Have you been driving all over the world without an International Driver’s Permit (IDP)? Yeah, me too. I had no idea that travelers needed to have an international driver’s document to assist with driving in different countries!
Don’t worry though – after reading this guide, you will know how to purchase an international driver’s permit to ensure that you will have a transitional of your driver’s license.
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What is an International Driving Permit?
The International Driver’s Permit, also known as an IDP, acts as a translated version of your driver’s license and allows you to drive a vehicle in another country, as long as you have a valid driver’s license from your home country. This document is recognized as a valid form of identification in over 175 countries.
What is an International Driver’s License?
Many times and an International Driving Permit is confused as an International Driver’s License. International Driver’s License do not exist. Period!
They cannot act as a new driver’s license, act as a means of identification, or hide your identity if you are on the run. (If you are on the run, you probably shouldn’t be Googling this article anyways…)
In the United States, only two Organizations the American Automobile Association and the American Automobile Touring Alliance can grant the United States, permanent residents, an International Driver’s Permit.
Who is Eligible for an International Driver’s Permit?
First off, to be eligible for an IDP from the United States, you must be a permanent resident of the United States of America or its Territories.
Anyone over the age of 18 and has held a valid driver’s license for at least six months is eligible to apply for an international driver’s permit. The permit remains valid for one year after you apply, or the expiration of your existing state driver’s license – whichever one comes sooner.
Insider tip: To get more bang for your buck, renew your license if it will expire soon and plan a bunch of international driving road trips!
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Where can I get an international driving permit?
The two locations in the United States that issue these international driving documents are the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA).
It is illegal to purchase International Driver’s Permits from other outlets. If you do, just note that it is unlawful to buy, carry, or sell these driver’s documents.
You can order the international driver’s permit through a mail-in order or by visiting your local AAA branch.
How do I get an International Driver’s Permit from AAA in person?
Luckily for you, I just had to get an International Driver’s Permit for my road trip across Italy! Needless to say, I had a few questions, none of which were quickly answered, but once I made time to go down to AAA, the process was smooth.
- You need to have a driver’s license that is not expired or expiring soon. My license was about to expire so I had to go down to the DMV and get myself a Real ID before I could start the process.
- You need to have two identical passport photos of yourself. AAA branches are equipt to take your photo at the location, but if you are in a rush, you can easily take your photo at a pharmacy or any other passport photo processing places. The cost of this photo is around $16.
- You will fill out an application (downloaded from the AAA website) and bring that with you.
- Drive on down to your local AAA branch and wait. I was the second person of the day on a Saturday morning, and the whole process took less than 10 minutes.
How do I get an International Driver’s Permit from AAA or ATAC via mail?
If there isn’t a AAA close by your house, you can always send off your application, passport photos, and payment to either company to get your permit.
I recommend sending off this application no later than three weeks before you are leaving on vacation. It takes about 10-15 days to process an IDP by mail.
If you are in a struggle, you can also pay extra postage if you need your permit overnighted to you faster.
Application tip: you get to decide when you want the permit to start on – make sure you pick the first day of your vacation. The permit only expires after one year.
What if I am Already Overseas?
If you are already overseas you can still obtain an international driver’s permit. You will need to send the completed application to AAA at this address:
1000 AAA Drive
Heathrow, FL 32746
Attn: Mail Stop #28
After that, it will take between 4-6 weeks for the return mail to come back to you with your IDP. Just note, that with some recent U.S. Customs laws impacting USPS Express International Mail, FedEx will be used in most countries for expedited mailing.
Can you renew an IDP?
Unfortunately, every time you want to drive internationally, you will need to go through the process of the application, including taking a new photo! If you frequently drive while abroad, this can become costly – especially if you have more than one member of your travel party wanting to drive.
International Driver’s License Photo Size
Of course, one way to save money is to take your International driver’s license photo on your own. Just like a passport photo, which is 2”x2” your international driver’s permit photo uses the same size.
To save a few dollars, try using an app like Passport Photo Booth.
The app, available on iOs and Android, allows you to create a compliant passport photo for your international driver’s license and printing out the photo costs less than $1 instead of the typical $15.
Does an International Driver’s Permit Provide Car Insurance?
The short answer is no.
Getting an international driver’s permit will not cover you for car insurance in foreign countries. Many domestic car insurance coverages do not translate overseas either.
One of the best cards for car rental car insurance is to get the Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit card. I’ve had this card since 2017 and the travel benefits outweigh the yearly fee.
If you do not go the credit card route, look into getting rental car coverage when you rent a vehicle. Renting an automatic car in Italy is very expensive, and adding the car insurance on top of that creates an even bigger cost.
Find out how to book a cheap rental car wherever you are traveling!
International Driver’s Permit Scams
AAA and ATAC are the only two companies that can authorize international driver’s permits. If anyone else is trying to sell you a permit, or if it costs more than $20 you are getting ripped off.
You also cannot extend a suspended or expired driver’s license, and the permit will not replace your actual license while driving stateside.
Why Carry an International Driver’s Permit?
Now, you may say, why even carry an international driver’s permit if it will cost me $35+ yearly to renew? Do I also need these driver’s documents to rent a car or drive in different countries?
Many car rental places won’t even check if you have a permit, as long as you show your home country’s driver’s license and passport. In my experience, renting a car in Italy, they were more interested in making sure I bought the driving insurance than my documents.
Driving Illegally in Italy
When driving abroad, especially in a country where you do not know the language, the international driver’s permit assists you in case you do anything, ummm, accidentally illegal. The driver’s permit helps when you are in a country that doesn’t widely speak English!
Also, even if you do not plan on driving abroad, having an IDP comes in handy and provides an extra piece of security and peace of mind in case anything unexpectant should occur.
What can you do illegally? Well, the first day I drove in Cortona, I missed the turn to go inside of the cities walls and ended up driving to the top of the mountain and ended up driving the wrong way down a one-way street.
Luckily for me, the cops were not called, but my VRBO host was able to get me out of our pickle and drive us back to our apartment safely.
International Driver’s Permit Secured!
Now that you have your International Driver’s Permit drive wherever your heart desires! Let me know in the comments below where you plan on using your IDP next!
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