Posted: 8/12/2023 | August 12th, 2023
Road trips are one of my favorite ways to explore a country. They give you the freedom to go where you want, travel away from the tourist crowds, and usually even save you money compared to taking trains, buses, or flights.
I’ve been on countless road trips over the past 15 years — both as a driver and passenger — and can’t recommend them enough. While it may be intimidating driving in a new country, it’s never been easier to find a cheap car rental and get off the beaten path.
But I get a lot of questions from road-tripping travelers about driving licenses.
Can you legally drive overseas? Do you need a special permit or international driver’s license to rent a car abroad?
While US drivers can legally drive in the US and Canada, in most other countries, foreign drivers are only allowed to rent a car and drive a vehicle if they have an International Driving Permit (IDP).
In this post, I’ll break down what an IDP is, why it’s useful, and how to get one so you can plan your next epic road trip with confidence.
What is an IDP?
An International Driving Permit is a UN-regulated travel document accepted worldwide when presented alongside a valid driver’s license. It allows international drivers to drive in a foreign country.
An IDP is essentially a translation of your driver’s license into the language of your destination country (so you still need a valid license to get one).
Once you apply for an IDP, you’ll be sent a paper booklet that you can use to rent or drive a vehicle in your destination country (over 150 countries around the world require travelers to have an IDP). You can also purchase a digital IDP for countries that accept it even without the booklet.
Why Should You Get an IDP?
The primary reason to get an IDP is that, in many countries, it’s actually required. If you plan on renting a vehicle and driving abroad, chances are you need an IDP.
If you’re specifically planning a road trip overseas, an IDP is a must. And if you’re a long-term traveler planning a multi-month (or multi-year) trip, getting an IDP before you go is a good idea. That way, you’ll have it in case you do decide to rent or drive a car during your trip. Since the IDP is recognized in 165 countries, chances are you’ll be visiting a destination where you’d need one. And if you’re a flexible traveler like me and change your plans often, it’s better to have one than not.
How Do You Get an IDP?
The best way to get an IDP is from the International Drivers Association. They provide fast, easy, and affordable International Driving Permits (IDPs). Recognized in over 150 countries, IDPs translate your license into 12 languages, ensuring legal driving overseas. With instant approval, worldwide express shipping, and validity for 1-3 years, it’s an essential travel document for any globe-trotter planning to drive abroad.
There’s no test required either; you simply have to be over 18 and have a legal driver’s license.
Best of all, the International Drivers Association also has tons of resources on their website, including driving guides to help you learn about renting a car abroad and any rules of the road you may be unfamiliar with.
Road trips are a fun, flexible, and budget-friendly way to travel. By getting an IDP before your next trip, you’ll be able to rent a car and drive abroad. It’s a must-have document for travelers looking to drive.
Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner. It’s my favorite search engine because it searches websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is being left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- SafetyWing (best for everyone)
- Insure My Trip (for those 70 and over)
- Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)
Want to Travel for Free?
Travel credit cards allow you to earn points that can be redeemed for free flights and accommodation — all without any extra spending. Check out my guide to picking the right card and my current favorites to get started and see the latest best deals.
Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.