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International driver’s license – necessary or not?

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If you drive a car outside Europe, you should have an international driver’s license with you. But which countries require it? How much does the international driver’s license cost and how long is it valid for? You could find answers to these questions and more here.

What is an international driver’s license for?

Many countries outside the European Union do not accept a Swiss driver’s license. For this reason, you can request an official English translation of your driver’s license. This so-called international driver’s license is only valid together with the original.

Which driver’s license do you need for where? 

National driver’s license: Our national driver’s license is accepted in the EU and in all EFTA countries. Please note that Azerbaijan and Georgia are exceptions in Europe, and in those countries you will need an international driver’s license.

International driver’s license: In Africa and Asia, many countries require an international driver’s license. In Central and South American, only a handful of countries do so. It's best to find out more about the current legal situation from the responsible consulate. Even if your license is generally accepted, departments of motor vehicles and TCS recommend having an international driver’s license with you for any travel outside the continent of Europe.

Authenticated translation into the national language: In certain countries, you need to have an authenticated translation of your driver’s license in the national language, for example in Russian (Russia, Kazakhstan, Kirghistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan) or Arabic (Saudi Arabia).

Local driver’s license: In a few countries, the rules are even stricter and you are required to have – in addition to an international driver’s license – a local driver’s license at an additional charge. This applies to China, Sri Lanka, Suriname, and some countries in Central America.

No driver's license: On the Bermuda Islands, in Myanmar, and in North Korea, foreigners are not allowed to drive a car at all.

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How will the summer of 2023 be for rental cars? 

First the good news: The extreme volatility in demand and supply on the rental car market is returning this year to the long-term average. 

However, the prices continue to be high and for small vehicles, in particular, the situation remains tense. Flexibility is required – and the car you want won’t always be available.  In addition, the price fluctuations within individual countries and regions should also be taken into account. For example, prices for rental cars have increased significantly in countries such as Portugal.

Our tip: Book your rental car for this summer as early as possible – and take your time to compare offers at home. 

If you decide to drive your own car to your vacation destination, make sure you thoroughly check it first. For example, by checking the following: 

Water: Does the car have enough engine coolant? How about windshield washing fluid?

Oil: Is the oil at the right level? Have the change intervals for oil and the oil filter been observed? 

Air: Does the tire pressure meet with the car’s guidelines? Is the tire tread OK? 

Fuel: Is the gas tank full enough (traffic)? Are any reserve fuel canisters full? 

Electricity: Do the vehicle lights work? Is the battery OK?

How much does an international driver’s license cost? 

The department of motor vehicles of your canton of residence sets the fee, which is why they vary greatly. For example, Zurich charges only CHF 15, while Bern charges CHF 45, three times as much. 

As an alternative, TCS offices (DE) or sections of the ACS (DE) issue international driver's licenses, in some cases with various fees for members and non-members.

Renting a car abroad

Rental companies have their own rules. For example, sometimes they require the license and credit card to be in the name of the same person – otherwise they will not release the booked rental car. Read all the information carefully to avoid any nasty surprises.

Which documents do you need to get an international driver’s license?

To get an international driver’s license, all you need is a copy of your national driver’s license. If you do not yet have a driver’s license in a credit card format, you will also need to have a passport picture and, depending on the canton, a signature. Some cantons issue an international document only for driver’s license in credit card format. This is sensible because many vacation destinations no longer accept the old blue paper driver’s license. In Switzerland as well, these will only be valid until January 31, 2024. If you apply for an international driver’s license, it therefore represents a good opportunity to switch to the credit card format.

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How quickly will you get your international driver’s license?

You can find out this information from the issuing office. Usually it takes one to two weeks for processing. 

How long will your international driver's license be valid for? 

The document is valid for three years. The requirement is always a valid national driver’s license.

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