I have a valid South African drivers license and will be travelling to Spain (and other EU countries), where I would be driving.

Will my South African license suffice? Would I need to get an international drivers license (if yes, is this a long process?)

  • How long do you intend this trip to last, and where are you normally resident?
    – MadHatter
    Jun 19, 2016 at 7:48
  • About a week in Spain. Currently residing in the UK (Italian passport).
    – Johan
    Jun 19, 2016 at 8:03
  • If you don't mind me asking, how long have you been resident in the UK?
    – MadHatter
    Jun 19, 2016 at 8:09
  • Less than a year
    – Johan
    Jun 19, 2016 at 8:19
  • 1
    Well, that torpedoes the answer I was half-way through writing. For non-EU licences, I believe it's up to each individual country which kinds of foreign licence they accept, and for how long, which means we'd need to see a full itinerary to be able to answer. My strong advice, if you've been resident in the UK for at least 185 days, is to go ahead and exchange, and if that means holding off a couple of weeks on your holiday plans, I'd do so.
    – MadHatter
    Jun 19, 2016 at 8:29

1 Answer 1


For Spain, according to spain.info:

If you are the citizen of an EU member state, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein: you only require your valid driver’s license. If you are from another country you will require an International Driver’s License.

The IDP is just a translation of the license; the one I got had labels in French, Arabic and English; even though the actual license has labels in English as well. I was traveling to Malaysia and it turned out the IDP was unnecessary.

It is normally not a long process - these are offered by auto clubs. You have to supply your current license and a fee. Sometimes they may ask for another form of ID. I received mine in 15 minutes.

You may still be subject to additional rules and restrictions based on the local laws. For example, you may be entitled to drive a large vehicle but there may be an age restriction where you are visiting. Be mindful of these laws/variations as you are assuming complete liability when getting behind the wheel.

Given the above, from a practical standpoint I have had many friends (with non-EU, but digital licenses) that have rented cars and drive in Spain with out a IDP.

Since an IDP is so simple and relatively cheap to acquire (vs. a fine or worse in Spain), I would get it.

  • This might be true in Spain (no idea, although without any source I rather doubt that claim), but is definitely false for the whole EU. For example you are not allowed to drive with an American driver's license in Austria see here. You're required to have an international driver's license or need an official translation by the Austrian Automobile Associations.
    – Voo
    Jun 19, 2016 at 13:20
  • I think the website you quote confuses citizenship and country where the license was issued.
    – Relaxed
    Jun 20, 2016 at 8:32

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