Arun Varma hired a car on his honeymoon in California earlier this year. Driving on Highway One from LA to San Francisco was a “dream come true” for the newly-weds.
The Varma couple is not alone. Self-drive holidays in foreign shores is the latest rage for Indian globetrotters. What makes things easier for them is that a number of countries allow them to drive with their Indian driving licences and so there is no need for the international licence in those places.
Australia latched on to this appeal for desi tourists when it launched a major campaign last month to attract more travellers from here Down Under. “India and Australia have similar basic road rules.
Both nations drive on the left hand side of the road, and the cars are of right hand drive variety, making it easier for Indians to plan a self-drive holiday in Australia.
In most Australian states and territories except Northern Territory, you are able to drive on an overseas licence as long as it is current, and in English. You can drive vehicles which your overseas licence authorises you to drive,” said Nishant Kashikar, Tourism Australia’s country manager (India & Gulf).
Overseas licence holders intending to drive in Australia must carry their foreign driver licence written in English or foreign driver licence that is not in English accompanied by an official English translation of the licence.
Debolin Sen of travel major Cox & Kings said Indian travellers are becoming more adventurous and look for immersive travel experiences like a self-drive holiday. As a result, specialised tour operators with end-to-end solutions (like Self Drive 365) are coming up and many international tourism boards are making concerted efforts to market self-drive as a separate product.
“For self-drive holidays, the US, western Europe, and New Zealand are the most popular countries (for Indians). These countries also offer better infrastructure for driving, which makes them a safe bet,” Sen said.
Asked in which foreign destinations can Indians drive with their desi licence, Cox & Kings gave a long list. “Most states in USA allow Indians to drive up to a year with an Indian driving license. The license must be in English and valid. Another document that one needs is the copy of the I-94 form that mentions the date of your entry in the US,” it said.
“Indian driving licence is allowed in France provided you carry its French translation along. It’s valid for a year only. Indians can drive on the roads of England, Scotland and Wales with the Indian passport up to a year. However, there are restrictions on the type of vehicle that can be used. Norway also offers self-drive opportunity on an Indian driving licence for up to three months from the date of entry,” the travel major said.
Places where Indian licence is valid for a year include Switzerland and New Zealand. In New Zealand, drivers must be at least 21 years old to rent a car and carry official translation of licence approved by New Zealand Transport Agency.
Germany lets Indians drive with the domestic license on their roads for up to six months from the date of entry. In South Africa, Indian driving license is acceptable if it is in English and has the photograph and signature of the driver. However, renting a car requires an international license in SA.