Crossing the border from South Africa - Do I need an International Driver's Licence?

So you're planning to cross a border from South Africa and you're not sure if you should get an International Driving Permit on your next self drive trip or not. Although it is not compulsory, Drive South Africa strongly recommends you should get an International Driving Permit. In South Africa, it is important to get your documents ready for whenever you want to hit the road to that awesome destination. Here is why:

What is an International Driving Permit (IDP)?

An International Driving Permit (IDP) is a legal document which supports your South African driver's license or any other country's driver's license. 

Why do I need an International Driving Permit in a foreign country?

Some countries do not recognise your national South African driver's license, but officially recognise an IDP. It gives vital information from your driver's license in various different languages, including English. The document not only serves as a verification of your South African driver's license, but also as an additional source of identification and helps to break down language barriers when travelling in non-English speaking countries. 

You need an International Driving Permit when:

You want to use a vehicle abroad but don't speak the local language

There are many countries which do not have English as an official language.  The IDP provides translation of your South African driver's license into several languages as well as the 5 official UN languages. Your license will then be read and understood in all countries. 

You need to rent a car or get insurance while abroad

The IDP assists you when you want to hire a car abroad. It speeds up the whole administrative process and protects you when you have to provide your driver's license. The AA strongly suggests that you obtain an IDP if you want to drive a vehicle abroad.

Crossing borders into Namibia.                                               Photo: Hannes Steyn.

How do I get the International Driving Permit?

You have to download the IDP application form and supply other documents (See below). Go to AA's official website and download the IDP Application form here

How much is an IDP?

The IDP is approximately R249.00 per permit.

What photos should I provide?

You need two ID or Passport photographs which must be gloss.

What else do I need?

You need a valid South African ID or passport or certified copies of your ID. These copies must be dated and not older than two months.

Do I need to take both my South African driver's license and International Driving Permit?

Yes. The IDP is used in conjunction with your South African driver's license. When you are stopped you need to supply both to a law enforcement officer.

I am in South Africa but have a Namibian driver's license. I want to cross the border to Mozambique. Can I obtain an International Driving Permit in South Africa?

The IDP must be issued in the same country that you got your driver's license. The AA can, however, assist you with the application and will send the documents back to the issuing authority of your country. If you have an IDP from another country and it has expired, you have to get a new one in the country where you got your license. Read here for more info on obtaining an IDP for other countries such as New Zealand and the USA.