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Cars & travel.

Do I need an international driving permit?

Everything you need to know about international driving permits and insurance green cards, including in which countries you need them, how to get them and what's changed since Brexit
Jade Harding

An international driving permit (IDP) is a multi-language translation of your driving licence. You need one to drive in many countries throughout the world, including a number of US states. But like many other road laws, IDP requirements depend on the country you plan to drive in.

Most people don't need an IDP to drive in European Union (EU) countries (plus Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) even now the UK has left the EU. 

If the permit is compulsory in the country you're planning to drive in, make sure you also carry your licence along with your IDP – the permit will not be valid without it.

The IDP should not be confused with an international driving licence – a document that can be bought online but is not an official certificate and won’t be accepted globally.

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Driving in Europe after Brexit

Despite the UK leaving the EU in 2020, very little has changed regarding driving in Europe with a UK licence. You can still drive in all EU and EEA (European Economic Area) countries using just your UK driving licence. 

You don't usually need an international driving permit (although there are some exceptions, which we explain below). However, if you're driving your own car, you will need some additional documents. Keep reading to find out the driving requirements for different countries. 

EU and EEA Countries

Not sure if the country you're driving in is part of the EU or EEA? See our summary below to check:

EU countries:

  • Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden.

EEA countries:

  • All EU countries, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway.

Switzerland is not part of the EU or EEA; however, Swiss law dictates that you won't need an IDP as long as you hold a valid licence in French, German, Italian or English. 

Is a UK driving licence valid in the EU?

Yes. You can drive in all EU and EEA (European Economic Area) countries using just your UK driving licence.

If you're driving your own car, you will also need all of the following:

  • a UK sticker on your car (depending on where you're driving – see below)
  • your vehicle log book (V5C)
  • at least six months on your passport in order to enter Europe.

Do I need an international driving permit?

Use the table below to find out the IDP requirements for different countries.

BrazilRequires an IDP
AlbaniaRequires an IDP
IraqRequires an IDP
SomaliaRequires an IDP
AlgeriaRequires an IDP
ArgentinaRequires an IDP
ArmeniaRequires an IDP

Please note: some countries have their own terms and conditions in relation to IDPs, so it’s important you research your destination prior to travelling. In many countries outside of the EU, holding a translated version of your licence is strongly recommended to speed up processing should you be stopped by police.

There may also be occasions when you need an IDP to drive in some European countries that don't usually require one. The Gov.uk website says you might need an IDP to drive in some EU countries and Norway if either:

  • you only have a paper driving licence (and not a photographic card licence)
  • your licence was issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man.

If in doubt, check before you leave. 

Will I need a different driving permit for different countries?

There are three types of international driving permit: 

  • a 1949 Convention IDP
  • a 1968 Convention IDP
  • a 1926 Convention IDP

The one you need to apply for will depend on what countries you're visiting, so check carefully to avoid getting the wrong one. The Gov.uk website lists which countries need which type of permit. 

How long does it take to get an IDP?

You can get your IDP over the counter on the same day, provided you have the correct supporting documents. You can also order one as early as three months prior and delay the start date of your permit; however, a permit cannot be backdated. 

How much does an international driving permit cost?

Each version of the IDP costs £5.50. There are three types of permit. If you need two permits (because you're driving across two countries that require different permits, for example), you will pay £11. Which one or how many you need depends on where you will be driving.
IDP Cards

How to get an international driving permit

Currently, you can only get a permit by visiting one of the 2,500 Post Office branches that offer the service. To find your nearest, use the Post Office branch locator, selecting 'International Driving Permits' in the 'Branch services' section.

To complete the order you have to be over 18 years old and have the following with you:

  • your full UK driving licence – photo card or older paper version licence
  • a passport-sized photo
  • your passport if you're presenting an older paper-version licence
  • the £5.50 application fee.

How long is an international driving permit valid?

An international driving permit is valid for one to three years from the date it’s issued, depending on the type required. If you need a permit after that time, you will need to apply for another permit.

