International Driving Permit South Africa

International Driving Permit South Africa

What is the difference between an International Driving Permit (IDP) and an International Driver’s License (IDL)?

An International Driving Permit is a small grey booklet marginally larger than a passport containing a translation of your original driving license in 10 languages, including English, French, Russian, Chinese, Arabic, and Spanish. It is recognized by 141 countries worldwide and is valid for one year.

In comparison, an International Driving License is not a legal document and cannot be used to drive in foreign countries or instead of an IDP.

How does an IDP work in South Africa?

In South Africa, foreigners can drive vehicles based on their local driver’s license if their local license is issued in English. However, an International Driving Permit is mandatory if your local license is issued in any language other than English.

Despite the above, it is always recommended to have an IDP if you plan a trip to a foreign country, as international agreements back an IDP. Hence, traffic police and local administrative authorities are bound to accept a valid IDP.

What Do You Need To Apply for an IDP in South Africa?

An International Driving Permit is a crucial document having solid legal support. The process of applying for an IDP is straightforward and hassle-free. Here is the list of documents you will need to apply for an IDP:

  • A copy of your identification document (a national ID card or passport)
  • Complete information about your local driving license
  • Scanned image of your local driving license
  • Recent passport-size photographs
  • A fee for IDP has a validity period of one year.

United Nations Agreements on Road Traffic

There are several United Nations agreements about international laws on road traffic and safety. South Africa is a contracting party to the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic, 1949, and Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, 1968. The contracting parties to these international conventions are bound to follow the rules specified therein, some of which are listed below for ready reference:

  • To ensure road safety in their country by devising and implementing appropriate laws.
  • The driving license issuing authority administers proper theoretical and practical courses
  • Ensuring that no licenses are issued without clearing theoretical and practical tests.
  • Taking appropriate steps for issuance of international driver’s licenses to their citizens.
  • Permitting foreigners to drive vehicles in their country if they hold a valid international driving license.

Benefits of Carrying an IDP in South Africa

An International driving permit not only lets tourists drive vehicles outside the boundaries of their country or state, but it also comes with several other benefits, some of which are listed below for ready reference.

Legal Document

An International Driving Permit is a valid legal document that permits its holder to drive vehicles in foreign countries. Being translated into twelve (12) most widely used languages worldwide, an IDP is accepted in more than one hundred and fifty (150) countries.

Evidence of Your Domestic License

An IDP is only issued if the applicant already has a valid local license. Hence, an IDP serves as documentary evidence that its holder has a valid domestic license issued by their country. Consequently, they are eligible to drive vehicles in their country/state.

Valid Identity Document in a Foreign Country

While traveling in a foreign country, keeping a valid identification document with you is always mandatory. International Driving Permits also serve as valid identity documents containing all the relevant information.

Eligibility to Rent a Car

In most countries, car rental companies do not rent vehicles to tourists unless they provide a valid International Driving Permit. Hence, if you intend to hire vehicles for rent in a foreign country, carry your valid IDP with you.

Peace of Mind

Several tourists prefer to hire a local driver during their foreign visit and avoid the hassle of driving vehicles on their own. Naturally, you would not need to have an IDP with them in such a scenario. However, having an IDP gives you peace of mind that you are eligible to drive vehicles in case of any emergency without violating any laws of the country.

Driving Requirements for Non-Citizens in South Africa

As per traffic laws of South Africa, citizens of foreign countries are allowed to drive vehicles without having an international driving permit if they hold a valid driving license in the English language. However, individuals who are nationals of any such country, the official language of which is other than English, are required to have an international driving permit if they intend to drive vehicles in South Africa.

When should I get a South African Driver’s License?

A foreigner does not need to get a South African Driver’s license during their temporary stay in the country, as long as they hold either a valid local driving license issued in English or a valid International Driving Permit. However, once South Africa grants a permanent residence permit to an individual, they must convert their local license into a South African license within one year of getting such a permit. After the lapse of one year from the permanent residence permit issuance date, the IDP or foreign driving license becomes invalid. Hence, the individual no longer remains eligible to drive vehicles on the roads of South Africa.

