Smart CarDriving a car in a foreign country is an enjoyable and rewarding way to get about. It is a great way to see so much more. You get to choose your own agenda rather than one imposed on you by a travel guide or tour bus operator. An increasing number of Australian drivers are using their licence when they go abroad. Hiring a car means you can have more freedom and flexibility with your travel plans.

If you are an Australian citizen who intends to drive a car whilst on an overseas holiday you are strongly advised to check the particular requirements and qualifying criteria. Find out what applies in the country you are visiting. Make sure that you are free to use your licence. See if there is any additional paperwork required for you to carry.

Do I need an International Driving Permit?

You can check what is expected of you by visiting your motoring club website or any other suitable portal where the required information is readily available. Many countries stipulate that Australian drivers should carry an International Driving Permit in addition to your valid driving licence. An International Driving Permit is officially sanctioned by the United Nations and is accepted in more than 15 countries throughout the World.

Having this permit will enable you to legally drive a car in the designated country without undergoing any further or additional driving test. You can obtain a permit from the NRMA and other members of the Australian Automobile Association who are duly authorised to issue a valid permit to any suitably qualified driver with a standard licence.

Your International Driving Permit also offers other advantages which may be extremely helpful in an emergency situation whilst abroad, or if you are asked to produce your paperwork at the roadside. One example of its use is that it contains your identification details in nine different languages, so that you can communicate with foreign authorities.  These languages are:

  • English
  • Spanish
  • Japanese
  • Greek
  • German
  • Italian
  • Russian
  • Chinese
  • French

Arabic is available on request.

Another important consideration for holding an International Driving Permit is that it acts as a recognised form of identification.  This means that you can leave your more valuable passport in the hotel safe and just carry your permit with you in case you are requested to provide proof of identity.

How to Apply for an International Driving Permit

The most convenient way to apply for a permit is to visit your local NRMA where it will be issued over the counter.  Alternatively, you can download the application form and post it to the NRMA with the other necessary documents.  You need to supply:

  • a valid Australian driving licence; and
  • a recent passport-sized photo

Your passport photo needs to be no larger than 3.5cm x 4.5cm and less than two years old.  The photo should be on photographic paper, because photocopies and facsimiles are not acceptable for security reasons.

If you apply by post, make sure that you include clear photocopies of the front and back of your Australian driving licence instead of the actual licence.  Send the requisite fee and express postage costs if you want your permit to be sent to you.

Travel Insurance and Hire Cars

Drivers also need comprehensive insurance for driving overseas, so make sure that you find an insurance policy that will cover a high excess charge if you make a claim.  Many travel insurance plans offer plans to suit different destinations and include hire car excess waivers.  The NRMA offers travel insurance plans for several countries, including New Zealand and the United States.

Read Up on Different Driving Customs

traffic-signsThe best advice for enjoying a trouble free holiday and driving experience abroad is to take the time to conduct a little research on the rules of the road in the country you are visiting. Although there is the obvious fundamental difference to check such as which side of the road you are expected to drive on, there are other important aspects that vary according to where you are in the World. A good example of this is the different rules of priority which often confuse or can lead to an accident for any drivers who are un-prepared. Driving in France illustrates perfectly the different driving conditions you can encounter, as drivers to your right have priority, a fact that has caught out overseas drivers on more than one occasion.

If you hire a rental car make sure that all the paperwork is in order and be sure to point out any damage or defects that you notice before signing for the vehicle. A minor scrape could be potentially costly and even more so if they try to charge you for a dent or scratch that was already there when you took the vehicle. Being prepared and having all your paperwork in order will give you the best chance of having an enjoyable and trouble free motoring experience abroad.

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