How To Apply for an International Driving Permit
Your American driver’s license simply won’t be enough if you try to drive in another country. After all, every country has its own rules and restrictions about who’s allowed to drive, what the rules of the road are, and more!
However, there is a workaround: the international driving permit. With an international driving permit, you don’t need to take every country’s unique driver’s test and get a specific license for that country. Instead, your IDP will serve as your license for dozens of countries.
Not sure how to get one? Let’s break down how to apply for an international driving permit – and the importance of getting one in the first place – in detail.
What Is an International Driving Permit?
International driving permits, also called international driving licenses, are special documents that contain translations of your nation’s driver’s license. In this case, it would be your American driver’s license.
The majority of countries require you to have an IDP if you want to drive legally within their borders. An IDP essentially lets you drive without having to take tests or applications. The IDP is an official international traveling document, and it’s fully recognized by the United Nations.
You can visit dozens of countries with your IDP and have no trouble driving legally once you have it. Then you can drive the best-selling cars there with no legal issues!
Step 1 – Complete the IDP Application
To acquire an international driving permit, you need to first complete an application from the AAA or American Automobile Association. You may either visit your local AAA branch or visit the AAA online to download a digital copy.
Fill out the application in its entirety.
Step 2 – Deliver Your Application
Then bring your English IDP application form to the AAA’s local branch near your area. You’ll also need to bring a few other pieces of information, including:
- A valid US driver’s license
- Two separate passport-sized photos of yourself for ID verification
Bring all of this information, plus the completed IDP application, to the front desk.
Step 3 – Pay the $20 Fee
At this point, the AAA receptionist will verify your identity and fill out the remainder of the paperwork. When they are finished, they’ll ask you to pay a $20 fee to complete registration and IDP formation. You can pay this fee with cash, a credit card, or a check.
Note that some local AAA branches only accept one or two payment methods, so be sure to check this before arriving so you don’t have to go back to your home.
Step 4 – Receive Your IDP
Once you’ve paid the $20 fee, you’ll receive your IDP. You should get your new IDP immediately unless you try to obtain your international driving permit by mail.
- Mail the completed IDP application to the AAA’s address, linked here
- In the same envelope, mail your passport photos plus photocopies of the front and back of your driver’s license. Be sure to include a check or money order for the $20 fee
- Once your materials are received, the AAA will mail you your IDP eventually
Let’s take a look at some IDP FAQs.
Where Can You Get an IDP?
You can only get a legitimate international driving permit from the AAA office in the United States. Other countries have different organizations or offices that issue and regulate IDPs.
If you notice an advertisement for another organization offering IDPs, it’s probably fake or a scam. Do not pay them any money or try to acquire an international driving permit from any organization besides the AAA.
Note that you can get an AAA IDP form from the AATA or American Automobile Touring Alliance. However, you still have to submit it to the AAA.
How Long Until You Get Your International Driving Permit?
You should receive your IDP immediately after completing your application and turning it into the AAA office if you do so in person. If you deliver your application and documents by mail, you may need to wait several weeks before the AAA mails you your international driving permit.
Is an International Driving Permit Always Necessary?
At the time of this writing, the international driving permit is legally recognized in 174 countries. These countries include Canada, Spain, Italy, Brazil, Hungary, and more.
Thus, you’ll need it unless you want to acquire other driver’s licenses from all those countries. You don’t need an IDP if you plan to use public transportation or have someone else drive you around foreign countries.
An IDP is also important if you want to take advantage of car rentals in countries like Canada and more. You’ll need your international driver’s license plus some other form of identification to rent a motor vehicle successfully.
How To Use an IDP Correctly
Be sure to bring your US driver’s license with you when you travel. If you’re stopped on the road, you’ll need to provide both your driver’s license and your IDP to prove that you are legally behind the wheel.
Note that the IDP doesn’t entitle you to any extra privileges or benefits. For example, you can’t get out of a ticket in a foreign country just because you have an IDP if you are breaking the rules of the road there. Thus, it’s a good idea to double-check what the driving rules are for any country you plan to travel to. That way, you won’t break any laws and get expensive tickets!
Can You Get an IDP in a Foreign Country?
No. If you are a US citizen, you must acquire an IDP while you are in the US or complete the application process by mail as described above. You cannot get an IDP from another country’s IDP office or issuing organization. That’s because they don’t have any way to verify your driver’s license or your driving ability in a legal sense.
If you plan to travel to a foreign country in the near future, get your IDP situation sorted out first. If you’ve been out of the US for more than a year, you can still get an IDP from the AAA provided that your driver’s license is still valid. If it’s not, you’ll need to get a new driver’s license. The only exception to this is if you’re now a citizen of another country. In that case, you can use that country’s IDP application process.
As you can see, international driving permits are of crucial importance if you ever hope to travel beyond the US and drive. Driving without an international driving permit means running the risk of getting a ticket and losing some of your vacation funds. Instead, it’s better to err on the side of caution and get an IDP to go along with your driver’s license.
In the meantime, you don’t need an international driving permit to rent from Advantage Rent-a-Car. Since we offer lots of great rental locations throughout the US, all we need from you is your driver’s license and a legitimate form of payment. When you rent with Advantage Rent-a-Car, you benefit from a diverse rental fleet and top-tier customer service. Contact us today!