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Wednesday, October 17th 2018

International Drivers License: The International Driving Permit

Written by

Rafael Bracho

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WeExpats International Driving Permit Guide

WHAT IS AN INTERNATIONAL DRIVING PERMIT?

An International Driving License (IDL)—also called an International Driving Permit (IDP)—is a document that allows people to operate a private motor vehicle through all the countries that accept this as a valid document. You also have to have a valid driver’s license from the country you reside in for your International Driver’s License to be valid.

The size of an International Driver’s License is slightly larger than a passport (148 x 105mm) because it must accommodate several language translations of the pertinent information, as well as a photograph and other relevant statistics.

WHY DO I NEED AN INTERNATIONAL DRIVING PERMIT?

If you are planning a road trip passing through several countries, then an International Driving License is a necessary document. Accepted in over 150 countries—except the country where a driver resides—this document is mandatory if you are considering traveling throughout areas like Latin America or Europe. Every country has its own restrictions, however obtaining an IDP is a rather simple process.

Another main reason to get a permit is that insurance companies do not cover accidents that were caused when you are committing a crime. If you are in a foreign country driving without a proper driver’s permit, it is an illegal activity and an accident will not get covered by your insurer. We see this happen ll the time for people renting scooters or motorcycles, where they get into a severe accident and cannot prove that they were legally driving in that country so their claims are denied.

*To apply for an International Driving Permit, click here.

*You have a choice to apply for a 1949 Convention IDP and a 1968 Convention IDP. We recommend researching what options are available in your particular country, as well as what is accepted in the countries where you plan to travel across before you make a decision. For more information, click here.

HISTORY OF THE INTERNATIONAL DRIVING LICENSE:

—1926—

The very first attempt for an International Driver’s Permit was held in 1926 at the Convention of Motor Traffic. Only the countries of Iraq, Somalia, and Brazil require the license as stipulated in the 1926 convention. Liechtenstein and Mexico accept the 1926 International Driver’s License, however Mexico also recognizes the Inter-American Driving Permit as stipulated from the Convention on the Regulation of Inter-American Automotive Traffic of 1943.

—1949—

In 1949, one of the many Geneva conventions was a Geneva Convention on Road Traffic, where 96 countries agreed upon a standard description of an International Driving License. In addition, a European Agreement was made to supplement the 1949 Convention, which concluded mid-September of 1950. For private use, a Class A International Driving Permit is issued, which includes vehicles with a side-car, carriages for invalids, three-wheeled vehicles, and weight not exceeding 900 lbs (400 kg). There are four other licenses, mostly for larger vehicles which transport a greater number of passengers (buses), commercial vehicles, and light trailers. A Class E license allows for all commercial uses. This IDP is valid for one year.

—1968 ORIGINAL—

In 1968, a Convention on Road Traffic was held where the qualifications concerning the International Driving License were updated for the modern era. (Further amendments were made to this convention in 1993 and 2006.) The stipulations of the 1968 Convention on Road Traffic were ratified by 72 countries. They required: a domestic driver’s license drawn up in their national language or with a certified translation, and any International Driving Permit conforming to either annex 6 or annex 7 of the 1968 Convention. I was in this convention that the distinction between motorcycles and motor vehicles were made. Class A licenses were assigned for motorcycles, Class B licenses for motor vehicles, and Class C,D, and E roughly stayed the same. This IDP is valid for 3 years, or until your domestic driver’s license expires (whichever comes first)

—1968 AMENDED—

In 2011, the 1968 agreement was given a complete overhaul—the latest update to date.

THE REGULATIONS OF THE INTERNATIONAL DRIVING LICENSE UNDER THE 1968 AMENDED CONVENTION:

—TYPES OF DRIVER’S LICENSES —

The update in 2011 recognizes 12 different types of International Driving Permit:

*For the sake of brevity, we will only put some of the requirements. To see all the requirements, click here.

