What license do you need to be able to drive abroad?
To answer this question, it depends on which country you want to go to. As long as you are still a participant in accompanied driving from 17, you may only drive in Germany and Austria. You can then drive with your EU driver’s license in all countries of the European Union. In addition, there are the other countries of the European Economic Area – EEA for short – as well as Switzerland, Serbia, Turkey and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
In all these countries it is therefore sufficient if you are traveling with your EU driver’s license issued in Germany. A little tip on the side: before you start, you should clarify whether your insurance is also there for you in the respective country.
If you want to drive in a country that has not yet been mentioned here, you need an international driver’s license. But what needs to be done? Do you still have to take an exam or even get a special driver’s license?
What is the international driver’s license?
The international driver’s license is just an additional document to supplement the EU driver’s license. So we can calm you down. At first glance, the term international driver’s license may sound bigger than it actually is. You don’t have to take any courses or exams. A short way to the driver’s license office is sufficient. The international driver’s license basically has only one task. It should translate the content of the respective national driver’s license (in your case your EU driver’s license) in a globally uniform format.
This allows police officers all over the world to directly see which vehicles you are allowed to drive and what you may need to consider. The international driver’s license is also a great help for rental car companies. Because they also want to know, of course, whether you can drive the respective rental car at all.
How do you get your international driver’s license?
The road to an international driver’s license is actually not that difficult. You can easily apply for it at your responsible driving license office. However, this is only possible on site. Applying for the international driver’s license simply and conveniently from home does not work either online or by phone.
What do you need when applying for an international driving license?
The international driver’s license is issued as a translation of your EU driver’s license. Therefore you need a current EU credit card driver’s license. In addition, the driver’s license office needs a valid ID, a biometric passport photo and some money for the application fees.
As a rule, you already have the current credit card driver’s license. Nevertheless, we still have a hint here that you may need at some point in your family or acquaintances. If you still have an old driver’s license format, you must first exchange your driver’s license and only then can you get your international driver’s license.
However, this is not a big deal, as the driver’s license office usually takes part in the exchange in one go. There are only the additional costs for the driver’s license exchange and you need a second passport photo.
How much does an international driver’s license cost?
You don’t have to be particularly rich to get an international driver’s license. In addition to the approximately EUR 10.00 for the passport photo, only EUR 15.00 to EUR 20.00 are added for the issue of the international driver’s license. Actual prices vary from region to region.
If the exchange from the old “rag” to the new credit card driver’s license is also necessary, around EUR 25.00 will be added.
How long is an international driver’s license valid for?
Two variants are used for the international driver’s license. They are based on already very old international agreements. The first is the Paris Agreement of 1926. The second was signed in Vienna in 1968. Since some countries only participated in the first agreement, there are still two driver license variants for the respective agreement.
The 1968 variant is much more common, while the 1926 variant is seen as an exception. The international driving license after 1968 is either valid for as long as your EU driving license or for a maximum of three years. Driving licenses under the 1926 agreement are only valid for one year.
However, as so often, exceptions confirm the rule and so some countries have their own regulations regarding the validity of an international driver’s license.
In which countries is the international driving license valid?
Or to put it another way: In which countries do you need an international driver’s license? It should be noted that the two agreements mentioned in 1926 and 1968 are not binding agreements that are set in stone. Each country can, therefore, interpret the conditions somewhat differently.
With the international driving license in Europe
The only thing that is really clearly regulated is where you definitely don’t need it. Speak in the countries of the EU and the EEA, as well as in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in Switzerland and in Turkey. In these countries, your conventional EU driver’s license is sufficient.
There are four countries in Europe where the International Driving License is expressly recommended.
The scheme for the US, Canada, and Mexico
If you’re planning on traveling across the pond and cruising the highways with a decent Mustang, you should have an international driver’s license with you in the United States for safety reasons. The EU driver’s license is generally tolerated, but there is no legal basis. Therefore: clear recommendation for an international driver’s license at this point. The same applies to Canada. In Mexico, it is not a recommendation, but an obligation. The EU driving license alone is not recognized here. So you absolutely need an international driver’s license.
Driving in Central and South America
You can drive with an international driver’s license in the following countries in Central and South America:
- Costa Rica
We find an interesting exception in Uruguay. As long as you are verifiably only there as a tourist, your EU driving license is sufficient. In three countries, you also have to watch out for special regulations. In Bolivia, for example, the international driver’s license must first be stamped on-site by the authority. Only then is it valid. If you want to stay longer in Brazil, you have to apply for a temporary Brazilian driver’s license. In Paraguay, you need a Paraguayan driving license after 90 days.
The international driving license in Australia and New Zealand
In Australia, the authorities generally tolerate your national driver’s license. Nevertheless, it doesn’t matter if you have an international driver’s license with you. You definitely need it in New Zealand. You can drive there for up to twelve months with the combination of an EU and an international driver’s license.
The rules in the countries of Asia
Before it gets a bit more complex in some countries, we have a list of those countries in Asia for which you can easily travel with the international driver’s license:
The international driver’s license is recognized in China, but in most cases, you have to take an additional driving test on-site. In Indonesia, you can only drive on the island of Bali yourself. In all other parts of the country, you have to rent a car and a chauffeur. If you want to drive a car in Japan, you need a translation of your EU driver’s license that is similar to the international driver’s license. However, this translation is only issued by the Japanese authority. That costs around EUR 24.00. However, some travel agencies in Germany do this for you.
In Qatar, you can only drive an international driver’s license for seven days. Then you need a “Temporary Visitor’s Driving License”. You also need a similar driving license in the United Arab Emirates. However, rental car providers can also help you. You must also be at least 21 years old to drive.
Finally, we have a special regulation in Thailand. The international driver’s license is only valid there for six months. In addition, the 1968 agreement is not recognized here. So you need the older version of the International Driving License.
The international driving license in Africa
In Africa you can travel with an international driver’s license in the following countries:
- South Africa
Here we have only one special arrangement. In Kenya, you are only allowed to drive with an international driving license for up to three months.
People with a driving license from EU and EEA countries in Germany
Let’s turn the tables once. What about people with a driving license from another EU or EEA member state? Are they allowed to drive in Germany without further ado? Of course, all existing driving license classes also apply in Germany without an international driving license.
If the foreign driver’s license is not older than two years, the German rules regarding the trial period apply. This applies for the duration of the trial period, i.e. up to two years after the first issue of the license. In the event of a corresponding offense, the trial period is extended, as with a German novice driver.
People with a driving license from other countries in Germany
People from third countries, i.e. not from the EU or EEA, can of course also drive in Germany. If you are only temporarily in Germany and do not have an international driving license under the 1968 agreement, you should take translation or classification with you. This translation can be obtained from automobile clubs, for example, and is subject to a charge. With English-language driving licenses, translation is usually not necessary, but it certainly does no harm if it is included.
There are also a few countries where Germany does not require translation:
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- San Marino
If the person establishes a proper place of residence in Germany, the original driving license is only valid for six months. After that, two options remain. An extension of another six months if it can be proven that the place of residence is relocated from Germany again in these six months.
The second and permanent variant is the exchange for a German driver’s license. How easy it depends on the country of origin. In most cases, this is a merely formal act, which can be handled entirely via the driver’s license office. In some countries, however, additional exams have to be taken.