If you want to be able to drive abroad and travel with your vehicle, you’ll need to obtain an international driving license. It’s a document that allows you to drive in a foreign country and in some cases, it can also be used to rent a vehicle.
The document doesn’t require you to take any additional tests as long as you already have a driving license. There are some fees involved and you’ll need to have both the international and national permit with you while driving.
Permit or License
The document in question is often called an international driving license, similar to a driving license that your own country would issue. That’s a common mistake since the proper name of the document should be “an international driving permit”. The difference comes from the fact that you still need both documents to be allowed to drive.
There are some sites out there that offer international driving licenses and chances are that those are fraudulent. Stick to those that use proper terms and that are certified by the proper authorities.
How to Get an International Driving Permit?
It’s rather easy to obtain an international driving permit online. The process shouldn’t take more than a week and this includes the time it takes for your permit to be produced and delivered to you. You’ll need to have a national license already issued in order to apply and be eligible for an international permit.
There’s a fee that you’ll need to cover and issuing an international permit requires two photos of the same size and shape as you would use for a passport. With all that prepared, all that’s left to do is to wait for the permit to be issued.
When Does an International Permit Expire?
An international permit lasts for a year and after that, it has to be renewed. This can be done while you’re abroad and it can be done online as well if the permit expires while you’re taking a trip. Keep in mind that some countries won’t allow you to use an international permit longer than that even if you renew it.
The permit is only valid when it’s used with the national document. If it expires before the international permit, you won’t be allowed to drive anymore, until both documents are up to date.
You can obtain an international driving permit when you’re 18 years of age. This however doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to drive with it, at least not in every country. Local laws apply in the countries you’re traveling to and in some countries, you’re not allowed to drive until you’re older than 18.
Even if your country allows you to drive at 16 and you can produce both documents that verify it, you’ll still have to abide by the laws of the country you’re visiting. Make sure to learn about the restrictions before taking a trip.
Which Address to Use?
You’ll need to provide an address when applying for the international permit. Since it’s a document made specifically to travel with, this presents a source of some confusion for the applicants. However, the procedure is simple enough – you should use the address that’s listed on your national driving license.
This is where you’ll receive the permit and any additional notifications if there’s a need for them. Even if you plan to stay abroad and know your future address, the rules require you to use your national address to obtain the document. The permit can be renewed online regardless of the address you’ve used.
What Can Happen if You Don’t Have the Permit?
That depends on the country you’re staying in. The penalties can vary from a citation to a fine. For the most part, you’ll have to pay a small amount and obtain the permit as soon as you can. Fines can increase if you’re stopped more than once.
In some countries, however, your vehicle can be confiscated until the issue is resolved. On the other end of the spectrum is Japan, which has the strictest regulations. You can even get deported if caught without the proper documents.
What Countries Accept the International Driving Permit?
There’s an international agreement signed by 150 countries and within these, you’ll be able to drive as long as you have the permit with you. However, some rather notable countries don’t accept the permit. For instance, you can’t use it in Brazil and you’ll need a special North American international permit instead.
China on the other hand doesn’t accept the permit at all. In order to drive in China, you’ll need to obtain a local license. Russia allows US citizens to drive with their own national licenses for six months before getting an international one.
Local Traffic Laws
While you’re abroad you’ll need to abide by the local traffic laws. The fact that you have a foreign license alongside the international one, doesn’t mean that local laws don’t apply to you. It’s important to note that these are often rather unique and that there are major differences between different countries.
It’s, therefore, a good idea to study the local traffic laws before you visit a country and especially when it comes to differences in the traffic laws between those and the ones you’re used to at home.
What to Do When You Meet the Authorities?
Meeting the traffic authorities can sometimes be a source of stress, and especially so if you’re in a foreign country. However, as long as you follow the rules, have the proper documents, and are respectful towards the authorities you shouldn’t have too many problems. Make sure you have the proper licenses, that they are in the right language, and that they are up to date.
In many cases, you can get away with something simply by having your documents ready and by admitting you’ve made a mistake since you’re not from around here. This goes for minor infractions that don’t get anyone hurt.