So you’ve decided to fly over to another country, rent a car, and drive on foreign soil. You can’t get everywhere by taxi, foot, or hitchhiking – an international driving permit will keep you in good graces with your new country’s authorities.
What is an IDP?
An International Driving Permit (IDP) serves as a form of identification and gives you permission to drive in 150 countries across the world. Your name, birthday, photo, and information are translated into 10 languages.
An IDP can’t be given by another country to be used at the same time as a US license – only the US can provide you with an IDP you can have simultaneously with your native license.
The IDP doesn’t replace your US driver’s license. You need to carry both with you wherever you go.
REMEMBER – there is no such thing as an International Driver’s License. Anyone offering to sell you one of these, or any entity not approved by the government, is a scammer.
Why should you obtain an IDP?
A lot of countries require visitors to have an IDP to drive there legally. Otherwise, a foreign driver can face heavy fines. The AA has available a list of countries that require an IDP, as well as a list of notes indicating unique rules every country has regarding IDPs.
Even if you don’t plan to drive, it’s prudent to sign up for an IDP. Anything could happen when you’re in another hemisphere of the planet, and you might need to drive after all.
The IDP can be used to identify yourself, and could be very useful in case you suffer an emergency and need to prove yourself. So that you don’t lose both your license and IDP, you should store them in separate places, but always on your person.
How do I obtain an IDP?
Only two private companies in the U.S. – AAA and the American Automobile Touring Alliance – are authorized to issue IDPs. You can also apply for one at the DMV website.
Download then fill out the application, then take it to your local office. When you apply, provide two acceptable photographs and your U.S. license. There will be a $20 USD fee.
Drivers.com provides a database of 20 countries, and the companies and organizations from which you can apply for an IDP.
These are the requirements associated with an
- You must be 18 years or older
- Always carry your IDP AND your US license
- Your IDP can’t be renewed, so apply for a new permit when needed
- Your IDP doesn’t replace your license in your home country
- Your IDP must be from the same country from which you earned your license
What if I’m already overseas?
If you’ve already left the United States, you can mail a finished application for an IDP to AA, AATA, or the DMV. It can take 4-6 weeks for the hardcopy of your IDP to arrive in the mail.
After you obtain your IDP …
Just because you’re in a foreign country and have your IDP, doesn’t mean you’re all clear. You can still get in trouble with local authorities if you don’t take some precautions.
- Investigate the laws of the country you’re planning to visit. They might have a maximum as well as minimum age for driving.
- Always keep your seatbelt on – some countries have stiff penalties for violators.
- Learn the driving rules of the country you plan to visit. Then go to a less populated road and practice driving according to their rules.
- And NEVER give a lift to strangers or hitchhikers when you’re travelling abroad!