Travel SOS: do you need an international driving permit?

Here’s Leon’s lowdown on international driving permits.

Travel SOS: do you need an international driving permit?

Do you need an international driving permit to drive overseas? It depends where you’re headed and from whom you’re hiring a car. David wants to know about driver’s licence requirements for when he visits the UK early next year. In today’s Travel SOS, Leon gives him the lowdown and shares some handy resources for finding out more.

Q. David
I’m visiting family in Kent next year and I want to do a long road trip through the English countryside. Do I need a special permit to do this?

A. While many countries require you to have an international driving permit (IDP), it is only recommended for others. The RACV has a fantastic table that shows you where you need a permit and where you don’t, and the Australian Automobile Association also has a handy tool for working out where you’ll need one the next time you travel.

As for your UK trip, you are not required to have an international driving permit in addition to a valid Australian driver’s licence. That said, some car rental companies will ask you to have a permit, mainly for their insurance purposes. Depending on where you are, it is a criminal or civil offence to hire a car overseas without such a permit.

driving overseas

Ensure that the IDP for which you apply is relevant to the type of vehicle you intend to drive, otherwise you won’t be covered and could be in trouble with the law.

Most insurance companies won’t cover you for any damage you cause in an accident if you don’t have an IDP, so the $39 it will cost you to get one could be worth a lot more in the long run.

And it’s valid for 12 months, unless your Australian driver’s licence expires beforehand. You must always present your IDP with a valid Australian licence, otherwise the permit is worthless.

It also pays to remember that, just because you’re a foreigner driving in another country, you are not excused from knowing the local road rules. So, best butter up on your destination’s road regulations and laws before you set off.

For more information, including all the documentation that you’ll require for your application, head to

Have you ever driven a car overseas? What was your experience?



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    14th Oct 2017
    I'm an Aussie with a car and m/cycle licence. I travelled to Bali and hired a motorcycle. Before leaving Aus I checked with the Indonesian Embassy and was told that as my licences were in English Language I did not need an IDL. Whilst there I was stopped randomly by two uniformed police officers in a marked police car and they asked to see my licence, which I produced. The officer told me I needed an IDL but I told him that their Embassy told me I didn't. The officer said it was an on the spot fine and asked for a cash payment there and then, with no paperwork, the amount he wanted equated to about $25AUD. I disputed this, but he would not give my licence back until I paid him. I gave him what was about $5AUD, telling him that it was all I had with me. He took it, gave me my licence, and drove off. RIP-OFF!!!
    14th Oct 2017
    Indonesia has been ranked as being the most corrupt country in the world heading the list many times, it can be quite scary if you are pulled over by the police or stopped in the street, the police often work in concert with the local drug dealers to perform a sting on unsuspecting foreigners then they simply blackmail you, I do not have personal experience, I am only repeating what I have heard.
    14th Oct 2017
    Another good reason to stay away from Indonesia along with poor health care. Know of one person who died after a bike crash there and another who nearly did.
    14th Oct 2017
    I have travelled quite a bit through Europe but only with people from the UK doing the driving, so not sure what the requirements are for Aussies driving in Europe, the Brits I travelled with only needed their UK licence, but I have travelled quite extensively driving through the UK, I was involved in an accident many years ago, I reported the accident at the local police station and produced an international drivers licence, the police asked if I had an Australian licence, which I produced, he responded with, that's better it was as if he didn't think the IDR licence was any good, when you think about it you don't have to sit any test to get an IDR you don't have to prove that you know the road rules, it's right to say you will be held responsible in the case of an accident, I visit the UK every couple of years I always drive while there and have never been asked for an IDR licence when hiring a car.
    14th Oct 2017
    We've gone to the trouble twice now of getting an IDL and never needed it. Been told by car rental places our Australian one was fine. Murphy's law at some stage i guess.
    14th Oct 2017
    Yep, Bali is very corrupt with cops demanding on spot fines which go straight to the back pocket.
    We are still officially in Indonesia after holiday in Bali. This was back in 2002; the official at the desk when leaving at the airport demanded money otherwise he wasnt going to let us leave cos of a so called missing form. Gave him equivalent rupee about $10A and he stamped the passports and waved us thru after demanding same amount for his colleague !! Schapelle Corby should have offered cash when they looked in her boogie board !!
    14th Oct 2017
    I visit my family in the UK regularly and visit relatives in the Canary Islands (Spanish). I have only ever needed my AUS licence. The hire companies take a copy of my licence and sight - sometimes copy my passport photo page. I used to carry an international permit and a camping carnet (identification used instead of passport surrender when staying overnight) but have not needed either in the last decade. Things have become much more simple, with millions of travellers spending their money, why make it difficult? I imagine it would be pretty difficult if you had an accident though. I have been warned never to drive in Dubai because an accident will always be the fault of the foreigner, regardless of the real cause.
    15th Oct 2017
    The Automobile Association Australia web site states that an IDP is required for Ireland. As someone who has lived for an extensive period in Ireland I did check this when I migrated and Australia is a "recognised state" for the purpose of IDP exemption. Holders of Australian licences can drive for up to 12 months on their Australian licences without an IDP. Only visitors from outside the EU/EEA and "recognised states" require an IDP.

    I am concerned that the advice on the AAA web site may cause many people to go to unnecessary expense to obtain an IDP when one is not required.
    16th Oct 2017
    I am a regular traveler to the UK & Europe since 1990 and hired vehicles in UK, Eire, Switzerland, Italy & Sweden. My Australian Drivers licence has always been accepted and I have never been asked for an IDL ever. I am currently in the UK and bought my Aunts car. Had no problems getting an MOT, Tax and full insurance for both myself and partner, all with an Australian licence. Save some money and use your Australian licence.
    16th Oct 2017
    IDL. Total and complete waste of money, a rort by the RCA etc
    16th Oct 2017
    An IDL is only a translation of your original licence and has no value without the original licence.
    Never had one and never had a problem driving anywhere. On a dutch or an aussie licence.
    Been around the traps I can tell you a complete waste of money and time. In the Netnerlamds the equivalent of the RACV had a similar ruse going.

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