An international driving permit is a document needed to operate a vehicle while abroad. The document is produced based on your national license and it’s relatively easy to obtain. The permit is also one of the least expensive documents you’ll need for traveling to a foreign country.
It’s possible to obtain the permit online and there are agencies out there that will go through the process for you. For the most part, it shouldn’t take longer than a week until you have the permit and you’re able to drive across the border.
How Much Does It Cost?
The cost of an international driving license is negligible compared with other costs involved in traveling abroad. It costs about $20 to get the license. That’s the cost of the fee for the document itself but there are a few other expenses as well.
You’ll also need to provide a copy of your own national driver’s license and two photos similar to those that are used to make passports. There is some cost to that as well and especially so if you’re renewing a license and sending the documents while abroad.
Permits and Licenses
The term “international driving license” is often used to refer to this document. However, it’s a mistake to do so. The right term to use is the “international driving permit”. The legal difference comes from the fact that you need to have a national license for the international one to be valid.
Sometimes ads for international licenses can be found online and if you notice that the erroneous term is used chances that there’s a scam behind it. Stay clear of such offers even if they seem to be less costly and more convenient.
How Long Does a License Last?
An international permit expires after 12 months. After that, you’ll have to renew it and the costs of that process are the same as with making a new one. However, some countries won’t allow you to use an international driving permit for more than a year.
It’s also important to keep in mind that the permit is only valid if you’re having a national license with you. If it has expired the international permit won’t be valid either. The license usually lasts for about five years so make sure that you didn’t apply for an international permit at the wrong time.
Who Can Issue an International Driving Permit?
An international driving permit is usually issued by the same institution that issues national licenses. There are also agencies that can go through the process for you. This also entails an additional small fee. Make sure to investigate the agency before using its services.
This is an important document and you should obtain it from an institution you can trust. There are online resources you can use to review and compare the agencies that provide the permit and make an informed choice yourself. The documents and the photos you’ll need are the same regardless of the channels you’ll use.
Why Do You Need a Permit?
The main reason to get an international permit is to be able to drive while abroad. It’s illegal to do so without a license, at least it is in most countries of the world. There are other important legal advantages of owning a permit.
For instance, in some countries, you’ll need to provide a permit in order to rent a car or get insurance on the car you’ve come in. That’s the case even when you rent a car even without planning on driving it yourself.
Penalties and fines
There are also fines and penalties that you’ll have to bear when you’re caught driving without a proper permit. This is also the case when your permit has expired or when your national license is no longer valid. The size and severity of the penalties depend on the country you’re in, and the circumstances of the event.
Some countries are stricter than others and it’s best to inquire about the rules beforehand. Japan, for instance, deports those who don’t have the proper documents. On the other hand, the most reasonable policy is to actually obtain the proper permits before moving abroad in the first place.
What Countries Require a Permit?
There are 150 countries all over the world that require a permit and that accept it as a valid document. This covers most countries that US tourists will visit, but not all of them. For instance, there’s also an intra-American driving permit that covers American countries, some of which don’t accept international permits. The most noticeable of these is probably Brazil.
China doesn’t accept international permits at all and if you plan to drive while visiting China you’ll need to obtain a local license. Russia on the other hand allows US tourists to drive using their national licenses, for six months.
To Whom the Permits Apply?
You need to be 18 years of age to use the permit. That’s true even if your country allows you to drive at a younger age. At the same time, if the country you’re visiting has a different cut-off age, it’s the local rules that apply while you’re in the foreign country.
The permit only allows you to drive your personal vehicle. It can’t be used for commercial driving ventures. If you plan to drive commercially you’ll need to obtain another professional license. Those are usually obtained by the companies that employ professional drivers.
Be Careful While Driving Abroad
The safest way to go about driving in a foreign country is to make sure you’re following all the traffic laws. Start by making sure you have all the documents with you and keeping them up to date.
It’s always a bit more difficult to drive on an unfamiliar road, so make sure you’re below the speed limit and you’re taking plenty of rest. As long as you take these steps you’ll be fine both when it comes to your own safety and when it comes to dealing with traffic authorities.