What is an International Driving Permit or License?
An International Driver’s license / International Driving Permit is a legal document that allows the holder of a valid driver’s license to drive a vehicle in a foreign country. However, the IDP is not an independent license, rather it is your local driving license translated into twelve (12) most widely spoken languages in the world. The languages in which your domestic driving license is translated at the time of issuance of IDPs include English, Spanish, Russian, Italian, Arabic, Chinese, German and French.
The International driving permit is accepted in more than one hundred and fifty (150) countries of the world.
What is the difference between an International Driving Permit (IDP) and an International Driver’s License (IDL)?
You may be wondering why there are two different terms i.e. International Driver’s License (IDL) and International Driving Permit (IDP)? Is there any difference? What should I apply for? Which one is more appropriate? Which one will be acceptable in the country I am going to visit?
All your questions have one simple answer. There is no difference in both the terms and both of these refer to the same document i.e. a translated version of your local driving license which allows you to drive vehicles outside the boundaries of your country/state. However, generally, the term International Driver’s Permit is preferred because an International driver’s license is not an independent document. Even after the issuance of IDL the basic document remains to be your local license which makes you eligible to drive. The IDP is just a temporary permit, which is issued for a limited period, to allow the holder to drive vehicles in foreign countries.
How does an IDP work in Estonia?
International driving permits are acceptable in the country of Estonia. In addition to the individuals having an Estonian Driver’s license, the foreigners having a valid IDP are also legally allowed to drive vehicles in the country. The tourists must have a valid international driver’s permit to drive a vehicle in Estonia, especially for the foreigners whose local driver’s license has been issued by any country/state other than by a member state of the European Economic Area.
What Do You Need To Apply for an IDP in Estonia?
You may be thinking that an IDP seems to be a big deal and an important document for my visit to Estonia, is it going to be difficult to get one? The answer to your question is No. Getting an IDP is as simple as getting your photo clicked? Ok, maybe a little more than clicking a photo, but still the process is very simple and quick. The following documents are required to apply for an IDP:-
- Copy of your valid Passport or identity document
- Complete particulars of your domestic driving license
- A legible scanned image of your domestic driving license
- Recent passport-size photographs of yourself
- A fee of USD 49/- for the issuance of an IDP with a validity period of one year
United Nations Agreements on Road Traffic:-
Several international conventions deal with international laws regarding road traffic and safety including Geneva Convention on Road Traffic and Vienna Convention on Road Traffic. The country of Estonia is a contracting party to the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, 1968 as well as Geneva Convention on Road Traffic, 1949. Being a contracting party to the Convention, the government of Estonia is required to take the following measures for road safety in the country:-
- To frame and enforce appropriate procedures for issuance of driving license.
- To make it mandatory for all applicants to take theoretical as well as practical tests for the issuance of a driving license.
- Allowing holders of valid International driver’s permits to drive vehicles in the country.
- Enforcing proper road traffic rules in the country.
Benefits of Carrying an IDP in Estonia:-
Having an IDP with you during your visit to Estonia not only lets you drive vehicles in the country but it comes with several other benefits which are listed below:-
Proof of Identity in a Foreign Country:-
An International Driver’s License serves as proof of your identity during your visit to Estonia. While driving in Estonia, the holder of a valid IDP does not have to carry multiple documents with them at all times as their IDP contains all the relevant information duly translated into twelve different languages, hence, it serves as enough proof of their entity. The road administration authorities and local police rarely require any other proof of identity from holders of a valid IDP.
Evidence of Your Local Driving License:-
The basic document which makes you eligible for an IDP is your domestic license, and even the holder of a provisional or learner license cannot acquire an IDP. Hence, if you have a valid IDP with you, it means that you have a valid driver’s license issued by the relevant authority in your country/state and you are eligible to drive vehicles.
An International License is a legal document that draws its strength from International treaties. Further being based on an original license, the IDP is an internationally accepted legal document allowing tourists to drive private as well as rented vehicles during their foreign visits.
Eligible to Rent a Car:-
The car rental agencies working in Estonia do not provide services to tourists unless and until a valid international license is presented before them. Hence, for all tourists intending to hire a car in Estonia for rent, they are required to show a valid IDP.
Peace of Mind:-
Not every tourist intends to self-drive vehicles during their tour to a foreign country. However, it is advisable to carry an IDP with you even if you intend to explore the country with a local driver as the IDP makes you eligible to drive vehicles in a foreign country in case of any urgency or any unfortunate incident. Having an IDP with you gives you peace of mind while enjoying your visit anywhere around the world.
When should I get an Estonian Driver’s License?
An International Driver’s License is generally issued for six months or a maximum period of one year. However, as per law, an IDP may be issued for a maximum period of three years, which rarely happens. Hence, if a foreigner’s stay in Estonia exceeds three years, he/she may have to apply for an Estonian Driver’s License to drive around the country.
