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How to Get an International Driving Permit

international driving permit

When traveling abroad, sometimes you want to go your own way. Going off the beaten path of public transportation or tour buses can bring some of the most memorable moments of your vacation. But wait…are you even allowed to drive abroad? It’s not like you have a driver’s license for every country you’re visiting! No worries, that’s what an International Driving Permit is for. If you’re planning on driving or renting a car outside of the country, you’ll most likely need an International Driving Permit, or IDP.

What’s an International Driving Permit?

The International Driving Permit is a document that, in tandem with a domestic driver’s license, allows you to drive legally while you are abroad. The IDP comes from agreements reached in the UN Conventions on Road Traffic in 1926, 1949 and 1968. The standardization of the IDP helps regulate drivers even when they aren’t in their home countries, and upholds road safety.

An International Driving Permit is a small booklet, almost like a passport. It contains your name, you photo and your driver’s license information. It’s a valid form of photo ID in over 150 countries and contains translations in 10 languages. Your information is duplicated in English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Arabic, German, Italian, Swedish and Portuguese. If you get pulled over somewhere like Italy or Spain, you can simply produce your IDP and it will speak the language for you. Many countries that do not recognize foreign driver’s licenses do recognize an International Driving Permit.

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Do I Need One?

If you are planning on driving in a foreign country, it would be wise to obtain an International Driving Permit first. Many countries require an IDP to drive legally. Fines for driving without an IDP can be quite costly in some countries, so do some research on the country’s IDP policies and driving laws before you travel. If you don’t have an IDP, and are stopped by police or roadway officials in a country where the permit is required, you could get a penalty ranging from a fine to a citation for mandatory court appearance. That’s no way to spend your vacation.

If you are renting a car in a foreign country, it is common for the rental service to ask for your International Driving Permit as well as your driver’s license. Some services will not rent to foreign drivers without an IDP – while others use the opportunity to pile on a hefty surcharge instead. To save yourself time, money and hassle, it would be best to come prepared with your International Driving Permit.

Here’s what you need to know about renting a car abroad.

renting a car abroad

What If I’m Not Driving?

One of the most valuable things about an International Driving Permit is that it is a legal travel document regulated by the United Nations. Since your IDP is automatically translated into several languages, it can be a useful document in situations where there might be a language barrier.

It can also be a good idea to obtain an IDP so that you can drive in an emergency, or if your plans change while you’re abroad. It helps you to be flexible while you’re abroad.

AAA International Driving Permit Services

Getting your paperwork in order is easy with AAA International Driving Permit services.

You can get your IDP at any AAA branch location. AAA is one of only two private entities in the country that is authorized by the US Department of State to issue International Driving Permits, and the process is simple. All you have to do is bring a valid US driver’s license, $20 and passport-sized photos (2 inches by 2 inches). If you don’t have any such photos on hand, any AAA branch can take your photo for you for a nominal charge.

If you can’t make it to a AAA branch, you can also get your permit by mail. All you have to do is download the IDP application, print it and fill it out. Then you can mail your application to AAA, along with your photos, a photocopy of your driver’s license, and a check for $20.

Getting an IDP is easy, affordable, and can bring you some much-needed peace of mind while traveling.

Have you ever driven a car abroad? Did you need an International Driving Permit? Let us know in the comments below!

For more information on International Driving Permits and how you can get one, visit


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One Thought on “How to Get an International Driving Permit

  1. It would be interesting to know where you actually do still need an international permit. In the past 20 years traveling in Europe and Mexico, I never needed one.

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