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Several of the existing answers on the matter of the IDP point to the advantage of it being in a Latin script and thus easier for foreign police and car rental agencies to verify. Generally there is also at least one answer saying you don't need one.

Examples:

But mingled in with all the YAGNI (especially for someone like me whose license is in English) is the recurring "it depends on the country" thread. So I checked what my government has to say and for some countries it says "an International Driving Permit is recommended, but ..." and goes on to explain that you can use your home license for some period of time, while for others it just says "an International Driving Permit is recommended." And then finally some say "An International Driving Permit is required." What even is the difference between recommended and required in this context?

And is this the last word on the matter? Is there some authoritative list I can consult? So far, of the 9 or 10 countries I plan to visit (depending on whether you count the Cook Islands as part of New Zealand or not) on this trip, I only plan to drive in 3 or 4: Vanuatu (recommended), Samoa (have to get a local one on arrival), Tahiti (required), and the Cook Islands (have to get a local one). If I don't plan to drive in Tahiti perhaps I don't need to get one.

[Update for those using this question as a source of information: Tahiti never once asked about the IDP and we did not rent in the Cook Islands but I have heard they no longer make you get a local one. Samoa still does, we did, and I even got to show it at a roadside check.]

(Yes, the prudent thing to do would be to go get one. But it can only be done in person and it's at least an hour away so for both of us to troop off on this errand to obtain an unnecessary piece of paper just bugs me. As a result, I would like to know how to know so I don't waste my time on a fools errand.)

Not tagging with countries because the point of the question is how to settle this in general, rather than getting the details of any particular country.

  • I don't think there is an authoritative list that covers almost all of the world. The individual countries are free to set their own laws and such a list is bound to get stale. The list maintained by the country that issued your driver's license will be your best bet. Especially if such lists don't are clear enough, I don't think there will be a general method to find such information that covers all countries. – neo Jun 5 '15 at 15:45
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    There are reports of local gendarmes bothering people driving with non-local licences, even when they come from mainland France. It seems completely illegal and will hopefully stop but it's not easy to defend yourself as a tourist in a foreign land and fighting a small fine in court on the other end of the world is also a loosing proposition. Maybe that's why the advisory consider an IDP required there. – Relaxed Jun 5 '15 at 16:05
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    By contrast, I would guess that “recommended” means there might be some law on the books and there are no explicit agreements with Canada but the local consulate hasn't heard about any enforcement in practice. – Relaxed Jun 5 '15 at 16:06
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    Just so you don't get sent on a wild goose (or chicken!) chase, the Cook Islands no longer requires some visitors to get a local driving license, including those from Canada: 3news.co.nz/world/…. I was there in February 2015 and did not have to get a local one. – Greg Hewgill Jun 6 '15 at 8:09
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As a general rule, an IDP is required whenever the language and/or alphabet on your license is not easily understood by the law enforcement officers of the country you are visiting. All of the countries that accept IDPs have laws on the books requiring IDPs. Some require all to have, some require only certain languages to have.

And there is also the law versus the practice. As an example in Thailand all foreign drivers are required to have an IDP with them. But for renting a car or id purposes any DL in English works ... until you are in a wreck then no IDP means bigger fines (the police offciers can read your English license, they just want more cash).

There is a chance that the countries listed as "recommended" are those who accept English DLs in practice, but may still have rules that could be dragged out in certain situations.

Rental car companies (the big ones) usually maintain a database of IDP requirements and maybe able to address some of your destinations. But the call center might not be to helpful if you call in with big list to ask about ;-)

The CAA may also maintain data on this.

  • the CAA seems rather focused on Florida and Georgia, as place Canadians drive to I expect, rather than places Canadians might drive in. – Kate Gregory Jun 5 '15 at 17:04
  • @KateGregory just do it to avoid any headache I'd say. But yeah, strange enough, there does not seem to be any website listing each county's requirement. – Adrien Be Sep 5 '15 at 0:58

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