The International Driving Permit

Gavia Pass in the Italian Alps. June 2018

Gavia Pass (Italian: Passo di Gavia) (el. 2621 m.) is a high mountain pass in the Italian Alps. It is the tenth highest paved road in the Alps. The pass lies in the Lombardy region and divides the province of Sondrio to the north and the province of Brescia to the south. The road over the pass (SS 300) connects Bormio to the northwest with Ponte di Legno to the south and is single track most on its southern section.

Planning to go off on a wonderful driving holiday or business trip to Europe this year…planning to hit the highways and byways of Europe…planning to cruise over some of the worlds most beautiful and challenging mountain passes…well then…start planning now and get your International Driving Permits-IDP sorted out soonest.

Brian's Saab makes it to Switzerland 0818Towards the summit of the Simplonpass connecting north west Italy and Switzerland

I got my International Driving Permit last week. The IDP is a legal entity unlike the heavily advertised ‘International Driving Licence’ which according to the RAC and the Department for Transport has no legal validity at all.

International Driving Permit Feb 2019

Two different IDP’s…the 1968 version on left and the 1949 version on the right

The bottom line is…if you are proposing to drive in Europe ( and beyond ) after March 29th and the British Government crashes out of the European Union without a Brexit deal there is NO guarantee that your existing UK issued driving licence on its own will be valid in Europe and beyond.

SAAB 9.5 IN TOSCANA_P1020353A little bit of ‘White Road’ driving in Tuscany…

To be sure of complying with what are sure to be draconian European driving laws then pop down to your local CROWN Post Office with your passport, current UK Driving License-both parts, a passport photograph for each licence required and a means of paying £5.50 for each license. Your small local post office won’t be able to do this for you.

When I turned up I had to wait for 10 minutes as only two member of staff had been trained up to issue the IDP and they were both at lunch. It takes about 10 minutes for each IDP to be issued as all your details have to be written in laboriously by legible hand onto a card document slightly larger than a standard passport. You get lots of stamps which makes it all very official looking and most importantly each IDP is published in several  European languages…enough even to appease a French ‘Flic‘ who wants to bring his numbers up at the end of a shift !!

Somme WW1 Battlefield, July 1st-November 1916, France. Munich Tr

Using farmers dirt tracks to cross the Somme Battlefields in northern France

As far as I could work out, with the help of a wonderful Post Office clerk in Dunmow, Essex there are three versions of the IDP, all different and all valid for different periods of time…no one said this was going to be easy !

I opted for the 1949 validated version which allows me to drive in Spain, Malta, Cyprus and Iceland…AND the 1968 validated version which covers all EU countries plus Norway and Switzerland…there is another version dated from 1926 which allows you to drive in Lichtenstein. Now, just to confuse…it is possible that if the UK crashes out of Europe on the 29th of March 2019…then either none of the above will count….or, that the 1949 version will not count and only the 1968 will be of use. When the Prime Minister knows I’m sure she will tell us !!

Getting a Brexit deal may help to resolve all the above but i’m planning a belt and braces approach here by getting sorted now !

Interesting point here is that although the Government refuses to acknowledge that pre Brexit stockpiling is taking place throughout the land most Crown Post Offices have been issued with thousands of blank International Driving Permits to issue in the coming weeks…I was told ‘We are expecting a bit of a rush on in March’…don’t get caught out, go get it sorted now !!…and this will probably apply even if you are hiring a car in Europe rather than taking your own.

Here are some helpful links:

International Driving Permit Feb 2019

Both my 1968 and 1949 validated version of the IDP

Stelvio Pass, Italy,Winter, 2000

Stelvio Pass in Italy in the winter. The pass is located in the Ortler Alps in Italy between Stilfs (“Stelvio” in Italian) in South Tyrol and Bormio in the province of Sondrio. It is about 75 km (47 mi) from Bolzano and a mere 200 m from the Swiss border.


About brianharrisphotographer

I have been an editorial photographer since 1969. After working for various 'Fleet Street' press agencies and local papers in the east end of London I joined The Times of London where I worked around the world until 1985. I joined The Independent Newspaper in London in 1986 and stayed with them until 1999. I'm still working as a photographer, generating my own story ideas which I sell to the international magazine market. I also contribute generic stock images to various photo libraries. I live near Cambridge in eastern England.
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