oman is a driver’s paradise. But to truly enjoy the experience, ensure you have your international driving permit handy.
  5. Kuwait: An IDP is essential, and without it, you might face legal complications.
  6. Bahrain: The island nation of Bahrain requires foreign drivers to have an IDP. It’s a small country, but its rules are clear and strict.
  7. Jordan: If you’re planning to drive through the historical sites of Jordan, like Petra or the Wadi Rum desert, make sure you have your IDP with you. It’s a requirement for all foreign drivers.


The vast landscapes of Africa offer a unique driving experience. But whether you’re on a safari in Kenya or exploring the deserts of Morocco, it’s essential to check the IDP requirements.

Let’s take a look at some of the countries that require an IDP:

  1. Algeria: Foreign drivers need an international driving permit alongside their original license.
  2. Ghana: An IDP is required for all foreign drivers.
  3. Kenya: Tourists and visitors driving in Kenya need an IDP.
  4. Libya: An international driving permit is mandatory for all foreign drivers.
  5. Madagascar: It’s recommended to have an IDP, especially for car rentals.
  6. Uganda: An international driving permit is required for all non-African license holders.

Read more: Mauritius Travel Tips: When to Go, How to Get There & Where to Stay


North, Central, or South – the Americas are a melting pot of driving cultures. From the highways of the USA to the mountain roads of Peru, always ensure you’re equipped with the necessary permits.

These countries require an IDP:

  1. Argentina: While many tourists drive with their national license, an IDP is recommended.
  2. Brazil: An IDP is required in Brazil, especially for car rentals.
  3. Chile: Foreign drivers should have an IDP alongside their original license.
  4. Costa Rica: An IDP is recommended, especially for those from non-Spanish-speaking countries.
  5. El Salvador: An IDP is required for all foreign drivers.
  6. Honduras: It’s recommended to have international driving permits alongside your original license.
  7. Uruguay: An IDP is recommended for all foreign drivers.


Whether you’re exploring the coasts of Australia, the islands of Fiji or taking a road trip through New Zealand, the international driver’s license can be your ticket to a smooth driving experience in Oceania.

The following countries require an IDP:

  • Australia: While most states accept foreign licenses, some require an IDP, especially if the original license isn’t in English.
  • Fiji: An IDP is recommended for all foreign drivers.
  • New Zealand: Drivers with non-English licenses must have an international driving permit.

Read more: South Pacific Cruise Packing List

Just a quick note, my list was based on countries where having an International Driving Permit (IDP) is strongly recommended or even mandatory. But guess what? There are actually more countries out there that recognize or require it! With over 180 countries being signatories to the conventions, it’s pretty safe to say that the IDP is a valuable asset.

The Penalties of Driving Without an IDP

Driving on foreign roads without an International Driver’s Permit can lead to a myriad of consequences. While the thrill of exploration is tempting, the repercussions of not having this essential document can be severe. Let’s delve into what’s at stake:

  • Hefty Fines: In places like Japan, the meticulous nature of their regulations means that overlooking the IDP can result in a significant dent in your travel budget. The fines are not just a slap on the wrist; they’re a stark reminder of the importance of adhering to local driving rules.
  • Risk of Imprisonment: Imagine planning a trip filled with sightseeing, only to find yourself behind bars. In South Korea, for instance, the absence of an IDP isn’t taken lightly. The country’s strict driving regulations mean that tourists can face more severe consequences than just a traffic violation.
  • Potential Deportation: Some countries view driving without an international driver’s permit as a serious offense, warranting more than just a fine or a warning. In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, if you’re caught without this permit, you might find your journey abruptly cut short, with authorities potentially sending you back to your home country.
Do You Need an International Driver's Permit?

The allure of foreign roads is undeniable, but it’s important to ensure you’re equipped with all the necessary documents. The consequences of neglecting the international drivers’ license can be harsh is not worth turning your dream vacation into a challenging ordeal.

Read more: The Most Beautiful Road Trips in California + Where to Stay

Why Do Some Countries Require an IDP?

As much as we’d love for international travel to be a breeze, there are some pretty solid reasons behind the international driver license requirements. Here are a few of them.

