In Which Country is It Easiest for Foreigners to get a Driver's License?

Kris Roudebush

Each country has its own policy on whether and how foreigners can get local drivers’ licenses, and this information is often prone to change in response to shifts in security and political leadership. In general, though, many of the countries in Southeast Asia typically have the laxest policies, particularly the Philippines and Vietnam. Foreign applicants in these countries often just need to fill out a piece of paper or even apply online, and as long as they pay a fee they can be issued a license. It’s important to realize here that the application process for foreigners, many of whom are assumed to have some monetary wealth, is often a lot different than the process for locals. This distinction isn’t apparent everywhere, though. In China, for instance, foreign license applicants are sometimes faced with additional requirements or tests, and in most of Europe foreigners have to pass a test and follow the same procedure that locals would. Some countries will recognize licenses from a person’s home country or a document known as the International Driver’s Permit (IDP) as something of a waiver for more formal requirements, but not all will.

It's difficult to get a driver's license in Beijing, China.
It's difficult to get a driver's license in Beijing, China.

Importance of Research

The first thing anyone seeking a license abroad should do is research. Most embassies and foreign consulates keep up-to-date information about driving policies, and can give citizens the most up-to-date information about requirements. Much of this information is usually also posted online. As with so many things on the Internet, though, there can be a lot of inaccurate or invented information; out-of date facts and scams can also be problems. It’s really important for people to only follow the directions of legitimate, preferably government, websites, particularly when it comes to the payment of fees.

Most countries accept an International Driver's Permit.
Most countries accept an International Driver's Permit.

International Driver’s Permit

Short-term travelers might be best served by applying for an IDP before leaving home. An IDP is simply a translation of a home license and is accepted as valid in most countries, at least for a short time. Its main purpose is to allow drivers the freedom to visit, rent or borrow a car, and tour the roads without fear of penalty. It isn’t the same as a local license, but it usually works in most of the same ways. Most government offices and consular services can point travelers in the right direction when it comes to finding providers for this service.

Vietnam appears to be one of the easiest places to get a driver's license.
Vietnam appears to be one of the easiest places to get a driver's license.

Applications for Permanent Licenses

It’s important to realize that holding an IDP is a just a temporary fix. It isn’t really the same as actually getting a driver’s license in a foreign country, and different countries have different restrictions when it comes to how long IDPs are valid and what exactly they can be used to do. . Japan, for instance, typically accepts them only for 90 days and any drivers who have returned within an additional 90 days of their initial visit are usually required to apply for a Japanese license. New Zealand, however, allows foreigners use a home country issued license and IDP for up to a year with no leave-and-reenter penalties.

The Philippines

The easiest country for a foreigner to get a local driver’s license might be the Philippines. Foreigners from most countries need only a valid licensed issued somewhere else along with a brief application and fee, typically in cash. It’s usually important for applicants to have a local address where the license can be mailed, but it doesn’t usually have to be a permanent residence.


Many expatriates have also reported that it is very easy to get a license in Vietnam. Foreigners can apply online and are generally required to provide a formal request for a Vietnamese driver's license written in the local language, a notarized copy of a driver's license from the applicant’s home country, a copy of a valid IDP, a copy of a valid passport, and 3 passport-sized photos. Upon receipt of a fee, the license will usually be issued in about 7 days.

Each country has its own policy on whether and how foreigners can get local drivers' licenses.
Each country has its own policy on whether and how foreigners can get local drivers' licenses.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


New York issues licences to nonresidents.


The Chinese license is the most difficult to get. 5000rmb is close to $1,00,0 by the way. If you're going to buy dubious licenses, you might as well drive without a license, because once you get caught, you will face penalties. Europe is easy compared to China.


I have been a "citizen of the world" for years.

I have been using a USA state driver's license for years, although I am not an American citizen or resident.

In March of 2012, the US government made it a requirement to prove "legal presence" in the US to obtain or renew a US state license.

I have two years until expiry and need to find an easy to get foreign license, somewhere in the world

that doesn't take forever and cost a fortune.

Don't suggest an IDL license or permit as these must be used with a valid license from a country that supports International Drivers Licences.

As the ranks of "perpetual travelers" increase, this

is an area of great interest for many. Thanks for any input.


Germany is the most difficult country to get a driver's license.


You say it is easy to get a Filipino or Vietnamese drivers license but how do you do it over the internet? it appears that your info is totally wrong.


Japan is crazy! Nine out of 10 people failed in the driving skill test, and seven out of 10 failed in the written test!

the process is also more than complicated. in fact they speak english and the test conducted in any language you can choose!

Japan is very safe country to drive and that's why.

I had my Chinese license for Rmb. 5000 only, doing nothing! in two weeks i got my license in japan, you cannot do such a thing.


i can tell you that ohio is one of the easiest states to pass both the written and road test. they also, as of 2004 did not require any proof of address. all you need is a passport and ssn. indiana is one of the harder ones. so don't bother with them.


Hi wiseGEEK. i am looking for information on which of the States within America is easiest to obtain a license. I believe there are some states that require you to show evidence of residency and others that don't. thank you

Post your comments
Forgot password?