Ahh! International travel! Remember those halcyon days when you could plan a holiday pretty anywhere you wanted? You booked your flight, accommodation and car hire in some exotic location, and of course remembered to take all your passports, visas, if needed and your driving license with you.
If you were travelling to somewhere where the official language was the same as your own, it is probably likely that you could use your own driving license, at least for the time you are on holiday (or business). For example, if you are Australian, you can use your state driving license in the U.K., New Zealand, Canada or the United States for a period of 6 months to a year without having to get a local license. This is not universal, strangely. In the small Pacific island nation of Tonga, for example, where English is widely spoken and all official documents are in English (as well as Tongan), you have supposed to have a Tongan license in order to drive a rental car!
The need to have a driving license translated is common whenever you book a rental car in a destination where the official language is not the same as your own. So, if you are American and are at some point in the future allowed to visit Europe, your state driving license will have to be accompanied by a translation. This becomes a bit complicated if you decide to drive around more than one country as each European nation has its own language. The way around this is to acquire an international driving permit (IDP), which is typically in more than one language (8, 9 or 10). Some countries make it compulsory to use an international driving permit when hiring a car in their country if you don’t have a local license.
Each country has a different way of obtaining an international driving permit or driving license, so if you find out that you do need one, then you will next have to find out how you get one where you live.
Even if you are expected to have an international driving permit, you will usually need your own national (or state) driving license as well.
To give an example of using an international driving permit, in Australia, you can apply online through the Australian Automobile Association. The IDP costs Aus$42 and lasts for 12 months, or less if your state license expires within 12 months. The IDP is supposed to be valid in 150 countries due to a United Nations convention and is printed in 9 languages which are: English, Spanish, Japanese, Greek, German, Arabic, Russian, Chinese and French.
Before you travel, though, check whether you need an additional driving license translation if you are visiting a country that doesn’t use one of the languages on the IDP. For example, in Thailand, police could find you if you don’t have a translation of your license in Thai, even if you have an IDP as well as your own driving license.
And, just to remind you, when international travel does return sometime in the future, driving on the wrong side of the road could have far more serious consequences than not having a properly translated driving license as it could get someone killed. Safe travels!