We’re off on holiday at the end of the week, and in the last minute “what have we forgotten” hubbub of the weekend we realised that our UK driving licenses and passports would not be enough to hire a car at our destination.
So this lunchtime I headed out to the nearest Post Office that can issue an International Driving Permit (not all of them can). What a bizarre step back in time it was.
The Permit, issued by the AA with some sort of link to the DoT by the look of the crest on the front, is needed to be able to drive in a long list of non-EU countries. It’s a relic of an international agreement from 1949, although Brazil, Barundi, Iraq and Somalia only accept them based on the earlier 1926 standard. Take note if you’re intending to drive around World Cup venues.
The process for issuing is that a Post Office clerk takes a look at your current passport (digitally printed) and your current UK driving licence (mostly digitally printed these days) along with the paper counter-part. He or she then takes £5.50 from you and proceeds to hand write or inkstamp on a cardboard and paper templated document. The crowning glory is the use of Pritt Stick to attach a passport-sized photograph into the back cover.
Other than providing a small revenue stream for the AA, and an opportunity to cross-sell for Post Office Counters (“Would you like travel insurance or foreign currency with that?”), I can see little or no purpose for the document other than how it demonstrates how terribly difficult it can be to challenge global bureaucratic processes that appear to have no statutory ownership.
There’s nobody to ask the question “Why on earth are we still doing this?”. So it never gets asked. Well, apart from here.
Why on earth are we still doing this?!