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A few weeks back I received a comment to one of my article’s here with a lot of ideas about driver’s licenses in the Philippines that were … well .. wrong, for lack of a better term.
Let’s review a few common thoughts and misconceptions here, especially about the so-called International Driver’s License and where and when you might use it.
Be sure to ask any follow-up questions you may have, because no question is “dumb” unless you fail to ask it and get yourself in trouble because you relied on “half-baked” information instead of the facts.
If you want the short version of this article, here it is:
- There is no such thing as an International Driver’s License. There is an International Driver’s permit, which allows driving in certain countries who have signed an international treaty authorizing the use of the IDP.
- The IDP never confers the right to drive, anywhere, UNLESS it is accompanied by a valid state-issued license from the country which issues the IDP.
- You do not need an IDP in the Philippines, ever (unless your home-country license is not in English, or is not colored on the map) (example China).
That’s Basically All You Need To Know — Not Needed
First of all, here’s an authoritative source of information on the International Driver’s Permit, including a handy map that shows you what countries recognize it. The dark blue shaded countries are parties to the string of treaties which authorize the IDP, while the lighter blue shaded countries will recognize the IDP for use on their roads.
But I Heard That ….
Now for those who you who want to know more, or who want to tell me what “Joe” down at the VFW told them, here is some factual information. These are some of the comments and questions I’ve received about the IDP over the years and some thoughts, suggestions and clarification.
One gentleman wrote in to say he had bought and paid for an “International Driver’s License” in the States because he wanted to make sure he would have no legal issues with driving here in the Philippines.
No Legal Issues in the Philippines
According to the US AAA (the main agency authorized by treaty to sell such permits) what you received was an International Driver Permit. These are valid (with valid home country license), in the Philippines but are never necessary so long as your home country license is valid, and in English.
Does Not Extend Your Time To Drive on a Foreign License in the Philippines
Another comment recently said, “I have an IDP because my Stateside license is only good for 90 days in the Philippines (yes, that is completely correct), so I got the IDP to use for driving in the Philippines AFTER my 90 days is up”. (oops, no, sorry, that’s wrong)
As clearly stated on the IDP itself, it is ONLY valid when your home country license is valid. Ninety days after you last arrival in the Philippines your home country license is no longer valid for driving in the Philippines … thus your IDP is also no longer valid for driving in the Philippines. It’s basically a useless piece of paper.
Getting a Philippines License Requires Permanent residency
This is not so. The LTO will issue a Philippine license to any foreign license holder who is legally in the Philippines, even on a tourist visa. It’s called a “License conversion” here, but there is no surrendering of you home country license or alteration to it in any way. The LTO does not check your US driving record, so you don’t have to worry about those last three speeding tickets ;-).
Getting a Philippine LTO (Land Transportation Office) license is quick and (relatively) painless and it is good for driving in the Philippines for three full years from date of issue .. no US license or IDP required.
You Don’t Need a US License if you Have a Philippine License
Another reason a lot of people give for wanting an IDP is they might be overseas when their US drivers license expires, and they want an IDP to use in place of their US license when they return to the USA.
Well, as you already know, if you’ve been reading along, that won’t work. The IDP is useless without a valid US license to accompany it, AND the IP is always useless in the country in which it was issued.
The solution for someone in the Philippines would be simply to get a Philippine drivers license (before the US license expires) and use that Philippine license for 90 days after they return to the USA. Just as the Philippines will issue a Philippine license based on your valid US license, any US state, by treaty, is required to issue you a new state license based upon your valid Philippine license. International reciprocity I believe it is called.
Can You Rent a Car in The Philippines on You US License Alone (no IDP).
The answer, based on my personal experience is yes indeed. In fact the first time I ever tried to rent a car in the Philippines was on my first trip here, when I had foolishly bought an IDP from the AAA in the US before I came. When I showed my IDP to the rental agent she developed that “deer in the headlights” look and called her boss over. The supervisor said, “Sir, you can’t rent a car with this, do you have a valid US License”? I showed it and bingo, the car was rented.
Can You Rent a Car in the USA Based on Your Philippine License Alone (No IDP).
Again, based on my personal experience and that of other readers who have written me, yes indeed.
There is never a need for a US citizen coming and going between the USA and the Philippines to spend the time and money on an IDP … it just does nothing for you that your valid US and/or Philippine LTO drivers license does for you.
As with many other things involving living in the Philippines, I strongly advocate applying the “KISS Principle”. Happy Motoring