If you are planning to drive while overseas this Christmas, don’t risk disruptions to your travel plans or serious legal and financial problems. To drive legally in most countries, Australian travellers need an international driving permit.
If you are planning to drive while overseas this Christmas, don’t risk disruptions to your travel plans or serious legal and financial problems.
To drive in most overseas countries, Australian travelers need more than just a valid Australian driver’s license.
But many travelers don’t realise the serious risks of driving without a current international driving permit (IDP).
Not having an IDP can ruin your plans in several ways.
An IDP is required for renting a motor vehicle in most countries, which means some companies won’t even let you rent a car.
“Our staff get calls almost every day from travellers who have made arrangements to hire a car but have been turned away when they were not able to show a current IDP,” says Australian Automobile Association Chief Executive, Michael Bradley.
“It’s much less hassle to organise an IDP before leaving Australia than it is from overseas.
“But travelers can actually face worse problems if the rental company lets them hire a car without a valid IDP. If they have an accident or are stopped by the police, their trip can really go sour.”
A routine traffic stop can turn into a bureaucratic nightmare, culminating in a hefty fine, and insurers won’t pay out on accidents if you have been driving without an IDP. In most countries, driving without an IDP is equivalent to driving without valid insurance.
How an IDP works
An IDP is a United Nations-sanctioned document printed in nine languages, so that local authorities can read it. It lets you drive legally in more than 150 countries and is valid for 12 months.
It includes photo ID and driver information, so it is also very helpful for travelers who find themselves in need of identification or assistance.
While an IDP is proof that you hold a current domestic driver’s licence, you must also carry your domestic driver’s licence with your IDP.
Don’t risk it
Mr Bradley warns that your IDP only covers you for the classes of vehicle you are licensed to drive in Australia.
“If you hire a motorcycle in Southeast Asia, but don’t have an Australian motorbike license, your IDP may or may not fool the traffic cop who pulls you over– but it won’t convince your travel insurer to pay out on any claims,” he says.
“Many countries don’t make it clear that these rules apply, and it’s only when travelers have an accident or are stopped by the police that they realise the consequences of driving without an IDP.”
This year, Greece cracked down on non-EU travelers driving without an IDP. Most Greek car hire companies will no longer rent vehicles to Australians who don’t have an IDP, and Australian drivers who can show an IDP when stopped by Greek police can now be fined up to 1,000 euros ($A1,580).
While Greece is having a crackdown on international drivers, Australian drivers can strike similar problems in most countries.
The Australian Government recommends that travelers obtain a valid IDP before leaving Australia.
A recent AAA survey of IDP customers showed 77 per cent used their IDP while overseas. The countries where the IDPs were most widely used included Japan, Italy, Greece, France and the US.
An IDP costs $A39 plus postage and takes 3-8 business days to be processed and delivered in Australia. It is valid for 12 months from the purchase date, unless your domestic drivers licence expires or is suspended or revoked in the meantime.
For more information see the Australian Automobile Association’s website: www.aaa.asn.au
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