What insurance do I need to drive my car abroad?

If you're driving in the EU, your UK car insurance should cover you to at least the minimum, third-party legal requirement. You can ask your insurer to boost cover if you want.

If you're driving your own car outside of EU countries, check with your insurer to make sure your policy covers you. If it doesn’t, you can either upgrade your policy or, depending on your insurer, pay for a standalone, temporary car insurance policy.

Once you’re insured you may receive a green card (an internationally recognised confirmation of insurance – more on this in a moment) to take with you. If you don’t, you can request one.

Always check the terms and conditions of your cover. Some policies will cease to be valid after a certain number of days. If you're hiring a car from a rental company, it will usually include essential car insurance as part of the package.

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Will my UK car insurance cover me in the EU?

Yes, if you have a UK car insurance policy it will cover you in EU and EEA countries, plus Andorra, Bosnia Herzegovina, Serbia and Switzerland, but this may only be on a third-party basis, even if you have comprehensive cover to drive in the UK. Ask your insurer if you want to boost your cover to drive in Europe. 

There may also be a time limit on how long you can drive in EU countries under your UK insurance policy (per year and/or per trip), so check your policy documents. 

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What is an insurance green card?

A green card is effectively a translation in several languages of your car insurance certificate. It is an internationally recognised confirmation you’re covered to drive your own car outside the UK.

While not legally required (unless you're towing), it doesn't hurt to have a green card handy. If you don't have one, you will need some other form of proof that your car is insured.

You can ask your insurance company to provide it. If you're towing another vehicle (such as a caravan), you'll need an additional green card for this.

A green card is valid for 90 days. You must carry a physical copy – so print it out if your insurer emails it to you.

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Do I need to display a UK sticker when driving in the EU?

It depends on where you'll be driving and what is printed on your number plate. 

If your number plate includes the UK identifier with the Union flag (also known as the Union Jack), you do not need a UK sticker to drive in most EU countries. But you will need to display a UK sticker clearly on the rear of your vehicle if your number plate has any of the following:

  • a GB identifier with the Union flag
  • a Euro symbol
  • a national flag of England, Scotland or Wales
  • numbers and letters only – no flag or identifier

To drive in Spain, Malta or Cyprus, all UK-registered cars will need to display a UK sticker, regardless of what is on your number plate.

The white oval sticker shows the letters 'UK' in black. 

It will need to be displayed at the back of vehicles registered in all parts of the UK, including Northern Ireland.  

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Are the laws on driving abroad different to UK driving laws?

While many of the rules of the road will be very similar in other, particularly EU, countries (for example, don't drink and drive, and don't exceed the speed limit), some countries have specific rules to follow. Check before you go to avoid being caught out. 

For example:

  • France – reflective jackets (one for each occupant) and a warning triangle are compulsory in every vehicle. The motorways in France are also privately managed, so the law states that if you break down you must use the roadside emergency telephones or dial 112. The police will send out a rescue company that will tow you to a safe area.
  • Spain – a warning triangle is compulsory, and while reflective jackets are not compulsory to carry you could be fined for walking along the road or hard shoulder without wearing one.
  • Italy – a warning triangle, reflective jackets and a spare tyre are all compulsory.
  • Germany – reflective jackets, a warning triangle and a first-aid kit are all compulsory.
  • Belgium – you have to carry reflective jackets and a warning triangle in the event of a breakdown. If you're driving a vehicle that's registered in Belgium you also have to carry a first-aid kit and fire extinguisher.

If you're driving your own car in a country where they drive on the right-hand side, many foreign driving laws ask that you make sure you have adjusted your headlight beams or attached headlight beam deflector stickers to avoid dazzling other motorists.

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Breaking down abroad

Just like checking your insurance policy, you should also check your breakdown cover before driving abroad. Not all policies will protect you for overseas breakdowns.

If your policy doesn’t cover you, you can ask for additional protection at a cost. Alternatively, you can search for separate cover solely for your time abroad.

See our round-up of the best and worst breakdown providers

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