INTERNATIONAL DRIVING LICENSE – a Misconception!!!!

Driving has its own charm, be it driving in your own country or driving in a foreign land. Who doesn’t seek a road trip and drive with those never before eye-pleasing views? But what mainly bothers the travelers is how they can accomplish this without a license for driving in that country. With all this, we encounter the term “International Driving License”, which we think is mandatory. One might believe that this is something different from the conventional license, the one you already have. Well, to ease all these confusions let me apprise you that one doesn’t need an International Driving License to drive abroad. Astonished!!! No wait, I have something more, it should rather be, and there is no such thing as International Driving License.

So what do we actually need or can we just go rent a car and roll on?? There is something known as International Driver’s Permit (IDP). The International Driving Permit (IDP) is not a license in itself. It is a permit that the relevant authority in your home country issues on your existing valid driving license to allow you to drive in foreign countries. Some automobile associations (e.g. AAA) also issue IDP for their members. Clearly, to apply for IDP one requires a valid driving license along with passport.

Some countries also ask for visa and confirmed travel tickets for your IDP application. Validity of IDP is not the same as that of your license; it is valid for a certain period of time, which is usually 12 months in majority of nations. You can apply online for IDP in many countries. Moving to the history, the concept of IDP came into force the license earlier used to be in a booklet form in the vernacular language. So to avoid linguistic issues, they issue IDP in English making it globally sustainable in order to avoid linguistic issues.  With the smartcard-based license, IDP is history, but unfortunately travelers are unaware of this.  However, you still need an IDP if your driver’s license does not spell your name and other details in Roman alphabet.

My experience taught me something more about this issue. Initially, I also used to carry an IDP with me on my international travels.  When I presented my IDP to rental cars in the US they failed to recognize it and asked me for my smartcard-based DL. A cop halted me once while I was driving in Europe. Since I had the IDP ready, I showed him. To my surprise, he did not recognize the documents and said he had no idea what they were and would like to see a driver’s license issued by the country I reside in.

As they issue smartcard-based license now in English, a globally accepted language, most cops have no idea what IDP is. What they accept is a valid driving license from your country that should match with your passport. In the past 10 years, I have driven in 20 countries including US, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia on my smartcard-based DL issued in India.  My IDP was never requested, and I don’t apply for one anymore.

Now you can actually go abroad, rent a car and rock on.

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