Driving in Spain and France after Brexit: Do I need an IDP (International Driving Permit)?

Most drivers will not need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in all EU countries such as France and Spain after 1 January 2021 - but there are a few exceptions that mean drivers could need to obtain one. Read on to find out the rules and exceptions around IDP requirement and other post-Brexit documentation. 

Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps made the announcement that drivers would not need an IDP to drive in EU countries on December 31 2020, ahead of the UK's final split from the EU after the Brexit vote in 2016.

Read on to find out more about IDP requirements and whether drivers will need other documents such as an insurance green card along with how Covid-19 restrictions and automatically extended driving licences could impact the ability to drive abroad

Here we look at requirements around the international driving permit / IDP and insurance green cards for UK motorists planning to drive in France and Spain in 2022 after the we cut ties with the EU.

Picture of International Driving Permit that drivers might need to drive in Spain, France and other EU countriesPermit credit Kai Hendry

Can I drive in Spain after Brexit without an International Driving Permit in 2022?

UK minister Grant Shapps has announced that a deal has been done with the 27 EU member states - including Spain to make it possible for UK drivers to drive without an IDP. 

Drivers with an old-style paper licence - either the green or pink version - should purchase an IDP before travelling to Europe as they are not included in the deal to avoid the need to be in possession of one (see below).

Different advice applies to Brits resident in Spain.

You will need an IDP to drive in Spain after Brexit if you have:

  • a paper driving licence - green or pink version. 
  • a licence issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man

What International Driving Permit do I need for Spain in 2022?

You will not need an IDP to drive in Spain from 1 January 2021.

(See exceptions above).

Can I drive in France after Brexit without an IDP in 2022?

The Government confirmed that UK drivers will not need an IDP to drive in France after 1 January 2021 after cutting ties with the EU. 

Drivers with an old-style green or pink paper licence should purchase an IDP before travelling to Europe (see below).

Different advice applies to British residents in France.

You will need an IDP to drive in France after Brexit if you have:

  • a paper driving licence - green or pink version. 
  • a licence issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man

What permit do I need for France in 2022?

You will not need an IDP to drive in France after 1 January 2021. (See exceptions above).

Do I need an IDP to rent car in Spain and France in 2022? 

UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has stated that British drivers will not need to possess an IDP to drive in Spain and France, but there are reports that hire car companies are refusing to rent vehicles to UK citizens without an IDP, despite the deal being stuck that mean this is not required. 

Checking with your hire car firm before travelling, or simply playing it safe by purchasing an IDP as frustrating as this may seem, might be sensible for Brits who are planning to hire a vehicle in France, Spain and other EU countries. If you can, get it in writing from the foreign hire car firm that they will not need you to produce an international driving permit. 

Testing out the system, we spoke to several international hire companies, asking their customer service departments if an International Driving Permit was required for British drivers hiring cars in France and Spain. The responses differed between each provider, with some seemingly unaware of the document. As stated above, obtaining an IDP could be the safest option if you fail to find terms and conditions that state in writing that one will not be required when picking up a hire car.

Additionally, anyone with an older-style paper licence WILL need to obtain an IDP to hire a car or drive their own vehicle in Spain, France and other EU countries.

What does IDP stand for?

The correct definition of IDP is International Driving Permit, but many people mistakenly search for International Driver's Permit, but this is incorrect. It is also often incorrectly referred to as an International Driving Licence or International Driving License - but only International Driving Permit is correct. 

Do I need a Green Card to drive in France and Spain after Brexit in 2022?

UK motorists will no longer be required to be in possession of a ‘Green Card’ when driving in France and Spain or other EU countries. 
 
The requirement for drivers to obtain the ‘Green Card’ from insurers was previously requirement after the Brexit transition period expired at the start of 2021. 
 
However, the European Commission has dropped this requirement as part of a series of concessions over the Northern Ireland protocol that came into effect in the summer.
 
You should also confirm what level of cover your insurance provider offers when driving in Europe. You might be fully comprehensive in the UK, but this could drop to third-party cover when driving abroad. Confirm this with your provider before you travel.
 
The Gov.UK website states: You do not need to carry a green card when you drive in the EU (including Ireland), Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Serbia, and Switzerland. You still need valid vehicle insurance.
 

Drivers will still need to have a Green Card when driving in the following countries:

While drivers won't need a Green Card for EU countries after the latest concessions, they will need on when driving in..

  • Albania
  • Azerbaijan
  • Belarus
  • Iran
  • Israel
  • Moldova
  • Morocco
  • Russia
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine

Do I need 6 months left on my passport to visit France or Spain after Brexit 2022?


