Everything You Need to Know About International Driving Permits

Estimated reading time 3 min

The freedom of the open road, the luxury to explore at your own pace—what’s not to love about a self-drive vacation? But before you put your keys into the ignition of your next adventure, be sure to do your research. Depending on where you’re traveling, you may need an international driving permit (IDP). What is it, exactly, and why might you need one? Here’s everything you need to know about IDPs.

What is it?

An IDP is a passport-like booklet that translates your driver’s license information into ten languages for use while driving abroad. It is used in conjunction with, not as a replacement for, your existing valid license. The non-renewable permit is valid in 150 countries for 12 months from the date of issue.

Why get one?

In many countries, an IDP is required to rent a car. Usually, though, it’s simply a matter of convenience when you’re driving in a country where you don’t speak the language. It’s helpful to have in any situation (even if you’re not driving) when you might be in need of an official document with photo identification.

Which countries require it?

Your best course of action is to check with the tourist board of the specific country or countries you’re visiting. For the most part, European countries do not require an IDP. (Those that do include, but are not limited to, Austria, Czech Republic, Finland, Greece, Italy, and Spain.) In some cases, you may not need an IDP to drive legally in a country, but rental car agencies might require one to rent you a car. Again, be sure to do your research.

What are the eligibility requirements?

To obtain an IDP, you must be a permanent resident of the United States and over 18 years of age with a valid driver’s license. Your license must be valid for at six months after the issue date of your IDP.

How do I get one?

Only two organizations in the U.S. are authorized to issue IDPs: the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA). Here’s how you can obtain your permit with either. (Keep in mind that permits cannot be issued more than six months before your desired effective date, and your driver’s license must be valid for at least six months after your desired effective date.)

AAA

  1. In person (no appointment or membership necessary)
    • Visit the AAA website, download and fill out an application, and bring it to your nearest AAA office.
    • Bring along two passport photos, your valid driver’s license, and a $20 permit fee.
    • As long as you have all the correct documents (and they’re valid!), the process will usually take less than 20 minutes.
  2. By mail
    • Mail the following to your nearest AAA office: your completed application, two original passport photos signed on the back, a photocopy of each side of your driver’s license, and a $20 permit fee.
    • Include additional funds for return mail.

AATA (mail only)

  • Visit the AATA website and download the application.
  • Mail the following, along with your completed application, to the address on the application: two passport-sized photos, a photocopy of each side of your driver’s license, and a check or money order to cover the $20 permit fee plus your choice of shipping options.

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