I have never understood the difference between international and non-international driver's licenses. Are some countries issuing non-international driver's licenses? I always assumed that if I have a driver's license from one country, it only depends on agreements whether I can drive with that license in another country.

What is the procedural difference between getting international and non-international one, for example in Germany/EU?


3 Answers 3


International Driver's License or rather International Driver's Permit(IDP) is a document officially specifying that you're licensed to drive in your "home" country and recognized by most countries as official document allowing you to drive. It has to be issued by either a government agency or a government designed agency like AAA in the US.

The difference between internal Driver's License and IDP is that IDP will always be in English and French, whereas your local Driver's license will be in your country's official language. The reason for that is that the license should have the name and other information in Latin alphabet, which is almost univervsally usable, when Cyrillic, Arabic, etc are not.

The IDP, however, may not be necessary if your Driver's license is already using Latin alphabet. US licenses for example are accepted abroad without the IDP in a lot of countries.

  • Do all non-Latin alphabet countries recognise a Latin-only document?
    – gerrit
    Commented Jul 15, 2013 at 15:51
  • 1
    @gerrit Don't know. I have been able to use my US DL in Ukraine... I don't think that anyone can claim that IDP will be accepted in all countries as a valid driving permit.
    – Karlson
    Commented Jul 15, 2013 at 15:58
  • 4
    An IDP is not a driving license, it's only an official translation of your license, which is why you're supposed to carry both with you. Commented Jul 17, 2013 at 12:52

What is the procedural difference between getting international and non-international one, for example in Germany/EU?

That question is a bit misleading. There is no "difference" as such, in fact there is only one "real" driver's license. The International Driver's License (or Permit) is an extra document you can get if you want to.

In Germany, you can get them from a public office showing your national driver's license. The document you get is (issued to German license holders) in fact not a valid license on its own inside the country. Abroad, the IDP is also only legally valid in combination with the "real" license.

Furthermore, you do not need an IDP inside of the EU as there are, as you said, agreements in place to acknowledge foreign EU countries' licenses.

Source (German)

  • So let's say if I go to US, do I need to get IDP? Are you sure about this?
    – Elchin
    Commented Jul 17, 2013 at 5:39
  • The US requires that your drivers' license be written in English. If your German license has English on it, that's all you need; if not, you need the IDP. Commented Jul 17, 2013 at 12:51
  • The source says for the US: It is recommended to bring an IDP, although a plain German license will be tolerated in most cases.
    – graup
    Commented Jul 17, 2013 at 18:22

There are several good reasons for an International Driving Permit. It is, as graup said, only a license for foreign countries so they are able to see what your original license permit, it is itself invalid (!) in your home country. You need to have a license of your home country to get an International Driving Permit and you get the IDP automatically if you request it, so your question of procedural difference is obsolete.

The reasons: First, no policeman is able to verify that that thing you are giving him is a valid driving license, especially if it is in Cyrillic or some other cryptic language. Do you know how a Chinese or Ethiopian driving license looks? I do not, and I assume that most people don't know either. While the "Vienna Convention" requests that you should need your original driving license, I never take it with me (no one cares and as you need a valid license to get the IDP, it is stupid).

Second, your assumption "I always assumed that if I have a driver's license from one country, it only depends on agreements whether I can drive with that license in another country." is wrong. There is a known problem in the EU that people drinking or speeding and losing their driving license hope to get away if they renew it in another EU country. No, it does not work this way.

Another problem is that there are different regulations in different countries. Heavy trucks or buses may be only moved in the EU with special licenses and/or medical tests for reaction time and eyesight. You may be forbidden to drive a motorcycle. The International Driving Permits are using the least common categories to solve this problem.

While I do not know if this happens, there is the possibility that some countries have such a bad standard or no license at all (small isle countries ?) that people from this country simply may not get an international license and may not drive.

The procedure to get a normal driving license for cars in Germany is as follows: You visit a "Fahrschule" (a driving school, a private institution with a certified teacher), you need to visit at the very least 28h theoretical classes, 5 overland journeys, 4 autobahn journeys and 3 night journeys. If you think you are ready, you will be tested both theoretically and practically (practically with an independent scrutinizer which gives you often some ugly traps). After the test your scrutinizer gives you your license.

With that you go to your local public authority and get your IDP without any hassle.

  • It’s actually not stupid to have both IDP and actual license with you. You could have had your license temporarily revoked at home in which case I feel you should not be allowed to drive outside your home country either. Being required to show both allows to check this superficially.
    – Jan
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 2:22

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