Driving abroad? Get your IDP from RAC

If you're planning to drive a car abroad you'll need an International Driving Permit (IDP) for certain countries. This international driving licence is in addition to your UK driving licence - which you also need to take with you if you're driving and/or hiring a car abroad.
To be eligible for an IDP you must:

  • Have a full UK driving licence (not provisional) covering the type of vehicle you're planning to drive abroad - be a permanent resident of the UK
  • Be 18 or over

You can't get an IDP with a foreign driving licence unless it's an EU driving licence and you're resident in Great Britain.
What you need to know about getting an IDP:

  • An IDP is valid for 1 year;
  • You can only get an IDP 3 months in advance of needing it;
  • You can't get an IDP issued retrospectively;
  • There are 2 types of IDP (1949 and 1926) depending on which countries you visit (see list of countries) - RAC can issue both.

If you're driving in Spain your checklist requirements are:

  • A valid UK driving licence - both the photo and paper parts. If you don't have a photo card licence, you'll need an International Driving Permit
  • A GB sticker on the back of your car - unless your car has 'Euro-plates' (number-plates that show a circle of 12 stars on a blue background)
  • Your motor insurance certificate and hire car paperwork
  • Two warning triangles inside the car - if you break down you should put one in front and one behind your car
  • Headlamp converters (stickers you put on your headlights when you're driving on the right, so your lights don't dazzle motorists coming the other way)
  • A reflective jacket within reach inside the car. You'll need to wear this if you stop for any reason outside built-up areas, even if you're just setting up a warning triangle
  • Spare bulbs for your car's external lights, plus the tools to fit them

If you usually wear glasses or contact lenses, you must carry a spare pair with you in the car.
You must also:

  • Be 18 or over
  • Make sure everyone in the car wears a seatbelt at all times
  • Wear a crash helmet if you're riding a motorcycle

It's a good idea to have:

  • A fire extinguisher
  • A first aid kit
  • A Green Card - it's a useful back-up to your motor insurance documents and shows you've got the minimum legal level of cover. If you'd like to find out more, contact your insurance company
  • A Camping Card International to give you additional proof of identity, third party liability insurance, plus discounts at a wide range of campsites and tourist attractions. Find out more here
  • Snow chains and winter or spiked tyres if you're driving ing in bad wintry weather

Other tips you should know:

  • You will have to pay motorway tolls - these are usually payable in cash so take plenty of change
  • Unleaded petrol, diesel and LPG are readily available. You can't get leaded petrol
  • Speed limits vary across Spain, so check the signposts for maximum speeds
  • If you're caught committing a driving offence, you'll be given an on-the-spot fine
  • The drink driving limit is 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood for most drivers - less than the UK limit of 80mg per 100ml. For new drivers, the limit is 10mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood
  • It's illegal to carry any radar detection equipment, whether or not it's switched on
  • Give way to traffic coming from the left, particularly at roundabouts
  • If there's an unbroken white line in the road, don't cross it - this applies whether you're on a dual carriageway or whether you're coming down a slip-road onto a motorway
  • You must use your indicators when overtaking - when you're about to pull out and when you're about to pull back in again
  • It's illegal to use your horn in built-up areas except in cases of extreme danger
  • You can't have any screens in the front of the car, apart from a SatNav system
  • Don't use full-beam lights in built-up areas during the day
  • Children under age 3 must use an appropriate seat restraint. Children aged 3-12 and less than 1.35m tall must use a child seat or booster if there's one available
  • If you have an accident, you need to call the police and stay at the scene until they arrive

Useful guides and maps

Michelin - National Map Spain & Portugal
Michelin Motoring Atlas: Europe
RAC Route Planner