Drivers whose licences were extended due to Covid-19 pandemic must get the licence renewed before they can drive abroad

If your licence expired between 1 February and 31 December 2020, you would have received an automatic 11-month extension due to Covid-19. But this extension may not be accepted when driving abroad - as your physical driving licence will appear to have expired. 

Government advice says if you are planning to drive abroad: "You must renew your licence before you can drive abroad if your licence or entitlement to drive in the UK has been automatically extended."

Failure to renew your driving licence photocard could leave you unable to drive in your holiday destination if international travel is opened up after lockdown restrictions in 2022.

Find out more information about extended driving licences here.  

Start the process to renew your licence here. 

What is the Government's Check, Change, Go campaign?

This is a government initiative to help travellers prepare for travel to EU countries after the Brexit transition period ended on 31 December 2020. The campaign looks at issues such as passport validity and the need to obtain an International Driving Permit to drive in EU countries. 

You can try out the Government's 'what I need to do' feature by clicking here.

Is there just one permit?

No. There are three - 1929, 1949 and 1968 – but British drivers will not require an IDP to drive in the 27 EU member states after 1 January 2021.

Make sure you get advice before you travel to ensure you have the correct documentation.

Use this Government web page to find which IDP variant you may need for your travels.


How do I get an International Driving Permit for my trip if needed?

To get an IDP you need to:

  • Be 18 years or over

  • Hold a valid UK driving licence

You will need to get your IDP is at the nearest issuing Post Office. There are 2,500 branches nationwide where you can apply.

Use this tool to find your nearest issuing branch.

When applying for an IDP you'll need to bring all of the following:

  • Your full UK driving licence - photocard or older paper version licence

  • The £5.50 application fee

  • A passport-sized photo signed on the back

  • Proof of identification - such as a passport

How long does it take to get one from the Post Office?

If you visit an issuing Post Office with the correct documents you can collect the International Driving Permit straight away - and do not have to wait for it to be posted.  

Do I need to take my UK driving licence abroad?

Yes - an International Driving Permit is only valid if you're carrying your UK licence with you.

Additionally, whether an IDP is required or not, most countries such as France and Spain require you to carry your driving licence when driving abroad.

When can I get an IDP?

You can apply for your IDP up to three months before you need it. So, it'd be smart to apply now for trips in 2020 to avoid the inevitable delays as millions of Brits rush to get one as summer approaches.

What else will I need to take when driving in France and Spain after Brexit?

Here we look at other documents you might need to take when driving in France and Spain.

Will I need an Insurance Green Card to drive in France and Spain from 2021

No - drivers will not need to carry an insurance "Green Card" when driving in France or Spain. See the main section of Green Cards, above.

Do need to have a GB sticker on my car when driving in France or Spain

Any UK-registered cars heading to any of the 27 EU countries, which includes the Republic of Ireland, will need to display a UK sticker or magnet.

The GB sticker is no longer legal in France, Spain or the rest or Europe.

The UK government says: “You will need to display a UK sticker clearly on the rear of your vehicle if your number plate has any of the following:

  • a GB identifier with the Union flag (also known as the Union Jack)
  • a Euro symbol
  • a national flag of England, Scotland or Wales
  • numbers and letters only – no flag or identifier

If your number plate includes the UK identifier with the Union flag (also known as the Union Jack), you do not need a UK sticker.

If you’re in Spain, Cyprus or Malta, you must display a UK sticker no matter what is on your number plate.

If you have a GB sticker, cover or remove it before driving outside the UK.

Do I need a Vehicle on Hire Certificate VE103R to drive in France or Spain?

Brits driving in the UK will need to carry their original Vehicle Registration Document (VRD). But for those driving a hire vehicle, will need to ask the owner for a Vehicle on Hire Certificate, as they are unlikely to provide the original VRD.

When requesting a Vehicle on Hire Certificate, drivers will need a photocopy of a letter of authority from the hire or leasing company giving permission to take the vehicle abroad. This will need the details of the vehicle you are going to be driving. 

Download the VE103R application form here. It will cost £8.00 for each VE103R, which will last for a year, Special delivery can be arranged if you want the certificate within two working days – this will cost around £6.95.

How old do I need to be to drive in France?

Unlike the UK, were we can start driving and pass out test at 17, British people driving in France will need to be at least 18 before being allowed to drive in the country.

How old do I need to be to drive in Spain?

British people heading to Spain must be at least 18 to drive a car on Spain's roads.

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Please check local laws before travelling to ensure you have all the correct documents for your trip.
 
 

Pete Barden has written and edited for publications including The Sun, Whatcar? Stuff Magazine, Fastcar Magazine, Maxim Magazine and UK broadcast stations within the Heart network (Formerly GCAP).