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An international driving permit is a document allowing you to drive while abroad. The permit is only valid if you have a national driving license as well. It’s a document that you should have on you if you plan to explore a foreign country in your own car.
The document is easy to obtain and it costs less than most other documents needed for international travel. It covers most countries in the world, with a few important exemptions and the comfort you’ll get by being able to drive on your own schedule is more than worth obtaining it.
What the Document is Actually Called?
The official name of the document is an international driving permit. You’ll often hear it called a license since that’s what the national document is called. It’s a commonly used term but you shouldn’t find it on any official forms.
If you do, chances are that you’ve been scammed and the document you’ve obtained isn’t valid. There are plenty of resources online that can help you find the best provider that will issue you a valid permit that is not overpriced.
How to Get One?
The permit is issued by the same institutions that issue the national license. It’s issued based on the national license and it’s the only document you need to provide to get a permit. There’s also a small fee to pay and a form to feel out.
You should also provide two photos, like those used for passports. It takes about 7 days for you to get the permit if it’s done online or you could get it the same day if you’re willing to wait in line for it and have all the documents lined up.
What is the Permit used for?
The main purpose to get an international driving permit is to allow you to drive while abroad. You’ll need to have a permit for that and if you don’t have it with you when caught by the local authorities, you may get a fine.
The permit is also used to rent a car and most companies won’t allow you to rent without proving that you have a permit allowing you to drive. This doesn’t cover the cost of insurance and you’ll need to purchase a policy separately.
Who Can’t Drive Abroad?
The permit is only valid for those that are over 18 years old. If you’re younger than that you won’t be allowed to drive. Some countries allow their citizens to drive when they are younger than 18 and even if you’re from one of those, this doesn’t apply for an international permit.
It can only be used to drive a personal vehicle of designated weight and with a designated number of seats. The permit can’t be used for driving a commercial vehicle, a bus, or a truck. All of those require a separate license that your employer needs to obtain for you.
Which Countries Accept the Permit?
At this point, about 150 countries in the world accept international driving permits at this point. Therefore, it’s easier to go through a few countries that won’t accept the permit as a legal document rather than those that do.
China, for instance, doesn’t accept an international permit, and you’ll need to get a local tourist permit in order to drive. It’s easier to obtain than those that are issued to Chinese citizens. Brazil also doesn’t accept international permits but it does accept intra-American permits.
How Long the Permit is Valid for?
The permit is valid for a year. After it expires, you can renew it online in a process as simple as that used to get the permit in the first place. This can also be done while you’re abroad. Some countries won’t allow you to use the permit for longer than that and you’ll need to get a local one.
An international permit isn’t valid without the national license you need to carry with you. If the national license expires, you won’t be able to use the international permit either. This license is much more difficult to obtain online and in some cases, it’s not possible to do it at all.
What Does the Permit Look Like?
An international permit looks similar to the national one. It has your photo, a number with which the ID is identified, and features that prevent you from plagiarizing the document. The main difference is the fact that the permit contains information in a few different languages.
At this point, the license contains your information in ten languages: English, French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, German, Arabic, Italian, Swedish, and Portuguese. This covers most languages in which foreign governments operate and should get you covered wherever you’re going.
What Can Happen to Those Driving Without a Permit?
There’s a fine for driving without an international permit. For the most part, it’s just a monetary fine and the amount differs from one country to the other. It also depends on your circumstances, and if it’s not the first time you had a traffic law violation, you can end up paying more.
In some countries, penalties could be harsher than that and Japan can even deport those who are found without the proper documents. That’s an extreme case, and for the most part, you can expect your car to be impounded until you get a permit.
Laws and Regulations Apply
When you’re abroad, local rules and regulations apply to you as they would to any other citizen. This also means that you need to follow traffic laws while driving with an international driving permit as you would anywhere else.
Make sure you familiarize yourself with those laws beforehand and to be extra careful while driving in a foreign country, whose driving culture and roads you’re not familiar with. This will keep you out of trouble and help you enjoy your stay while remaining safe on and off the road. When you encounter local law officials, make sure you’re straightforward and respectful as you would in your own country.