International Driving Permits overseas: Will your driver’s license work?

 Traffic lights to highlight international driving permits overseas

Hong Kong is a city of travelers. Whether you are a jet-setting Hong Kong local that wants to try to make your friends jealous with all of the travel photos you post online or an expat business person that’s always on the go, people in Hong Kong are seemingly always scheming where their next holiday destination will be. One thing that is not always readily apparent when you first start making travel plans, however, is whether or not you will be able to legally drive in the country you will be visiting. Here, Kwiksure provides information on how to make sure that you are always able to drive where you need to go in foreign lands.

Is your Hong Kong license effective?

It can be somewhat difficult or relatively easy to get your driver’s license in Hong Kong. If you arrived in the city after obtaining your driver’s license elsewhere, there’s a chance that all you had to do was show your existing driver’s license and pay a fee to become licensed in Hong Kong. However, if you were originally licensed in Hong Kong, you no doubt had to go through somewhat rigorous testing and restrictions before you were fully free to drive on your own. Despite the effort that goes into trying to become a licensed driver in Hong Kong, not every other country in the world accepts just a Hong Kong driver’s license as proof that you are able to drive within their borders. As such, some countries require a special type of license that is supposed to show that you have specialization in driving globally.

It’s not just foreign governments either. Sometimes a car rental company will want to see that you have an International Driving Permit (IDP) before they will be willing to rent you a vehicle. For example, you could go all the way to the United Kingdom and your Hong Kong driver’s license will suffice for the purpose of renting a car, but go to Singapore and an IDP will be required to rent a vehicle.

International Driving Permits

For those not in the know, an International Driving Permit is a form of valid driver identification that can be used in countries all over the world. IDPs are accepted in about 150 countries globally that were all part of an international accord that was formed in 1968. These countries have all agreed to allow people with IDPs to drive as their own native drivers would.

Because of the international background of International Driving Permits, they do more for you than just give you the opportunity to drive abroad. IDPs also contain credentials in over 10 languages, ensuring that it is understood that you are a legal driver almost anywhere that you go. After all, IDPs are not used only for obtaining a car, but also in the event that you encounter traffic police. Another point to remember is that IDPs are only valid for a year from the date they are issued.

In Hong Kong, obtaining an International Driving Permit is as easy as providing your Hong Kong ID card and Hong Kong driver’s license, a completed IDP application, a couple of photographs, proof of address, and a nominal fee of about HKD 80 to one of the city’s Transportation Department Licensing Offices. These are found in Admiralty, Cheung Sha Wan, Kwun Tong and Sha Tin. IDPs can be issued on the same day, or can be mailed to you within 10 days of the application being received.

Get a license abroad?

So, rather than relying on an IDP in a foreign country, does any country make it possible to get licensed for driving locally once you arrive? This may be possible, but many locales may require proof of address to obtain a driver’s license, thereby restricting local licensing only to residents. Even so, as some countries won’t recognize foreign licenses nor IDPs, if you need to drive there, you will want to check their relevant government websites for licensing requirements and make arrangements to take time to get licensed after you arrive.

Foreign insurance laws

A driver’s license is not the be-all and end-all of driving legally while abroad. Most countries will require that you are at least covered by third party liability insurance before you will truly be considered road legal. While not true everywhere, most countries want their citizenry protected from burdensome medical costs and other damages should they be in an accident through the fault of others.  Be sure to research any countries you will be driving in to find out if they have any motor insurance requirements. If they do not have any such requirements, be aware that anyone else that were to cause you damage on the roads may not be able to easily reimburse you, and obtaining comprehensive insurance will likely be a good idea.

IDP to drive in Hong Kong?

What about those traveling to Hong Kong that want to drive? Will they need an IDP? Those from approved countries will be able to use their foreign driver’s license if they are staying in Hong Kong for less than 12 months. If a person were to stay for longer than 12 months, however, they would then be required to obtain a local driver’s license. Otherwise, those without a license from one of the approved countries will be able to drive with an International Driving Permit.  Furthermore, Hong Kong is definitely a country that requires third party liability motor insurance for all drivers, so visitors should make sure that they obtain some before they get behind the wheel.

If you have any questions about the legal issues surrounding driving abroad or in Hong Kong, International Driving Permits, car insurance or more, contact the knowledgeable experts at Kwiksure! Our agents are standing by to answer your questions, as well as provide you with free plan comparisons and price quotes on quality motor insurance.


The above information is for reference only. Kwiksure takes no responsibility for the accuracy and timeliness of the information. For the coverage, mode of compensation, benefit limit and premium levels of any specific insurance plan, please refer to the relevant policy terms.