However, as per the laws of the country, anyone whose stay in Estonia exceeds one hundred and eighty-five (185) days in a calendar year, or who has studied in Estonia for more than six months is eligible to apply for an Estonian License. For the citizens of Estonia, having an Estonian License is mandatory to drive vehicles in the home country. The following documents are required to apply for a driving license in Estonia:-
- A valid identity document in form of an identity card or passport
- A medical certificate
- A digital passport-size photograph along with signatures
- A driving school certificate
- Payment of government fee
Renewing Your IDP or Original Driver’s License While in Estonia:-
The validity period of an international driver’s license ranges from six months to three years, depending on the request of the holder and payment of relevant fees. However, if your local driver’s license expires before the expiry date of your IDP, it makes your IDP invalid with immediate effect. Hence, while planning your trip abroad, make sure that the expiry date of your local license is not going to lapse during your trip.
However, if your local driver’s license expires on your trip, the application process for the renewal of the license is easy and hassle-free. Just contact the local authority which issued your driver’s license, online or through a mobile application whatever the case may be, submit the required documents along with the renewal fee, and get your license renewed. The process of renewal of IDP is almost the same and generally requires the submission of the following documents:-
- An application for renewal
- The original expired license or its certified copy
- Complete particulars of expired license
- Passport-size photographs
- Payment of renewal fee
Car Rental in Estonia:-
A car rental agency charges a fee of $23 per day to $61 per day depending on the kind of vehicle you are going to hire. However, the most widely rented vehicle type in Estonia is the Mini (Fiat 500) while the most popular cities to rent a car are Tallinn, Tartu, and Kuressaare.
The minimum age to rent a car in Estonia is twenty-one (21) years however, individuals below the age of twenty-five (25) years are required to pay an additional surcharge along with the amount of rent if they wish to hire a vehicle for rent.
The following documents are mandatory for renting a vehicle in Estonia:-
- A valid full (not provisional/learner) driver’s license issued at least one year before the date of renting the vehicle.
- Valid proof of identity in terms of an ID card or passport
- Contact number
- A credit card with a validity period of at least six months after the date of return of the car
In addition to basic car rental services, the following additional services are also offered by car rental agencies in Estonia for payment of an additional fee:-
- One way rentals
- The navigation system in the vehicle
- Services of additional driver
- Baby seats and child seats
- Insurance coverage of different types
- Winter equipment including winter tires and ski box etc.
Driving and Safety in Estonia:-
The country of Estonia is a member of international conventions on road traffic and is bound to implement road safety rules and regulations. The administration of the country has taken very positive measures in this regard due to which the country won the “2020 Road Safety Pin Award” by European Transport Safety Council. While traveling around the country, keep the following rules in mind:-
A packing guide for road trips in Estonia:-
While planning a road trip in Estonia, make sure to pack some specific items with you including spare bulbs for the vehicle’s external lights, a fire extinguisher, a first aid kit, a reflective jacket, tow rope, jump leads, a headlamp converter, etc.
Drive on the Right-Hand Side of the Road:-
In the country of Estonia, people drive on the right-hand side of the road and if someone has to overtake a vehicle, he can do it on the left. However, it is illegal to overtake a tram that has stopped for dropping off the passengers. At the junctions, vehicles coming from the right side are given priority.
Use of Seat Belts:-
The use of seat belts is mandatory for all passengers at all times. For children below the age of twelve or those who cannot use adult seat belts, an appropriate child restraint is a must.
Use of Headlights:-
While driving in Estonia, you are required to keep the headlights of your vehicle on at all times irrespective of the time of the day.
The use of mobile phones is strictly prohibited:-
Estonian road administration takes strict action against drivers who use mobile phones while driving in Estonia. However, the use of hands-free devices is allowed as long as it does not affect your focus on the road.
Driving under the influence of alcohol:-
The drink-drive limit in Estonia is 0.02%. However, if police officers have reasons to believe that the driver is under the influence of alcohol, they may ask him/her to take a breath test and drivers cannot refuse to take the test.
Use of Horns:-
When a vehicle is in a stationary condition, the use of a horn is strictly prohibited except in case of extreme danger.
Rules relating to people riding a bike:-
As per the rules of Estonian driving, the use of a safety helmet is mandatory for motorcyclists, and kids below the age of twelve (12) are not allowed to ride as a passenger on a motorcycle or moped.
On the Spot Fines:-
The traffic police of Estonia are authorized to issue on-the-spot fines in case of violation of any of the traffic rules.
Driving in Winter:-
From December to March, the drivers are required to ensure the use of winter tires and to keep all the necessary equipment with them while driving.
