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.
Importantly, most people don't need an IDP to drive in European Union (EU) countries, even now the UK has left the EU.
If the permit is compulsory, 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.
The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020. Since then, not much has changed for anyone with a UK driving 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, including an insurance green card. Keep reading to find out the driving requirements for different countries.
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 extra documentation. These are:
It depends on where you'll be driving and what is printed on your number plate.
If your number plate includes the GB identifier with the Union flag (also known as the Union Jack), you do not need a GB sticker to drive in most EU countries. But you will need to display a GB sticker clearly on the rear of your vehicle if your number plate has any of the following:
To drive in Spain, Malta or Cyprus, all UK-registered cars will need to display a GB sticker, regardless of what is on your number plate.
The white oval sticker shows the letters GB in black, standing for Great Britain.
It will need to be displayed at the back of vehicles registered in all parts of the UK, including Northern Ireland.
Although Northern Ireland is not a part of Great Britain, the GB sticker is used for cars from all parts of the United Kingdom.
Yes, if you have a UK car insurance policy it will cover you in EU countries, 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.
And, importantly, you will need to carry a green card as proof you have valid insurance.
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.
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.
A compulsory IDP will depend on where you are planning to drive. Our map below shows which countries always require you to carry an IDP. Hover over the countries to find out more.
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. For example, in Brazil a certified translation is required from the Consulate for you to legally drive.
If in doubt, check before you leave.
There are three types of international driving permit.
Since 1 February 2019, motorists can only get a permit by personally visiting one of the 2,500 post offices that will offer the service. The Department of Transport will then issue the permit via the post office.
Prior to 1 February, you could get an IDP by mail order from the AA and the RAC, and from 89 post offices in person.
To complete the order you have to be over 18 years old and have the following with you:
Drivers are able to get their IDP over the counter on the same day, provided they have the 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.
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.
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 reapply in person for a second permit.
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 should receive a green card (an internationally recognised confirmation of insurance – see below) to take with you. If you don’t, make sure you request one.
Always check the terms and conditions of your cover. Some policies will cease to be valid after a certain amount of days.
If you're hiring a car from a rental company, it will usually include essential car insurance as part of the package.
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.
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.