In addition to the above, holders of a diplomatic permit are also eligible to apply for a South African Drivers license. The process of conversion of your local license into a South African Drivers license includes:

  • Submission of application for exchange of driving license before Driving Licence Testing Centre of the province for which permanent residence permit has been issued.
  • Submission of a legal document of identification (ID card, temporary ID, or passport)
  • Passport-size photograph
  • Current driving license issued by your country
  • Proof of permanent residency in South Africa
  • Proof that you were a permanent resident of another country when the foreign driving license was issued
  • Certified translation of your foreign driving license if it is not issued in English.
  • Confirmation letter from the driving license authority which issued your foreign driving license
  • Proof of residential address in the shape of a utility bill or affidavit
  • Payment of required fee

After detailed review and verification by the Driving License Testing Centre and submission of your foreign driving license/IDP, as the case may be, before them, a South African license shall be issued. However, clearing the eye test is mandatory for conversion of your local license to a South African one.

Renewing Your IDP or Original Driver’s License While in South Africa

The primary document for issuance of an IDP is your local driving license. Hence, if your local license expires during your trip to South Africa, your IDP will be invalid immediately. In case you do not hold an IDP and you are driving vehicles in South Africa based on your local license issued in English. You shall not be eligible to drive vehicles in South Africa if that license expires.

In such a scenario, keep yourself calm and contact the relevant authority which issued your IDP or your local license, as the case may be, and submit a request for your license renewal. The process of renewal of a driving license is provided at the website or mobile application of relevant authorities in most countries, which usually involves submission of the following documents:-

  • Payment of Renewal Fee
  • Expired driving license in original or its certified copy
  • Passport-size photograph

Car Rental in South Africa

Experienced tourists who have explored South Africa believe that by hiring a vehicle for rent, you can visit several underrated yet beautiful locations – safaris and several sites of South Africa, including sites recognized as UNESCO World Heritage sites, which otherwise remain unexplored while traveling with a tour as a group.

Rent varies according to vehicle type and places to visit, although you can generally rent cars in South Africa at very economical rates. However, to get the best prices, book your vehicle before your visit as higher rates are charged during peak season, i.e., from October to March. The documents required for renting a vehicle in South Africa include your valid driver’s license, IDP, credit card, and passport. In addition to said documents, you will have to provide relevant contact information when renting the vehicle.

The minimum age to rent cars in South Africa is eighteen years. However, a young driver’s surcharge is charged to drivers below the age of twenty-five (25), as in most African countries.

Driving and Safety in South Africa

South Africa is contracting to party to not only one but two international conventions on road traffic. The South African National Roads Agency manages the country’s national roads (SANRAL), and most roads are in good condition. However, getting to know the traffic rules of a country before traveling to that country helps you avoid traffic violations. Hence, some of the regulations of South African roads and traffic are as follows.

Road Conditions

Most of the roads in South Africa are in good condition, with signposts in English. However, you may come across potholes on rural unpaved roads.

Robot Means Traffic Lights

The South African people use the term “robot” for traffic lights. Hence, you know what they mean if you ask someone for directions and they end up telling you to take a right at the next robot.

Petrol and Fuel Stations

Most of the petrol/fuel stations operate twenty-four hours and have restaurants as well as restrooms. However, you will need to pay for petrol/fuel in cash.

Drive on the Left Side of the Road

In South Africa, vehicles are driven on the left side of the road. Hence, to overtake a vehicle, you have to pass right.

Use of Seat Belts

All vehicle passengers must wear seat belts while traveling, and proper child restraints are necessary for children who cannot use adult seat belts.

Driving under the influence

The country of South Africa has implemented strict laws on drunk driving. The maximum allowed alcohol blood content for drivers is 0.05%, and heavy fines are imposed on violations of this rule.

Use of Mobile Phones

The use of hand-held mobile phones is strictly prohibited for drivers. However, drivers can use hands-free devices if they can drive carefully and with full attention.

Speed Limits

The allowed speed limits are displayed on the roads with clear signs, and heavy fines are imposed for speed limit violations. The maximum permitted speed limit for the national highway, urban freeways, and other major roads is 120 KPH; for rural roads, 100 KPH, and built-up areas, the maximum limit is 60 KPH.


While driving in South Africa, always keep your identity card, driver’s license, and vehicle registration documents with you.

