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International driving permit Easy answers to tough questions



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Confused about the need for an International Driving Permit (IDP) when you are motoring overseas? You’re not alone. The Singapore online forums are filled with queries on the subject. And it’s no wonder because there’s lots of conflicting advice out there. But it is possible to unravel the confusion surrounding IDPs.

If you have a Singapore driving licence and want to drive when you’re on holiday abroad, here’s what you need to know about the International Driver’s Permit (IDP).

Firstly, what is an IDP?

The International Drivers Permit (IDP) is recognized worldwide as a valuable document, identifying motorists as legally-licensed drivers.

The IDP is particularly useful in non-English speaking countries as it contains driving terms in various languages. This makes it useful in a foreign country when you want to rent a car, also for motor insurance claims, traffic violations and traffic accidents.

If you do require an IDP then you also need to carry your Singapore drivers’ licence as well. The IDP doesn’t replace your Singapore drivers’ licence.

The IDP is valid for one year. If you are going to be holidaying in a country longer than three months, you must contact their embassy to make further arrangements for a valid driving licence.

Do I need to get an IDP if I already have a Singapore driving licence?

There appears to be no comprehensive list of countries that recognise the Singapore driving licence, but it is safe to say that many countries do.

Do bear in mind that certain states within a country, and some car hire firms, have their own rules. If you are hiring a car, we highly recommend that that you ask the hire firm if you will need an International Driver’s Licence in addition to your Singapore license. And if you’re at all uncertain, check with the country’s embassy.

Physical driving licences are no longer needed in Singapore. Do I still need to get one if I'm driving overseas?

The Traffic Police (TP) has stopped issuing physical driving licences unless requested by motorists. Even though motorists are no longer required to surrender their physical licences in Singapore they may still be required to have one when driving overseas. As such, it is recommended that motorists intending to drive overseas request a physical copy of their drivers' licence.

Which popular destinations visited by Singaporeans require IDPs?

  • Japan – Singapore licence + IDP
  • Taiwan – Singapore licence + IDP
  • USA – Singapore licence + IDP
  • Europe – Most of Europe accepts the Singapore driving licence BUT laws are changing. At least one country (Italy) requires an IDP. Best to check with the country’s embassy or your car rental firm.
  • India (certain states only) - Singapore licence + IDP
  • China – Tourists cannot drive

Remember, if an IDP is required, you will still need to carry your Singapore licence.

In what countries can you drive on a Singapore drivers’ licence without the need for an International Drivers’ Permit?

Some member countries of ASEAN recognise the Singapore drivers’ licence.

The Governments of Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines signed an agreement stating that they would recognize all domestic driving licences from these member countries.

Therefore, Singaporean motorists can use their national driver's licence without the need to obtain an IDP in the following countries;

Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Brunei, and Malaysia.

That means, for instance, your Singapore driving licence is valid in Thailand without the need for an international driving licence.

Do note, however, that the agreement does NOT include other ASEAN members such as Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. For these countries if you hold a Singapore driving licence you would still need an IDP as well.

For more information on the 1985 ASEAN agreement on driving licences please click here.

Other countries that recognise the Singapore driving licence include:

You do not require an International Drivers’ Permit to travel to the following countries:

UK
South Africa
Australia
New Zealand

Do car rental companies want to see an IDP even if the country doesn’t require it?

If you are travelling to a country that recognises the Singapore drivers’ licence then you should not need one to hire a rental car. But do check with your car rental firm beforehand. The IDP website states that: “While a certain country’s government may not require an IDP, car rental companies located in that country, may require an IDP to rent a car.”

So better check to be on the safe side.

And do note, an IDP never substitutes your valid domestic drivers’ licence. IDPs are not valid for driving in your country of residence such as Singapore, where you need to hold a valid domestic driving licence.

What will happen if I don’t have an International Driving Permit in a country where one is required?

You could be fined and asked to appear in court. Your car insurance and travel insurance may not be valid.

Where do Singaporean motorists get an IDP?

  • International Driving Permits are available from the Automobile Association of Singapore (AA).
  • Costing $20, you can apply online at http://www.aas.com.sg/international-driving-permit.html
  • Processing and delivery to your home takes about 10 working days.
  • Alternatively, you can walk-in at two AA locations and receive your IDP within an hour. You can get your international drivers’ licence at either Kallang Bahru or Ang Mo Kio.
  1. 535 Kallang Bahru #01-08 GB Point
    Singapore 339351
    Mon to Fri: 8.30am – 5.30pm, last submission at 5.15pm
    Sat: 8.30am – 1pm, last submission at 12.45pm
    Closed on Sundays and Public Holidays
  2. 51 Ang Mo Kio Ave 3 #02-02 51@AMK
    Singapore 569922.
    Mon to Sun: 10am – 10pm, last submission at 9.45pm

For more general information about International Driving Permits click here.

Wherever you go, whatever you do, remember it’s vital to have good Travel and Car cover. Get a quick quote today and see how much you can save.

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