Documents to be carried by drivers:-
While driving in Estonia, drivers must carry their valid driving license, a copy of identity document i.e. ID card or passport, and vehicle registration documents at all times.
Top Five Destinations to Visit in Estonia:-
The country of Estonia is part of Northern Europe and shares borders with the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland. The federal capital of the country is Tallinn with “Euro” as its official currency. The country of Estonia is famous as one of the least religious countries in the world with a population of approximately 1.331 million in 2020 as per the World Bank. The following five locations are considered the most wanted locations in Estonia:-
Lahemaa National Park:-
Lahemaa National Park is one of the most wanted locations in Northern Estonia spread over an area of approximately 747 km2 which is only 70 KM away from the federal capital i.e. Tallinn city. The word Lahemaa means “Land of Bays“.
Being the most famous tourist spot, many tour operators offer trips to the park while people can drive on their own as well. This is one of the largest parks in Estonia consisting of a coastline, pine and cliff forests, peat bogs as well as large Ice Age Boulders. Lahemaa National Park is perfect for those who love hiking and have a taste for beautiful and cultural landscapes.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral:-
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is an orthodox cathedral in central Tallinn which was constructed between 1894-1900 when the country was part of the Russian Empire. This beautiful church is famous for its rich decoration and eleven (11) bells one of them weighs approximately 16 tons which is more than the combined weight of the other ten (10) bells. The interior of the church is decorated with mosaics and icons.
The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral hosts massive ceremonies and a visit to the church is free of charge.
The Kadriorg Palace was constructed by Russian Tsar Peter I in 1718 in honor of his wife Catherine. The Estonian, as well as German name of the palace, translates into “Catherine’s Valley“. If you visit the palace you will get to see Kadriorg Art Museum which displays ancient art pieces from the sixteenth (16th) to the twentieth (20th) centuries. You will also get a chance to visit Kadriorg Park.
This magnificent palace was designed by Nicola Michetti, an Italian architect, and consists of a huge hall that is a reflection of Baroque architecture in Estonia. The building of the palace is surrounded by a beautiful garden containing hedges, fountains, and flowerbeds. The visiting hours of the palace are 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM except for Mondays and Tuesdays.
Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour:-
The Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour is an Estonian maritime museum in the city of Tallinn which is one of the largest museums in Estonia. The interactive exhibition of the museum includes a real submarine from the mid-1930s, the seaplane Short 184, a 100-year-old ice-breaker, the Maasilinn ship, two cinemas, sail ships, boats, naval mines, many simulators, and many more attractions.
The museum also serves as an institution to collect, preserve, study and present the maritime history of Estonia. The former captains and sailors of the country built this museum in 1935 which has been expanded ever since. Even if you are traveling with kids, you can enjoy the museum to the fullest as it offers a playground for children.
Matsalu National Park:-
The Matsalu National Park was previously known as Matsalu Nature Reserve, which is spread over an area of approximately 486.1 Km2 comprising Matsalu Bay, Kasari River Delta, nearly fifty (50) Islands, and Islets, and the village of Matsalu. Matsalu National Park was established in 1957 and is one of the richest areas of bird species in Europe.
The best time to visit the park is during spring and fall being the bird migration period as during this period the park becomes a host to ducks, swans, geese, and cranes. As per statistics gathered by relevant authorities, around two million birds fly through the park annually while it serves as a stop to more than 230,000/- birds as well.
Frequently Asked Questions:-
What is the minimum age to drive in Estonia?
The minimum age limit to drive in Estonia is eighteen (18) for cars, however, a sixteen (16) year old can drive a car in Estonia under the supervision of an adult.
Can I ride a bike/motorcycle in Estonia?
If your local license allows you to ride motorcycles, your IDP shall also make you eligible to ride motorcycles in Estonia.
Do I need an International Driving License in Estonia?
A valid IDP is a must for all tourists who intend to drive either a private or a rented vehicle in Estonia.
As a holder of a learner/provisional license can I apply for an international driving permit?
No, for having an IDP, you need a full/regular driver’s license issued by your local authority for at least one year before the issuance of IDP.
What is the drunk-drive limit in Estonia?
The drunk-drive limit in Estonia is 0.02% for all drivers and driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious offense as per the laws of the country.
What are the seat belt-related traffic rules in Estonia?
The use of seat belts is mandatory for all passengers as it minimizes the chances of injury in case of an accident.
Estonians drive on which side of the road?
Estonians drive on the right-hand side of the road and overtake vehicles on the left.
What is the maximum validity period of an International Driving Permit?
An IDP is issued with a validity period ranging from six months to three years depending on the application and payment of fee. However, if your local license expires before the expiry date of your IDP, it makes your IDP invalid with immediate effect.