If you are traveling outside of your country and plan to drive (or there is a minimal chance you might need to take a car), one of the basic documents is your driving license. But for most countries, I always recommend an International Driving License. Why?
First, if you don’t have a valid license you will not be able to drive or rent a car.
Second, your local driving license will not be valid at every country you visit.
Third, even if your local one is valid for driving at your destination, police officers and rental staff might not speak your language and might not know how to tell if your driving license is valid, while the international one is translated and has an standard design. So you will save time at traffic checks.
Fourth, it’s only 10-20$ worth and valid for a whole year, no matter where you go (with the exception of some countries as Panama.)
So, how do you get it?
You need to:
- have a driving license from the country where you are (where you are getting the international driving license) and valid for over a year (or you will have to renew your local one first)
- be able to drive (for example if you cannot drive in your country because the caught you driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they will not issue the international one)
- be older than 18 years old (some countries also add having had it for more than 6 months)
- Pay the amount set by your local traffic department (it’s an official price, set by the government)
Where to get it
Each country sets its own rules on how to get the International Drivers License, but:
- Online retailers are NOT a good source to get them, these places might seem an easy way but are illegal in most countries and might be fake. For example, in Spain you can only get them at Trafico offcies, in the UK you get it at the Post Offices and in the US at the AAA and the AATA only. And yes, it is illegal to charge for it, so beware.
- Pricing is set by the traffic department or the Department of State or any other official traffic board in your country. Meaning it’s standard, if you see many different prices check with your local Traffic Department. Just as an example, it costs 5.5 pounds in the UK and 10.30 euros in Spain.
- Most countries have set ways to speed up the process by paying online, but you always have to finnish the process at a physical spot (to check you are you and not someone else.)
How is the International driving license?
The International driving license/permit is often a greyish booklet with 16 pages in different languages, including your personal data and your driving licenses (motorbikes, cars, etc), your picture and some official stamps.
It has an uncomfortable sizing, bigger than your passport and smaller than a book. And since it’s made of some kind of cardboard, it gets easily damaged if you do not treat it properly.
How long is it valid:
Some countries provide you with International Driving Licenses / Permits that last for 3 years, but most countries only issue licenses valid for one year and some countries only allow you to drive for 1 year with one of them (even if it was issued for 3 years.)
And it is never valid to drive in the issuing country.
how to use it:
Keep it always with your passport and your national driving license. It will be the only way for a police officer or a car rental staff to know if you are allowed to use it, since they need to check that you are a traveler, how long you’ve been driving with it and that you are you, and not someone else.