Legal and Regulatory Reasons

Did you know that every country has its own set of rules when it comes to driving? Just like you wouldn’t expect to play soccer with basketball rules, you can’t expect every foreign country to have the same driving regulations.

But no worries! That’s where the international driver license comes in, acting as a bridge to make sure that no matter where you’re from, you’re following the local driving playbook.

International Traffic Conventions

History lesson time! Two major conventions play a role in the IDP saga:

  • The 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic: This was one of the first attempts to standardize road traffic rules across countries. Many nations signed up, agreeing to recognize the IDP as a valid driving document for tourists and visitors.
  • The 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic: Fast forward a couple of decades, and the world saw another convention, refining the rules and expanding the IDP’s role. This convention further emphasized the importance of the IDP, making it a must-have for many travelers.

Local Traffic Laws and Regulations

Beyond international conventions, there’s the matter of local laws. Some countries have intricate driving rules, shaped by their unique landscapes, cultures, and histories.

For instance, driving in the bustling streets of Mumbai is a world away from cruising the serene roads of New Zealand. The IDP ensures that foreign drivers have at least a basic understanding of these local nuances, reducing the chances of misunderstandings or mishaps.

In essence, while the world might be our oyster, it’s also a mosaic of different driving cultures and regulations. The IDP is our passport to this diverse driving world, ensuring we’re always in the know and on the go, no matter where our adventures take us.

Do You Need an International Driver's Permit?

Language Barriers and Translation

Traveling is all about embracing new cultures, tasting exotic foods, and, let’s be honest, occasionally getting lost in translation. While misinterpreting a menu might lead to a surprise dish at dinner, misunderstanding road signs or traffic rules can have more serious consequences. This is where the IDP steps in as our linguistic savior on the roads.

The Multilingual Aspect of IDP

The beauty of the IDP lies in its multilingual design. It’s like having a mini-translator tucked in your pocket, ready to speak on your behalf in over ten languages.

  • How IDP Bridges the Language Gap: Picture this: you’re driving through rural Japan, and a local officer stops you. Your Japanese might be limited to “arigato,” but your international drivers’ permit speaks volumes, translating your driving credentials seamlessly.
  • Importance in Non-English Speaking Countries: While many countries have a decent grasp of English, especially in tourist areas, there are plenty of places where English is as foreign as, well, a foreign language. In these regions, the IDP is not just helpful; it’s indispensable.
Do You Need an International Driver's Permit?

Insurance and Liability Concerns

Ah, insurance – the less glamorous side of travel, but undoubtedly one of the most crucial. When you’re miles away from home, driving on unfamiliar roads, the last thing you want is an insurance hiccup. And trust me, I’ve been there; it’s not fun.

Insurance Validity

Your regular car insurance might be top-notch back home, but when you’re abroad, it’s a whole different ball game.

  • How an IDP Can Affect Car Rental and Insurance Abroad: Many car rental companies and insurance providers look for the IDP as a mark of a responsible and informed traveler. It can be the difference between getting that sleek convertible or settling for public transport.
  • Potential Complications Without an IDP: Without an IDP, you might find yourself in a sticky situation if you get into an accident. Some insurance claims can be denied, or you might face higher premiums. And believe me, sorting out insurance paperwork in a foreign language is a challenge you’d rather avoid.

Read more: Single Trip vs Multi Trip Travel Insurance: Which is Better?

Embarking on a road trip in a foreign land is an exhilarating experience, offering a unique blend of adventure and discovery. The landscapes, the cultures, and the open roads beckon with promises of unforgettable memories. However, as with any journey, preparation is key.

The International Driver’s Permit isn’t just a piece of paper; it’s your passport to a hassle-free driving experience abroad.

Countries around the world have their own sets of rules and regulations, and while the thrill of exploration is tempting, it’s essential to respect and adhere to these guidelines.

In conclusion, while the world is vast and filled with roads waiting to be explored, it’s crucial to be equipped with the right tools. An IDP is more than just a permit; it’s a testament to being a responsible and informed traveler. So, before you set out on your next international road trip, ensure you have your IDP in tow. Safe travels, and may the road ahead be filled with incredible adventures!

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