Can I use my drivers license overseas?

Contributed by Pacific Prime, 11 January, 2017

Driving is one of the greatest freedoms in the world. The number of cars on roads in the world only reached 1 billion in 2010, with countries like China and Brazil experiencing booming car ownership rates in recent years. Driving can be a practical thing that sees us get from point A to point B. Otherwise, we drive for the experience of speeding past urban and country landscapes, leaving nothing but dust behind us.

When you’re looking at life abroad, one of the main things you might want to consider is how your current driver's license might work overseas. Some countries may allow you to use your home country’s license, while some might require you to re-license locally. Add in local auto insurance laws and there’s a few things you’ll need to know before you drive overseas.

Can my license transfer to a foreign country?

The short answer is maybe. Which countries recognise any given foreign driver’s license vary on where in the world you are. A great example is driving in the European Union, where holding a driver's license issued by an EU country can be extremely helpful. Those with an EU license will be recognised as being fit to drive all over the EU.

If you hold a United States issued driver’s license, you will find that only some European Union countries will recognise your ability to drive without some extra qualification. American drivers will find countries like Ireland and Great Britain a breeze in terms of getting behind the wheel. Other countries, such as Germany and Spain however, will not recognise a US driver’s license.

Another important thing to consider is that, although a government might recognise your foreign-issued driver’s license, rental car agencies may still refuse to allow you to hire a vehicle without an International Driving Permit (IDP). Before you arrive in your host country, it can be a big help to check what you need with the foreign embassy and car rental agencies.

International Driving Permits

An IDP is a valid form of driver identification that can help in a number of places around the world. They are generally accepted in around 150 countries that were parties to a 1968 accord, or have chosen to recognise and honour the legitimacy of IDPs. They are issued by local organisations and obtaining one can be a simple process of providing photos, your current license and paying a fee to obtain an IDP.

IDPs also have an additional benefit in that they translate your identification into ten, commonly used languages. This makes obtaining an IDP a highly recommended process if you’re travelling. You will have to remember that they can only be issued for full driver license holders, and some countries may only recognise your right to drive without a local license for a limited period of time (likely 12 months).

Obtaining a local license

In countries which don’t recognise foreign driver’s licenses, or those who place time limits on when an IDP is valid, you will need to be locally licensed in order to drive a vehicle. The application process and requirements will vary from country to country and you should seek out the local transport authority to find out more.

Local insurance laws

Another thing to consider when you’re looking at driving overseas is what levels of insurance local laws may require. Some countries may not require any form of insurance, while others may require coverage levels akin to third-party insurance as a mandatory minimum. To find out if you’re in a country with mandatory car insurance laws, it’s best to contact the country’s transport authority or local car insurance experts to find out more.

Driving in Hong Kong

If you’re looking to drive in Hong Kong, there are a few special rules that apply to foreigners wanting to get on the roads. If you’re a visitor that intends to be in Hong Kong for less than 12 months, you will be able to use your foreign driver’s license if you are from an approved country. Those with a valid Hong Kong ID, usually working expats, are ineligible to use their home license or an IDP and must apply for a local one instead.

Further to making sure you have the right license to prove your right to drive on Hong Kong roads, you will also need to ensure that you have coverage that meets the country’s minimum mandatory insurance laws. This means holding HK $100,000,000 coverage for any one event that results in a death or injury. While coverage for property damage is not required under Hong Kong law, most Third Party policies cover up to HK $2,000,000.

For the best advice to ensure you’re ready to put rubber to the road as a foreign driver in Hong Kong, look no further than leading car insurance broker Kwiksure. Their experienced experts have been helping both locals and expats get in the driver’s seat with comprehensive car insurance policies at great prices.

Tags: Europe | Other | Brazil | Germany | Hong Kong | Spain | United States | Ireland | China | law | services | insurance |



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