Planning your very first overseas road trip? We know it sounds like an exciting adventure. After all, the idea of being able to stop anytime, anywhere and explore the destination at your own pace sounds appealing. But did you know that you will require an international driving permit (IDP) when driving in certain cities? Here is what you need to know.

Why do I need an IDP?

It is a well-known fact that the Singapore red passport is the world’s second most powerful passport, with access to 189 countries visa-free. Unfortunately, the Singapore driving license is not as powerful. Most of the time, holding an IDP is recommended, if you plan to drive in a foreign destination. It is the only official legal document sanctioned by the UN Convention on Road Traffic.

As the IDP contains driving terms in several languages, it can help to minimize inconvenience for drivers in countries where English is not commonly spoken. It will be useful for the following situations in a foreign country:

  • Vehicle rental
  • Traffic violations
  • Traffic accidents
  • Motor insurance claims
  • Verification of driver with photo identification

Where is the IDP required?

You may be wondering if your travel destination requires you to hold an IDP for driving there, in addition to your Singapore driving license. As there is no exhaustive list of countries that recognise the local license, it is safer to check with the country’s embassy before travelling.

The IDP is an official travel document, recognised in more than 150 countries today. However, do note that it is not recognised in these four countries:

  1. China,
  2. Cambodia,
  3. Myanmar and
  4. Vietnam

Simply put, tourists are forbidden to drive in the above countries. So you can dismiss that self-drive dream if you are thinking of travelling to these countries.

To save you the trouble of calling up the embassy prior to your road trip, we have put together a table indicating whether the IDP is required in some of Singaporeans’ favourite travel destinations below.

Country Type of driving license recognised




South Africa


United Kingdom (UK)

Singapore driving license only.
Countries European Union Most only require a Singapore driving license, but countries like Italy, Portugal and Spain also require you to produce an IDP.

South Korea


United States (US)

IDP together with a valid Singapore driving license.

How do I get an international license?

There are two ways to apply for an IDP from the Automobile Association of Singapore (AAS):

Method Documents Required Processing Time
b. walk-in application at one of the AA branches:

  • 535 Kallang Bahru, #01-08 GB Point, Singapore 339351

(Mon to Sun, 10.30am to 8pm | Last transaction at 7:30pm)

  • 51 Ang Mo Kio Ave 3, #02-02 51@AMK, Singapore 569922.

(Mon to Sun, 10.30am to 8pm | Last transaction at 7:30pm)

  • 2 Kung Chong Road, #04-01, Singapore 159140

(Mon to Fri, 9am to 8pm | Last transaction at 7:30pm)

  • Singapore Driving Licence and NRIC / FIN card;
  • Applicant’s photo will be taken on-site without charge;
  • For applications on behalf of applicant, a hardcopy of the applicant’s passport-sized photo, a copy of the applicant’s Singapore Driving Licence and NRIC/FIN card are required.
The IDP can be collected on the spot within 1 hour of application

a. Online application at


  • Singapore driving licence copy (front and back);
  • Singaporeans/ Permanent Residents: NRIC copy (front and back);
  • Foreigners: employment pass/FIN Card copy (front and back);
  • A clear and sharp coloured passport-sized photograph of the IDP applicant in the plain, light background taken within the last 2 years, with full visibility of face.
Delivery of IDP via local courier within 7 working days (exclude submission day)

Either way, you will need to pay $20 for your IDP. If you choose to apply online, you will need to pay an additional of $5.50 for the local courier fee.

Foreigners who wish to convert their licence to a Singapore driving licence, please click here (then select ‘Singapore Driving Licence’ ) or call the Singapore Traffic Police at 6547 0000 for more information.

Any other things I need to know about driving in a foreign country?

The planning does not stop after settling the legal requirements for foreign driving. Do your research to check the appropriate driving laws for your road trip before you set off. Knowing the rules of the road means you will be less likely to encounter problems and enjoy a smoother journey.

Check the validity of your IDP

It is important to note that the IDP is only valid when accompanied by a valid driving license issued in the holder’s country of residence. Thus, never leave home for your foreign road trip without the Singapore driving license. Furthermore, the IDP is only valid for one year from date of issue. It is not renewable so you need to apply for it again when it expires.

Right side vs left side driving

In Singapore, you drive on the left side of the road. However, do not assume that all countries follow the same. Generally speaking, most countries which were British colonies drive on the left side of the road like Singapore. This includes popular travel destinations such as Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines and South Africa.

On the other hand, most European countries drive on the right side of the road except the United Kingdom and Ireland. You will also need to change your orientation to the other side of the road when driving in countries like South Korea, Taiwan and the United States.

Manual vs automatic vehicles

Renting a vehicle for a road trip is a convenient way to explore your travel destination. There are two basic types of transmission – either the automatic or manual vehicle. Because of the ease of driving automatics, they are gaining popularity around the world. However, renting an automatic vehicle may be difficult, or even impossible, and more costly in many countries.

Throughout Europe, manual vehicles are more common than automatics because they tend to be more fuel efficient due to the smaller size. The cost of renting an automatic (if you manage to find one) can cost as much as 50% more than a manual vehicle! Therefore, it is important to do your homework to find the vehicle rental company that best fits your budget and preference.

Understand the local driving culture

Cultural values can impact how people drive around the world. In some countries, it is rare to spot a female driver. If you are a lady renting a car in such a country, especially the Arab countries, expect to be honked at by aggressive male drivers who are appalled with seeing you behind the wheel. In cities with congested roads, you may meet more impatient drivers who would not care less about encroaching your space.

On the contrary, driving in the countryside may be a more relaxing and pleasant experience. This is not just because of the beautiful scenery, but also because drivers tend to be more jovial and patient in slower-paced places. Understanding the driving habits at your travel destination would minimise any potential rude shocks and set your expectations right for what to expect during the trip.

All set to embark on your epic road trip? Travel safe and have fun!

This article originally appeared on Shopback