In order to drive in a foreign country, you’ll need to have the proper documents. For the most part, this means an international driving permit that can be used only with a national license.
The permit is one of the easiest documents to obtain since there are no additional tests you’ll need to take to get it and the fees are much smaller than with other documents related to international travel. The permit lasts a relatively long time and covers most of the needs of an average tourist visiting a foreign country.
How to Get an International Driving Permit?
An international driving permit can be obtained online. If you don’t want to spend more time doing research by yourself, visit this website to find top services when it comes to acquiring a permit. All you need is a valid driving license and a form to fill out.
The permit can arrive at your address within a week and you’re allowed to use it as soon as it does. The process for renewing the license is the same and it can be done while you’re abroad. Keep in mind that the international permit isn’t valid if a national license expires.
When Does the Permit Expire?
There are two types of international driving permits. One expires after a year and the other after three. Both of them can be renewed online and while you’re abroad in the process that is identical to that of obtaining a new one. You’re not allowed to drive until your license is renewed if the old one is expired.
There are only a handful of countries in which you need to have a permit that expires in 3 years. In Europe, only Germany and Bosnia and Herzegovina require drivers to have this type of permit.
Countries that Don’t Accept an International Permit
Some countries don’t recognize an international permit at all and they may require you to obtain a local license while visiting. One of such countries is China. You can’t drive in China with a foreign national license nor can you use an international one. The only option is to obtain a local license.
There’s a special version of a local license made for tourists that’s easier to obtain and that doesn’t last as long. That’s your best bet for experiencing China in your own vehicle.
Russia is another interesting exemption. It accepts an international permit but it has special and more lenient provisions for those coming from the US. They won’t need to obtain an international permit if their visit is shorter than a year. During that time, tourists from the US are allowed to drive with their national licenses if they are valid.
Local traffic laws and age restrictions still apply while in Russia with an American license. For the most part that means that those between the age of 16 and 18 won’t be allowed to drive in Russia even though they would have in the US.
Traveling to Canada and Mexico
US citizens don’t have to obtain local licenses when traveling to Canada and Mexico. They also won’t need an international permit along with their national license. The countries recognize the national license issued by any US state.
This doesn’t however go into the issues regarding insurance. The insurance you get in the US doesn’t cover you while visiting these countries and you’ll need to get a new policy for the duration of your stay. It’s also a useful idea to have your license translated for the visit, especially when going to Mexico.
When Are You Eligible for a New License
A person is eligible for a foreign license if they can prove that they are a resident of that country for a certain period of time. For the most part, during that time, the international permit will also expire and you’ll have to get a local license in order to drive.
Residents need to go through a test the same way those who are citizens of a country would and after you pass the test you’ll be eligible for a license. Each country has its own set of rules regarding the test.
What Does the Test Usually Look Like?
The rules vary depending on the country you’re in but for the most part, the test starts with a medical examination determining you’re fit to drive. In some countries, this includes a psych examination as well.
The test itself consists of a written examination covering the basic traffic rules and a driving test. In some countries, you’ll also have a series of driving lessons accompanied by a driving instructor. Chances are that if you’ve passed the test in your own country you’ll pass this one as well.
The European Union recognizes the driving licenses issued by all member states. That means that if you obtain a foreign country that’s a member of the EU, you’ll also be able to drive with it throughout the Union, without having to obtain any other documents or pass any additional tests.
The insurance companies sometimes cover the damages made anywhere in the EU but not always. That’s something to inquire about before taking a trip. It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to car insurance while abroad. It may end up saving you a lot of money.
What Happens if You Don’t Have the Permit?
Each country has its own set of laws and traffic rules and it can vary from one country to another. However, there’s usually a fine for those who don’t have the proper permit while driving abroad. The same goes for those who have let their permit expire. In some countries, your vehicle may be impounded until the issue is resolved. Japan on the other hand has the strictest laws and they may even deport foreigners that don’t have the permit.
It’s best to avoid all of these issues by making sure you have the permit with you and that it’s valid before taking a trip.