Other Safety Tips for Driving

In addition to the above, keep in mind the following safety tips while traveling in South Africa:-

  • Keep the doors and windows of your vehicle locked
  • Never pick hitchhikers. If someone seems to be in trouble, report the person in the nearest town.
  • Never leave valuables in your car unattended
  • Avoid traveling at night in remote areas
  • Keep emergency helpline numbers on your phone at all times

Top 5 Places to Visit in South Africa

South Africa is a beautiful country, famous for its rich culture and geographical diversity. One of the things to praise about the country is that it is the only country that has abandoned its nuclear weapons program. The major population of the country is black Africans. You can imagine the country’s diversity by the fact that it has eleven official languages, including Sesotho, English, Afrikaans, and many more. The official currency of South Africa is the “South African Rand,” while significant faiths practiced in the country include Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and Judaism. Here is the list of five beautiful destinations in the country.

Tshukudu Private Game Reserve

Tshukudu Private Game reserve is situated in the province of Limpopo next to Kruger Park. The word “Tshukudu” means “Rhino” in Sotho. It is a private game reserve that one family has owned since 1980. The Tshukudu Private Game reserve is famous for prolific birdlife, Acacia and Marula trees, and wild animals like Lion, leopard, cheetah, elephant, white rhino, buffalo, eland, waterbuck, kudu, bushbuck, wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, warthog, impala, steenbuck, duiker, porcupine, jackal, hyena, caracal, serval, civet, genet, African wild cat, hippo, crocodile, etc. The guests can watch the wildlife in its true essence closely and even go on walks with some of the orphaned animals.

Boulders Beach

Boulders Beach is one of the most frequently visited beaches of Cape Town, which is famous for African Penguins. It is the only place in the world where you can get close to African Penguins, which are classified as endangered. The penguins live on the soft white sand between giant granite boulders, which have been made to protect the beach from wind and storms. While visiting the beach, you can climb over the boulders with your children and swim in False Bay Water.

Blyde River Canyon

Blyde River Canyon is located in the province of Mpumalanga, having a length of 26KM. It is the third largest canyon after the Grand Canyon (US) and Fish River Canyon (Namibia). The word “Blyde” means “Happy” in Dutch. Blyde River Canyon is the greenest of all canyons and has subtropical vegetation. The beautiful rock formations at the canyon are known as Three Rondavels, called “Three sisters” by the locals, although these rocks resemble an African hut. In addition to being the greenest, the Blyde River Canyon is one of the deepest canyons in the world, with an approximate depth of 3280 feet. The Canyon is home to the Kadisha Tufa waterfall, 660 feet tall (the second tallest waterfall in the world). In addition to one of the tallest waterfalls, the canyon has some of the oldest caves in the world, known as “Echo Caves.”

Knysna Town

Knysna is a small yet beautiful town in South Africa located on Knysna Lagoon. The town of Knysna is famous for its Garden Route, the sandstone cliffs which separate the lagoon from the Indian Ocean. To enjoy the scenic view, take a ferry ride and enjoy your picnic at Millwood Mines at Jubilee Creek with some local oysters. The places to visit in Knysna Town include Knysna Heads, Elephant Park, and Garden Route. You will also find the town’s most comfortable suites and guest houses to make your stay more pleasant and memorable.

Paarl Town

Paarl Town is a small and one of the oldest towns in South Africa known for its mountain “Paarl Rock.” The word “Paarl” has been derived from “Parel,” which means “Pearl” in Dutch. The town of Paarl is situated in the province of the Western Cape. The Paarl Rock is a huge granite rock formed by three rounded outcrops making it the second largest granite outcrop in the world. The foundations of “Afrikaans,” i.e., one of the official languages of South Africa, were laid in this town.


Can I drive a vehicle in South Africa without an IDP?

Yes, if your local license is issued in English, you can drive vehicles in South Africa for a maximum period of one year.

Does an IDP Replace Your Native Driver’s License in South Africa?

No, an IDP does not replace your native license; your domestic license remains the document allowing you to drive vehicles. However, having a valid IDP will enable you to drive outside the boundaries of your country.

What is the legal driving age in South Africa?

Individuals above eighteen (18) years are allowed to drive vehicles in South Africa.

Is it safe to drive at night in South Africa?

While traveling in rural South Africa, always avoid driving at night unless necessary.

What is the maximum limit of alcohol content in South Africa?

The maximum limit of alcohol blood content is 0.05%, and drunk driving is a severe offense per the country’s laws.

Is an IDP required for renting cars in South Africa?

Yes, a foreigner cannot hire vehicles for rent unless they produce a valid IDP before the car rental agency.

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