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When is an international driving permit necessary?

The international driving permit is a largely forgotten topic due to the creation of the European Union and Poland joining the Schengen area. Our freedom and mobility are not, however, limited to the countries within the EU structures. If you plan to travel by car to another country, you may need an international driving permit. If you are wondering how to get it and when it is mandatory, then this article is for you.

The International driving permit – what is it?

An international driving permit is a translation of the Polish driving permit into other languages, officially confirmed. It is not a separate document and it does not require you to complete the entire driving course again. In fact, it is a copy of the original document that certifies your eligibility to drive, presented in another language. However, keep in mind that the international driving permit itself does not authorize the driver to drive a car.

The translation of the document is only valid if you have the original driving permit with you. In colloquial speech you may also hear the expression “European driving permit”. However, this is not  correct wording. The Polish driving permit entitles you to travel in the EU and EFTA countries, which do not include all European countries. Conversely, the international driving permit has a broader scope.

What does the international driving permit look like?

The translation of the driving permit is in a paper form and resembles a passport, i.e. a booklet consisting of several pages. As of today, it is available in two versions. The variant that is needed in a specific case depends on the country in which we intend to travel by car. One version applies to countries that signed the Vienna Convention, and the other applies to countries that are parties to the Geneva Convention.

The Geneva Convention and the Vienna Convention

The Geneva Convention was established in 1949 and was an expression of certain uniform norms being adopted in post-war reality. At the same time, it confirmed that the countries accepting the document were making their roads available to international traffic. Under the Geneva Convention, the first international driving permit was created, which is still in force in the countries that signed the provisions of the treaty.

The Vienna Convention on Road Traffic was established in 1968 and was ratified by Poland in 1988. The treaty defines the general road traffic rules for the signatory countries. It was there that the second version of the international driving permit was introduced. Some countries belong to both conventions, e.g. Ukraine, Egypt. Either international driving permit is enough to travel in such countries. Nothing prevents one person from having copies of their driving permit both in the Vienna Convention and the Geneva Convention versions. However, this entails paying a double fee.

Which driving permit is valid in the country to which I am going?

Information on which version is in force in a given country can be found on the websites of the embassies of individual countries. Sometimes a country has a specific type of international driving permit despite not signing the convention. Unfortunately, in some places it will be necessary to obtain the local document and complete the entire driving course.

When is an international driving permit needed?

An international driving permit is required when going to countries that are not part of the EU and the European Free Trade Association. As such, it is needed when traveling by car to other continents and European countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania, Turkey or even Transnistria. In this case, it does not matter whether we are visiting these countries for tourism or professional purposes. The international driving permit should be of particular interest to travel and camper enthusiasts, as recreational vehicles are increasingly subject to road checks.

How to obtain an international driving permit

In order to obtain an international driving permit, an appropriate application and attachments should be submitted to the poviat office. This can be done in person or by post. The waiting period for an international driving permit is up to 3 days, although in some offices they are issued on the spot. Remember that when picking up the document, it will be necessary to present a confirmation of payment and an ID card.

Obtaining an international driving permit –  what you need to prepare

  • International driving permit application
  • New photo, size: 35 × 45 mm.
  • Valid Polish driving permit photocopy
  • Confirmation of payment of PLN 35.50 for document issuance

International driving permit – for how long is it valid?

The international driving permit is valid for up to 3 years. After this time, it is necessary to re-apply and pay the applicable administrative fee.

International driving permit for trucks – who needs it and how to get it The rules regarding the international driving permit are the same for all driving permit categories. This is due to the nature of the document itself. An international driving permit is not a document as such, but rather a translation of an existing driving permit. The procedure for truck drivers is exactly the same as when translating a traditional category B driving permit. If the truck driver will be driving in countries outside the EU and EFTA, they must hold an international driving permit. There are also other requirements to be able to work as a truck driver, i.e. obtaining a certificate of professional competence and taking basic medical and psycho-technical exams.

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