While planning a trip to Serbia and the Balkans, I read that I was legally required to obtain an international driving permit (IDP). The UK Government’s FCO website for Serbia said that it was legally required to drive in Serbia as a foreigner. As this was not mentioned by my rental company at any point during the booking process, I thought it a little strange that it was a legal requirement. After further research, I found that it was highly recommended, but not a legal requirement. The AA and RAC websites were very helpful on the matter, and the AA appears to be the authority as they are the issuing authority of IDPs in the UK.
As my trip was due to begin in just a few days, I couldn’t send off for one from the AA, as recommended on their website. Fortunately, there are some post offices (not all will issue it, check on their website) that will issue an IDP on the spot in branch. They charge £5.50 and it takes mere minutes to do, just bring your passport and driver’s license to the counter, along with a passport photo. Which was a relief!
I was still curious about the difference in opinion of various websites. It seems that the difference between “recommended” and “required” is that in countries where it is recommended a different alphabet is used. If you are stopped by police or questioned by officials, they may not be able to read the British Driver’s Licence and so the IDP mitigates this by having it translated into many different writing scripts and systems.
For an EU citizen, an IDP is not required to drive in any other EU country. In most cases in the USA, it is not required for car rental, although it is best to check with your provider in advance. If your license is in a non-latin script, you will be required to present an IDP as a minimum in most places for car rental.
After two trips in countries that the AA recommended that I have an IDP, I found that it was not required. I drove through Serbia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Ukraine, Montenegro, Macedonia and Albania. I was stopped by the police in Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania and Ukraine (not for a traffic offence, simply because I was driving in a Serbian registered vehicle).
Not once was I specifically asked for the IDP, however the Police in Albania and Montenegro did read through it after I handed it over.
Where do I need an IDP?
Here is a list of countries where an IDP is recommended and required.
The list is not complete and most of the information is taken from the AA’s website as of 3/3/2016.
Is an international driving permit IDP required to drive in
Bahrain (A, M)
Belize (E,I) Benin
Bosnia (L) Botswana (E,I)
Brunei (A, E)
Burkina Faso (E)
Cambodia (Kampuchea) (K)
Cape Verde (E)
Cayman Islands (C)
Central African Republic
Congo (Democratic Republic of)
Congo (Republic of)
Cook Islands (G)
Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) (L)
Curaçao (Netherlands Antilles) (A,E)
Dominican Republic (I)
French Guiana (E)
Guam (E, Q)
Guinea Bissau (C)
Guinea Republic (F)
Hong Kong (E)
Israel (A, E)
Kenya (E, I)
Lebanon (A, C)
Libya (E, I)
Myanmar (Burma) (K)
Namibia (A, J)
Panama (E, I)
Qatar (A, C)
Sao Tome and Principe (E)
Saudi Arabia (A,B,E)
Singapore (A, Q)
South Africa (D, J)
Sri Lanka (N)
St. Kitts & Nevis (G)
St. Lucia (G)
St. Vincent (G)
Trinidad & Tobago (I)
United Arab Emirates
A – Required for car hire.
B – Women not permitted to drive.
C – IDP recommended. Temporary local licence may be obtained on production of UK licence, but this may be time consuming and more expensive.
D – UK driving licences that do not incorporate a photograph must be accompanied by an IDP.
E – IDP recommended – this helps if you are stopped by police that do not speak English.
F – All valid UK driving licences should be accepted. Acceptance of driving licences that are not of the European Communities model cannot be guaranteed therefore drivers may wish to voluntarily update them before travelling abroad, if time permits. Alternatively, older licences may be accompanied by an IDP.
G – National licence or IDP should be presented to the police who will issue a visitors licence.
H – In Nepal, IDP valid for 15 days then a local licence must be obtained. In Taiwan, IDP valid for 30 days – over 30 days IDP and UK licence must be endorsed locally at a motor vehicle office (photo and passport required).
I – UK driving licences valid for 90 days.
J – IDP recommended as, in the event of an accident, some insurance companies will insist on seeing one. Additionally those licences which do not incorporate a photograph need to be accompanied by photographic proof of identity.
K – IDP must be exchanged for a local driving licence. A small fee is charged.
L – An IDP is compulsory for holders of driving licenses not incorporating a photograph and also recommended for photocard licence holders.
M – IDP compulsory and must be certified by the local authorities on arrival.
N – IDP must be accompanied by a recognition permit available for a small fee from the AA of Ceylon in Colombo.
P – Officially a certified translation is required from the Consulate.
Q – For stays longer than 30 days.
R – USA (Florida) compulsory IDP – 1 January 2013
A law was introduced in Florida, USA, on 1 January 2013 requiring all persons who hold a licence issued outside of the US to carry an International Driving Permit along with their national driving licence.
The Governor of Florida repealed this law on 2 April 2013, however, car hire companies and insurance companies can impose their own terms and conditions so you should check with your intended hire/insurance company prior to travel or obtain an IDP as a precautionary measure.
I rented a car with Alamo in January 2016 and was not required to present an IDP.