Renting cars abroad can be a great way to get around on business, let alone indulging some well-earned downtime – especially to out of the way places such as wineries, golf courses or just a weekend getaway, or even a fun road trip just for the sake of it.
However, many countries require you to carry a separate International Driving Permit or IDP along with of your Australian driver's licence. Obtaining IDP is a thankfully straightforward task: just visit your local motoring body’s nearest branch, search their website for “IDP” or obtain a paper form and submit your application by mail.
An IDP doesn’t replace your traditional Australian licence – you’ll still need to keep that in your wallet – but it presents that information in a format recognised in over 150 countries and which is written in nine languages.
Here’s what you need to know about IDPs and how you can apply for one before your next international trip.
International Driving Permits: the basics
In Australia, IDPs can be obtained only from state and territory motoring bodies – such as NRMA in New South Wales, RACV in Victoria, RACQ in Queensland, RAA in South Australia and RAC in Western Australia.
If you see them available anywhere else, you're almost certainly paying for an invalid counterfeit. This includes overseas companies, which are not permitted to issue international driving permits to Australian licence holders.
An IDP from those official Australian motoring bodies costs less than $50 and is valid for 12 months or until the expiry date shown on your licence, whichever is first.
To obtain an IDP you’ll also need to be over 18, submit a passport-style photograph with your application and hold a valid Australian drivers licence issued in any state.
As you’d expect, holding only a learners permit won’t get you an IDP, although both ‘open’ and ‘provisional’ Australian licences are eligible.
Your IDP will also come printed in English, Spanish, Japanese, Greek, German, Arabic, Russian, Chinese and French if obtained from the NRMA or RACV, while the RACQ swaps Japanese and Greek for Italian and Swedish.
That makes an IDP a perfect form of identification when visiting countries where English isn’t the main language – try explaining your usual Aussie drivers licence to local authorities or rental reps in Russia or China, for instance, will be much harder than whipping out an IDP printed in the local tongue.
Applying for an International Driving Permit
Getting your own IDP is a simple task: just visit your local motoring body’s nearest branch, search their website for “IDP” or obtain a paper form and submit your application by mail.
Along with the information shown on your current licence, you’ll usually also need to include a mobile number and email address – and if you’re applying by mail from overseas, also attach a photocopy of your Australian passport, travel plans and the date you expect to return to Australia.
If applying in person, IDPs can usually be obtained straight away, while online and postal applications take more time as the document needs to reach you by snail mail.
And just remember: when driving overseas, you might need to drive on the right rather than the left, so consider creating a reminder note to leave on your dashboard, or have a passenger remind you – particularly as you approach roundabouts and busy intersections.