International driving permits are not drivers' licences

International driving permits

Many people mistakenly call an international driving permit (IDP) an international driver's license.

Their belief is that the IDP alone allows them to drive here at home and abroad, perhaps even when they do not hold a valid driver's license or are prohibited from driving.

An IDP is really nothing more than a translation of your current driver's license into other languages for the convenience of the authorities in other countries when you travel.

Like a passport, an IDP is in booklet form and include a photo of the driver, his or her name, date of birth and a description of the types of vehicles they are permitted to operate.

The Canadian IDP is translated into 10 languages: English, French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, German, Arabic, Italian, Scandinavian and Portuguese.

Some countries require you to produce an IDP and some do not. The government of Canada Travel Advisories Page lists requirements by country and will specify IDP requirements.

Where do I get an IDP?

In Canada, authority to issue an IDP rest with the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA). The British Columbia Automobile Association is the provincial arm of the CAA and anyone aged 18 or older can apply for an IDP by filling out an online form, enclosing a photocopy of both sides of your current driver's license, two passport photos and a fee of $25. The IDP is intended for use outside of Canada and is valid for one year.

There are many online sources offering to sell you an “international driver's licence” or an app that purports to be an electronic IDP. These are high-priced scams. A simple check with ICBC tells you BCAA is the authorized issuer.

If the country you are driving in requires that you have an IDP, you must present it along with your current valid driver's license when demanded by authorities.

Graduated Licence Program (GLP) drivers beware!

The provisions of the Convention on Road Traffic that created the IDP do not require the signatories to recognize learner-driver permits. If you hold a learner-driver permit it would be wise to check whether it will be accepted in the countries you intend to travel in before you drive there.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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