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How to Get an International Driving Permit - A Complete Guide

A woman driving in a rental car with an international driving permit on a country road abroad

Imagine the thrill of exploring the picturesque countryside of France, zipping along the coastal roads of Italy, or navigating the bustling streets of Tokyo. The freedom of driving in a foreign country opens up a world of possibilities for your next vacation.

But before you hit the road, there's one essential piece of documentation you need - an International Driving Permit (IDP). In this blog post, we'll guide you through the step-by-step process of how to get an international driver's license, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable driving experience abroad.

From understanding the IDP and its purpose to navigating the application process and insurance considerations, we've got you covered. By the end of this post, you'll be ready to embark on an unforgettable driving adventure in a foreign land with confidence and peace of mind.

Short Summary

  • Understand the International Driving Permit (IDP) and its requirements for international travel.
  • Research local driving regulations, insurance coverage options, and renewal process to ensure a safe experience abroad.
  • An IDP is valid for one year from date of issuance. Applications can be made in person or by mail with processing times up to several weeks.

Table of Contents

Understanding the International Driving Permit (IDP)

Using an international driving permit to drive along a country seaside road in Europe

An International Driving Permit (IDP), is a travel document that includes your personal identification information translated into multiple languages. When used in conjunction with your valid, U.S. driver's license, an International Driving Permit allows you to drive legally in foreign countries.

This convenient document, often referred to as an international driver's license, verifies the validity of your current foreign license, and can be a lifesaver when dealing with car-related businesses or local authorities that may not recognize your home country's license. In certain countries, international driver's licenses are required to ensure a smooth, legal international driving experience.

To obtain an international driver's permit, you must apply through an authorized issuing organization. The only such agency authorized by the US State Department is the American Automobile Association (AAA). While the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA) has issued IDPs in the past, as of 2023, they are no longer offering any international driver's permit services.

Having an IDP is one of the most convenient and valuable travel documents, other than a passport, that an international traveler can carry. Furthermore, it is a must for anyone who plans to drive abroad.

What is an IDP and why do you need one?

An IDP is a document that translates your driver's license into multiple languages, provides you with the legal right to drive in foreign countries, and makes it easier for car rental companies to verify your driving credentials. This means that even if the country you're visiting doesn't recognize your US driver's license issued by your home state, your IDP will enable you to drive legally without any hassles.

Obtaining an IDP not only grants you the freedom to explore other countries by car, but also serves as an additional form of identification when needed. In many countries, an IDP is required for foreign drivers to legally drive within their borders. So, before you embark on your next international road trip, make sure you have your IDP handy to avoid any potential complications. As a rule, you should carry it, along with your US driver's license, whenever you are driving outside of the country.

So, an international driver's permit serves multiple purposes:

  • An IDP verifies your identity and the validity of your international driver's license.
  • An IDP provides a translated version of the license should it be required in a foreign nation. This is essential when driving in countries that don't recognize your home country's driver's license or require a local language translation.
  • An IDP is required to rent a car. Most rental car agencies will not lend a car to international drivers without an IDP, especially when the driver has a state-issued driver's license from a different country.

Ultimately, having an IDP can save you from potential fines, delays, or other inconveniences while driving internationally, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable experience on your international adventure.

Eligibility for an IDP

A young man driving abroad at sunsed with an IDP

Before you start the application process for an IDP, it's essential to ensure you meet the eligibility requirements. These include having a valid driver's license from your home country and meeting the age requirement, which is typically 18 years old.

It's also important to make sure you have all the necessary documents and information ready before you leave.

Valid driver's license requirement

To obtain an IDP, you must possess a valid driver's license issued from your home country, which will be considered as your local license. This means that your license must be current and not expired or suspended. The duration of validity for a US driver's license or a state driver's license varies depending on the country of issuance, so make sure your license is in good standing before applying for an IDP.

It is important to note that an IDP is not a substitute for a valid driver's license, but rather a valid form of supplementary identification.

Age requirement

The minimum age requirement for an IDP is typically 18 years old. This ensures that you have enough driving experience and maturity to navigate foreign roads safely and responsibly.

Keep in mind that some countries may have additional age restrictions or requirements for drivers, so it's crucial to research the specific regulations for the country you plan to visit.

Applying for Your International Driving Permit

Woman driving in a convertable using her IDP

Now that you're familiar with the IDP and its eligibility requirements, it's time to dive into the application process. Acquiring an IDP is a relatively straightforward process, but it's essential to know which organizations are authorized to issue them and what steps to follow.

