Preparation is the key to a relaxing and hassle-free overseas trip but there’s one item often omitted from even the most comprehensive travel check list – an International Driving Permit.
If you’re planning on getting behind the wheel abroad, an IDP is often a legal requirement - and even if it isn't strictly required, it can give you some added peace of mind.
Not to be confused with an international driver’s licence, the IDP is an official document designed to accompany your current valid Australian licence with a translation in nine different languages. Present it with your Aussie licence and almost everyone should understand what they are looking at.
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The IDP easily confirms that you are authorised to be on the road, and many car hire companies also require to physically sight your permit before handing over the keys to a car.
In Australia, only the Australian Automobile Association is authorised to issue IDPs, via the various state and territory motoring clubs. To find out if you need one for your next overseas trip, head to the AAA website and enter the country you intend to drive in.
If you do need an IDP, the application process is simple.
Applying online – also through the AAA or the various state-specific motoring club sites like the RACV, NRMA etc. – will require three to eight business days for your IDP to be processed and delivered, for $39 plus postage.
If you’re in more of a hurry and don’t mind doing a little leg work, you can visit one of the motoring club stores located in shopping centres around the country, where the permit can be arranged and finalised on the spot.
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Before heading in, make sure you have a recent passport photo of yourself and your current diving licence on you. It'll expedite the process greatly, and ensure you'll leave the store with a freshly-minted IDP in your pocket. Make sure your Australian driver's licence will be valid for the time period that you intend to be overseas too - your IDP is only valid as long as your actual licence is valid.
In addition to being a widely recognised driving permit, the IDP is also a handy identification document should you need it. No one wants to consider the possibility of misplacing your passport but the IDP can provide a useful back up if the unexpected happens.
If you are planning a driving holiday or need to use a vehicle when working overseas, preparation is key. As well as arranging all the important documents, make sure you take time to familiarise yourself with any significant differences to Australian motoring that you might encounter.
As well as the basics such as which side of the road you must stick to, research the difficulties others have encountered. If you’re heading to the United States, it’s a good idea to brush up on stop signs and intersections - particularly their ability to turn right even if the light is red.
It’s certainly worth noting that Japan has a zero blood alcohol tolerance for driving and, if you’re in Germany, the locals will be seriously unimpressed if you don’t keep right on the famous unlimited speed Autobahn network. Americans and Europeans in general take a dim view of fast-lane hogs, so avoid tense moments by keeping to the slow lane unless overtaking.
If you’re not sure whether you need an IDP it’s better to get one to be on the safe side. That way you’ll be able to get on with enjoying the adventure of driving in a different country. They last for a full 12 months from their issue date as well, so if you're a frequent traveller - whether for business or pleasure - they're certainly a handy thing to have in your luggage.