Permiso por favor? (International Driving Permit)

If you driving anywhere on your travels, it’s almost certain that you’ll be asked this question “Driver’s licence/permit please?” Not necessarily in Spanish but you will be asked to produce that little favourite fetish of all traffic cops around the world. Unless, you’re European and driving around Europe, South African driving in Southern Africa, (or other similar regionals allowances) you’ll need an International Driver’s Permit (IDP).

IDP for the 1968 Convention

“That’s simple!” you say. Oh, of course - if you’re travelling only to one or two countries or by coincidence, countries that have all ratified the same international Convention on Road Traffic. Thing is that if you’re deciding to travel your way around and through a continent the chances are slim that the one IDP will be valid for all the countries.

Where do I get an IDP?: In South Africa this can be done through the AA (Automobile Association) who have various Travel Shop’s throughout the country - except in North West Province for some odd reason! Thus in other countries, if there is an AA or other equivalent Automobile Association, contact them for information on IDP’s. Worst case, they’ll tell you where you can get the IDP. Keep in mind that this is one document that can only (officially anyway) be issued in your country of residence.

How much will it cost?:  In South Africa, and now May 2014 when I went to get my new IDP’s, it cost ZAR 265 each, so c.US$20 each. As far as I know this more or less the average price for an IDP in other countries too.

List showing countries of the Americas and which conventions they've ratified.

Which IDP?:  Getting my IDP for South America turned out to be a similar ‘debacle’ where no matter how I tried to work around it, there would be at least one other IDP for Brazil and Uruguay. Two conventions i.e. 1943 and 1968 are applicable here. The former also being the one will help you through most of the America’s. The countries that ratified the 1968 convention (very handy one this as it’s validity is up to 3 years, subject of course to the expiry date of your driver’s licence from your country of residence) overlap some of the 1943 signatory countries - what to do? Well, get both! So once again I embark on a trip with two IDP’s with one valid for 12 months and the other till August 2016 when I need to renew my South African driver’s licence.

IDP for the 1943 Convention

Checking your IDP:  Before you leave the issuing office, you have to check that all details have been entered and the relevant stamps applied to the umpteen spots requiring rubber stamps. Ensure that you’ve signed your IDP - the consultant will show where the dotted line is. Your photo must have at least one rubber stamp that is over the edges of the photo edges, and then the relevant vehicle class(es)/codes will be stamped. In some IDP’s, every category that you’re qualified for has to be stamped.

Expiring IDP while travelling:  Going back to your home country to get a new IDP every 12 months is royal pain in the proverbial! In case you think you’ll be out of your home country around the time your IDP expires, leave certified copies of your driver’s licence, passport, national ID and some passport size photos with a friend or family member. A month before your IDP expires, you set the wheels in motion to let the friend/family member apply for your new IDP which they can then send you wherever in the world you are.

Safe driving! Remember to make sure which side of the road you have to drive too!


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