If you’re going overseas, it’s a good idea to get yourself an International Driving Permit (IDP) – sometimes referred to as an international drivers licence. You may need one to rent or drive a vehicle, and they’re also recognised as valid identification in over 150 countries.
Some car rental companies make it a requirement and countries where the language is not in English will require an international driver’s licence (IDP). It is recommended when travelling overseas to have one to avoid any potential problems.
To apply you will require a valid Australian driver’s licence, be over the age of 18 years, not on your learners permit and provide a passport style photo plus an issue fee.
International driving permits
Many countries require Australians to have an international driving permit (IDP) in addition to a valid Australian driving licence to legally drive a car, or ride a motorbike. An IDP is a widely recognised document that can be issued by associated members of the Australian Automobile Association (AAA). Before driving overseas, Australians should contact the appropriate foreign mission in Australia for information on drivers licence requirements.
Ensure the IDP allows you to drive or ride the vehicles you intend to use. Some insurance policies will not cover you if you have an accident using a vehicle that you are not licensed to drive.
IDPs are issued through state and territory motoring clubs. To obtain and international Driving Permit, please contact the relevant IDP authority in your state.
- New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory – NRMA Motoring and Services
- Queensland – RACQ Ltd.(Royal Automobile Club of Queensland Limited)
- Victoria – RACV (Royal Automobile Club of Victoria)
- South Australia – RAA (Royal Automobile Association of South Australia, Inc)
- Western Australia – RAC (Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia (Incorporated)
- Tasmania – RACT (Royal Automobile Club of Tasmania Limited)
- Northern Territory – AANT (Automobile Association of Northern Territory Inc), phone: (08) 8981 3837
Driving risks overseas
Dangerous drivers, unsafe vehicles and ill designed and poorly maintained roads make road travel a risky undertaking. Inadequate medical and emergency services, ineffective law enforcement, little or no driver education, and often a startling array of motorised, non-motorised, human and animal traffic moving at different speeds add to the risks. Road travel at night and outside major cities, in countries with poor safety records, little or no street lighting, stray animals and/or mountainous terrain can be very dangerous.
Following safety precautions such as using seat belts, including child restraints, not drinking and driving, taking regular breaks while driving long distances, and obeying the speed limit, make you less likely to be involved in an accident and more likely to survive if you are in an accident.
Australians should learn about the destinations road conditions and traffic culture before getting behind the wheel. It is important to be aware of local laws and security conditions when driving overseas. Driving under the influence of alcohol can have severe criminal penalties in many countries. In some countries drivers must have no quantity of alcohol in there system. The penalties for traffic infringements in some countries can be severe by Australian standards. They can include hefty on-the-spot fines, immediate confiscation of drivers licence, immediate impounding of vehicle, detention, deportation or imprisonment.
For more detailed information, the Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT) offers regularly updated Road Reports for approximately 150 countries. Available via e-mail or download (fees apply), each report covers general road conditions, local driving style and realities of dealing with the police, public transportation and emergency situations. Other useful features include summaries of especially dangerous roads and phonetic translations for use in unsafe or emergency situations.
Motorcycle accidents involving Australians are very common in South-East Asia, particularly in areas such as Bali, resort areas of Thailand and in Vietnam. Australians should ensure they wear helmets, preferably full-face helmets, and other protective clothing when riding motorcycles, scooters and mopeds overseas to minimise the risk of serious injury.
Motor vehicle insurance
Always insure yourself to drive a vehicle overseas and carry the insurance papers with you. Check your vehicle insurance to see if you are covered for breakdown recovery, accidental damage and medical expenses for injuries suffered in an accident. If driving a friend’s car overseas, check first that you are appropriately covered by their insurance policy to drive their car.
When hiring a car carefully read the insurance documents to determine your level of cover. In some countries, the legal minimum for insurance cover may be low. This may leave you responsible for claims over this limit. In some countries it is an offence to drive a vehicle if you are not on the insurance policy as the driver.
For driving through mainland China, this IDP or your Australian licence will not be recognised. To drive in China, you must hold a Chinese Government-issued licence. A temporary 30-day visitor and tourist licence can be obtained at Beijing Airport. You will need your IDP, Australian licence, three passport photos and a health check.