Why Carry an International Driver’s Permit While Driving Abroad?
An international driving permit is a document that you need to have with you if you plan to drive in a foreign country. It’s only valid when you also carry a national license issued by your own country and an ID of some sort- usually a passport.
The document is issued by the same institution that issues a national license and it’s easy to obtain since a national license is the only proof that you need to show that you can actually drive in accordance with the law.
A Driving Permit or a License
The two terms are often used interchangeably, but it’s a mistake to do so. The proper term for the document is an international driving permit. A license is a document issued by your own country and one that actually allows you to drive. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to drive legally even if you have a permit with you.
If you notice that someone is selling international licenses online, chances are that those documents are not valid and you’re dealing with a fraud of some kind. Those sites are best avoided.
How to Get an International Driving Permit?
The document is rather easy to obtain. You can use the international driving permit online application and get the document delivered to your home address. In order to do so, you’ll need to pay a small fee and already have a driving license issued on your own. The document also requires two passport size photos and it takes about seven days until the process is completed.
Once you have the permit it becomes valid when it’s shown with a national driving license and a passport.
What You Can Use the Permit for?
Most importantly the permit allows you to drive while in a foreign country. This is only true, however, if you are of legal age that’s permitted to drive in that particular country and if you meet all the other requirements set by the local laws.
A permit is also necessary if you want to rent a car while abroad. Some agencies also require the document before issuing the proper insurance to tourists that rent their vehicles. That’s not a standard procedure for those who rent cars with a domestic license but rules change when you’re abroad. The permit is also used as an ID when you’re stopped by the traffic police.
What Happens When You Can’t Produce a Permit?
You’re not legally allowed to drive without a permit and you can get a fine if you don’t have one with you or if the one that you do have is expired. There are fines that you may need to pay when this happens and the amount depends on the country you’re in.
In some countries, however, the laws are a bit stricter towards those lacking the proper documents, and Japan is even known for deporting those who get caught without a permit.
When does an International Driving Permit Expire?
The permit is valid for a year and can be renewed online after that. You’ll need to use a special carrier to send the proper documents but it’s possible to renew the document while abroad. The permit also isn’t valid if your national license isn’t up to date either.
Some countries won’t allow you to use the international permit for longer than a year. In those countries, you’ll need to produce a national license once the first year of living abroad has gone by. The process for getting a national license is usually a bit more complicated than simply renewing an international one.
What Countries Require You to Carry an International Permit?
150 countries recognize an international driving permit. All of these also require you to have a national license with you. Some rather noticeable countries recognize only their own national licenses and China is probably the most important of these.
Canada and Mexico also allow US drivers to use their national licenses when driving across the border. You’ll need to produce insurance and registration documents, however, since national ones aren’t considered valid. Brazil only recognizes Intra-American driving licenses, which is a document created by an international agreement signed by all American nations.
Some additional restrictions come with using an international permit. First of all, there are age restrictions. If you’re not legally allowed to drive in the country you’re visiting you won’t be able to do so, regardless of laws in your own country.
Secondly, the permit can only be used to drive personal vehicles. If you want to drive a commercial vehicle abroad, you’ll need an additional and separate license for that. These are more complicated and more expensive to obtain and it’s best if your company does that for you.
Tags and Documents
You’ll also need a few more documents other than the permit itself. You’ll need to have proof of insurance and registration. Those can be translated or obtained in the country you’re visiting. You’ll also need valid tags that need to display proof of registration and to show which country you’re from.
The tags need to be placed so that they are visible at all times and that they clearly indicate the number and the country of origin. There are fines for those who don’t comply with these rules even when they have the proper documents.
While you’re traveling abroad and using a vehicle you may not be fully familiar with, it’s best to be extra careful when it comes to safety on the road. Make sure that you’re following all the traffic laws and regulations and that you’re always driving a bit below the speed limit.
If you’re stopped by the authorities, try to be polite and courteous and that will go a long way even if you’ve broken some regulation in the process. The police officers tend to be forgiving towards foreign drivers if the infractions aren’t that bad and you’re trying to fix things up and admit you’ve made a mistake.
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