  • Class A: Motorcycles with 50cc engines, and a max speed of 45 km/h.
  • Class A1: Motorcycles with a 125cc engines, and a max speed of 80 km/h.
  • Class B: Private Motor Vehicles (cars with up to 8 passengers) with trailers that weigh less than 750 kg.
  • Class BE: Private Motor Vehicles (cars with up to 8 passengers) with trailers that weigh more than 750 kg.
  • Class C1: Commercial Motor Vehicles with trailers that weigh less than 750 kg.
  • Class C1E: Commercial Motor Vehicles with trailers that weigh more than 750 kg.
  • Class C: Commercial Motor Vehicles with more than two axles and trailers that weigh less than 750 kg.
  • Class CE: Commercial Motor Vehicles with more than two axles and trailers that weigh more than 750 kg.
  • Class D1: Commercial Motor Vehicles (vans with up to 16 passengers) and trailers that weigh less than 750 kg.
  • Class D1E: Commercial Motor Vehicles (vans with up to 16 passengers) and trailers that weigh more than 750 kg.
  • Class D: Commercial Motor Vehicles (vans with no passenger limit) and trailers that weigh less than 750 kg.
  • Class DE: Commercial Motor Vehicles (vans with no passenger limits) and trailers that weigh more than 750 kg.

—REQUIREMENTS FOR INTERNATIONAL DRIVING LICENSE—

*For the sake of brevity, we will only include some of the requirements. To see all requirements, click here.

1 – Every licensed driver must have passed an exam with theoretical and practical problems as regulated and stipulated by the country issuing the International Driving License.

2 – The country’s domestic driver’s license must adhere to the provisions of Annex 6 if they are part of the 1968 Convention.

3 – The International Driving Permit must adhere to the provisions of Annex 7 if they are part of the 1968 Convention.

4 – If a person is trying to become a resident of a new country, and both countries are members of the Convention, the new country must recognize the driver’s license of the old country while the residency is being established. (Learner’s Permits do not apply)

5 – The International Driving License will expire after 3 years at the most, or when their domestic driver’s license expires (whichever comes first).

6 – If you are under 18 years of age, a country can refuse to recognize your International Driving License if it is Class A or Class B.

7 – If you are under 21 years of age, a country can refuse to recognize your International Driving License if it is any variation of commercial driver’s license (Classes C, D, and E).

8 – An International Driving License will only be issues by the country where driver has their primary residence, and where the domestic driver’s license was issued. It is not valid in the country where it was issues, and cannot take the place of a domestic driver’s license.

WHAT DO I NEED TO GET AN INTERNATIONAL DRIVING LICENSE?

Getting your International Driving License depends on the country where you reside, or the country where your domestic driver’s license was issued. Generally, you have to fill out a brief application and often you have to take an exam. This is accomplished at the local authority or if you belong to an automotive club. You must have two passport-size photos with your signature on the back. You also have to provide a photocopy of the front and the back of your valid domestic driver’s license. There will also be an administrative fee.

WHICH COUNTRIES ACCEPT AN INTERNATIONAL DRIVING LICENSE?

*For a full list of countries that accept an International Driving License with some of their basic restrictions, click here.

Some countries accept the 1949 Convention’s guidelines, while others accept the 1968 Convention’s guidelines. Only three countries accept the 1926 Convention’s guidelines (Iraq Somalia, and Brazil). Many countries honor the International Driving Permit though they were not part of the 1949 Convention. Other nations place their own restrictions on how they accept the IDP. Therefore, it is a complicated jumble.

For example, Portugal accepts an International Driving Permit but only with a certified translation. Another example of the confusing mix of regulations is that the 1949 Convention International Driving Permit is allowed in South America except in Brazil and Uruguay. However Brazil and Uruguay accept the 1968 International Driving Permit with time restrictions from when you entered the country.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET AN INTERNATIONAL DRIVING LICENSE?

Getting your International Driving Permit can take a few minutes in some countries, or it can take weeks in other countries where the process must be done via mail. It really depends on the country that is issuing the International Driving Permit.

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