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Tips and advice

What is an IDP licence? International Driving Permits explained

You may need an International Driving Permit if you plan on driving abroad – we cover everything you need to know

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If you’re planning to drive a car in a foreign country, you may need an International Driving Permit (IDP). A UK driving licence permits you to drive in most countries around the world, but as it’s printed in English, foreign authorities may struggle to translate it and, therefore, validate it. This can create unwanted headaches when hiring a car or communicating with local police.

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Even in some English-speaking countries, an IDP is still a requirement. In any case, an IDP serves as a supplement to your UK driving licence and cannot be used independently. We’ve covered everything you need to know about IDPs, from which countries require one, to how much they cost and how to get one.

What is an International Driving Permit?

An International Driving Permit (IDP) is an internationally recognised translation of your UK driving licence. It’s a paper document that includes all of your licence details in several languages and entitles you to drive a vehicle according to the rules agreed by every participating country. It’s not valid on its own and must be carried alongside a valid UK driving licence at all times when driving in a country that requires one.

The most important entitlement for most UK citizens is likely to be Category B – the entitlement to drive a vehicle, or vehicle and trailer, not exceeding 3,500kg in total, and not carrying more than eight passengers. Note that category B of the IDP matches that outlined on the rear of the UK driving licence photocard.

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There are three different types of IDP. They expire after a set amount of time and each country requires a certain one. The three types are:

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  • 1926 permit (lasts one year)
  • 1949 permit (lasts one year)
  • 1968 permit (lasts three years)

All three permits also run out automatically when your driving licence expires – be sure you check the expiry dates of your permits and driving licence before you travel.

Where do I need an IDP?

Which permit you’ll need will depend on where and when you plan on driving. Visit the Government’s dedicated webpage for the full list of countries and their IDP requirements.

You do not need an IDP for driving in the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein if you hold a valid UK driving licence. However, if you have an old-format paper driving licence, or if your licence was issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man, you will need an IDP. Check the Government website for details on which permit you’ll need.

In most cases, if an IDP is required to drive abroad, you’ll need either the 1949 permit or 1968 permit – at the time of writing, the only two countries you’ll need a 1926 IDP for are Mexico and Somalia.

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Some countries do not require an IDP if you will only be staying for a short period of time. Staying and driving in the country beyond this time period will require an IDP – check the Government website to find out specific details for the country you’re visiting.

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Be aware that some neighbouring countries will have different permit requirements. If you plan to drive through multiple countries, be sure to have the correct permits for all countries you’ll be visiting. For example, you’ll need both a 1926 permit and a 1949 permit if you’re driving through Mexico and the USA.

How do I get an IDP and how much does it cost?

From April 1st 2024, you can only purchase an IDP at certain participating PayPoint stores across the UK. From this date, you'll no longer be able to purchase one at your local Post Office – unless your Post Office has PayPoint. It’s not possible to order one online. All IDPs cost £5.50.

You must be aged 18 or over and hold a full UK driving licence. You will need to take the following with you when you apply:

  • Your full UK driving licence (not a provisional licence)
  • Proof of identification (e.g. your passport)
  • A passport-sized photo with your signature on the back

Do I need an IDP to drive in Europe after Brexit?

Post-Brexit, if you have a UK photocard driving licence, you will not need an IDP to drive in the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein. However, an IDP may be needed if you have a paper driving licence, or if your licence was issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man. 

If you’re unsure whether you need an IDP, the Department for Transport (DfT) advises you to get in touch with the embassy of the country you plan to drive in.

You should ensure you have the correct IDP for whichever country you are planning on visiting. As without it, you could be turned away at the border or face enforcement action including fines for having an incorrect IDP.

Are you planning on driving in Europe? See our guide for car insurance green cards, and what you need to know to drive in the EU post-Brexit.

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Charlie writes and edits news, review and advice articles for Carbuyer, as well as publishing content to its social media platforms. He has also been a regular contributor to its sister titles Auto Express, DrivingElectric and evo. As well as being consumed by everything automotive, Charlie is a speaker of five languages and once lived in Chile, Siberia and the Czech Republic, returning to the UK to write about his life-long passion: cars.

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