Can You Use an Australian Driver’s Licence Overseas?
Most countries will allow you to drive using your Australian driver’s licence for a certain amount of time after you arrive.
But to drive overseas, you may need an International Driving Permit (IDP). There is also a limit on the amount of time you can drive in any given country with a foreign driver’s licence. So if you’re staying in another country for a longer period, particularly when living and working there, you might eventually need to apply for a local driving licence.
Here’s what you need to know about driving overseas if you already have an Australian driver’s licence…
International Driving Permits
An International Driving Permit (IDP) is an internationally recognised document that provides a translation of your Australian driver’s licence in nine different languages (Spanish, Chinese, Greek, German, Arabic, Russian, Japanese & French). It’s intended for tourists to easily prove they have a valid licence issued by a recognised country.
This document is not only proof that you hold a valid Australian licence, but also converts your licence class to the internationally recognised standard. For example, if you hold a “Class C” licence issued in NSW, this is marked on your IDP as a “B” category licence which entitles you to operate a motor vehicle weighing up to 3.5 tonnes with up to 8 passengers, which may be coupled with a light trailer.
When driving overseas, particularly if you wish to hire a rental car, you may be required to show your IDP in addition to your Australian driver’s licence. This isn’t necessarily always required, but it’s handy to have in case you are asked for it. Note that an IDP by itself is not a valid driving permit – you still need to carry it with your Australian driver’s licence!
Not all countries require you to carry an IDP. For example, New Zealand will let you drive on your Australian licence for up to 12 months after arriving in the country, without needing an IDP.
Countries including The Philippines, Uzbekistan, Timor-Leste, Puerto Rico and many Pacific Island countries also do not require Australians to hold an IDP when using an Australian licence. And it’s only “recommended” for the UK & USA. But other countries, such as Japan, require this if you don’t have a Japanese licence.
A small number of countries including Vietnam and China, however, do not recognise IDPs issued in Australia and require visitors to apply for a temporary local driving licence.
You can check the rules for any given country on the Australian Automobile Association website.
How to apply for an International Driving Permit
In Australia, International Driving Permits are issued by state-based automobile associations. Depending on the state where your driver’s licence was issued, you can apply for a permit through:
An International Driving Permit costs AUD42 and is valid for 12 months.
You can apply either online or by visiting a branch of your state-based automobile association. If you visit the branch, your IDP can be issued on the spot and you won’t need to pay postage. If you apply online, it takes several business days and you will need to pay extra for postage.
Applying for a local driver’s licence
In most countries, your Australian driver’s licence and an International Driving Permit will cover you for the first few months overseas. But many countries only let you drive with a foreign licence for a limited time – and may not allow you to use an IDP if you’re permanently living and working in the country (as this is designed for tourists).
The rules vary by country, so you should check this if you’re planning to use a car regularly while overseas. Here are a few examples:
- The UK allows Australians to use their Australian driver’s licence for up to 12 months. After a year of living in the UK, you would need to exchange your licence (a simple enough process which involves filling out a form and paying a £43 fee)
- In Canada, the rules vary by province but most allow you to drive using your Australian licence (with an IDP) for only a short time after arriving
- In Japan, tourists must have an IDP when using an Australian driver’s licence. If you’re a Japanese resident, you need to apply for a Japanese licence
- In most European countries (e.g. Germany & Netherlands), you can drive for up to six months using your Australian licence. After this time, you would need to apply for a new licence in your country of residence.
If in doubt, check the local rules in your country.