To begin, you'll need to find an organization that is authorized to issue ID.

Authorized IDP issuers

In the United States, only one organization is authorized to issue IDPs: the American Automobile Association (AAA). As previously mentioned, while the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA) used to issue them as well, this is no longer the case.

You do not need to be a member of AAA to obtain an IDP from them. However, it's essential to ensure that you're dealing with a legitimate issuer, as counterfeit IDPs can lead to serious consequences. Always verify that you're dealing with AAA when applying for your IDP.

Take note that there are increasing numbers of IDP internet application scams that make you pay a high price of about $300. Please be cautious of these things when applying. Again, only apply at an official AAA office near you.

In order for you to find the nearest AAA office click here. If you have other inquiries regarding IDPs you can contact:

AAA (American Automobile Association)
1000 AAA Drive
Heathrow, FL 32745-5063

American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA)
1151 E. Hillsdale Blvd
Foster City, CA94404
Tel: 800-622-7070
FAX: 650-294-7040

Application process

When applying for an IDP, bring the following requirements to any AAA office:

  • Your valid U.S. driver's license
  • $20 fee payment (The fee can be paid by check or money order (made payable to AAA) or by a valid Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover Card.)
  • 2 current passport-type photos (can be taken at most AAA locations or anywhere you can get passport photos)
  • International Driver's Permit Application Form (This can be filled out in advance)

The application process for an IDP involves submitting a completed IDP application form, two identical two-inch by two-inch color passport photos, a signed copy of the front and back of your driver's license, and an application fee of $20 per person, plus any applicable shipping costs.

If you're unable to visit a AAA branch in person, you can apply for an IDP by mail. Simply include the required documents and payment listed above and mail them to your nearest AAA branch office.

Processing time

Just like passport processing times, the processing time for an IDP may vary from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the issuing authority and the availability of expedited options. If you're in a hurry, you can check with the issuer to see if they offer expedited processing for an additional fee.

In any case, it's always a good idea to apply for your IDP well in advance of your trip to ensure you have it in hand before you hit the road. Our expert recommendation is to apply as early as six months before your desired effective date.

Driving Abroad with Your IDP

view from the back seat as a couple drives abroad through the snow

As long as you carry your driver's license with your International Driver's Permit, you're ready to travel the roads of other countries by car. But before you hit the road, it's essential to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations for driving in foreign countries with your IDP. This includes understanding which countries recognize the IDP (many countries do) and adhering to local driving laws and road traffic signage.

It's important to research the laws of the foreign country you're visiting before, as ignorance is never an acceptable excuse for violating the rules.

Countries that recognize the IDP

An IDP is an internationally recognized document by over 150 United Nations member countries. It is accepted in more than 175 countries as a legitimate form of identification. This means that with an IDP, you'll be able to legally drive in most countries around the world. However, it's essential to note that some countries may have additional requirements or not recognize the IDP. In some cases, countries have their own international driving permits that must be acquired instead.

Before you hit the road on your international driving adventure, be sure to research the specific driving permit requirements for the country you plan to visit. This may include checking if an IDP is necessary or if there are additional documents or permits required. By doing your homework beforehand, you can ensure you are equipped with the proper international driving permit and/or driver's license to be compliant with the laws of your destination country.

Local driving laws

While your IDP allows you to legally drive in foreign countries, it also requires you to follow local driving laws and regulations in the country you'll be visiting. This includes understanding road signs, speed limits, and any unique traffic rules that may apply. Again, driving customs and rules can vary significantly country to country; ignorance of the law is not an excuse for breaking it.

Before setting off on your international road trip, take the time to research and understand the local driving laws of your destination. This will not only keep you safe on the roads, but also ensure a more enjoyable and stress-free driving experience. After all, the last thing you want is to end up with a hefty fine or worse because you didn't know the local rules.

Insurance Considerations

an SUV drives across a North African desert

Driving internationally with an IDP also requires you to consider insurance coverage. Your existing insurance policy likely will not cover driving outside the U.S., so it's essential to explore additional insurance options to protect yourself and your vehicle while driving internationally.

Before you travel, research the insurance requirements of the country you are visiting and make sure you are compliant.

Existing policy coverage

Your existing insurance policy most likely will not cover driving outside of your home country, so it's recommended to check with your provider. This could mean that if you're involved in an accident or experience vehicle damage while driving abroad, your current policy may not provide coverage for those incidents.

To ensure that you're adequately covered, contact your insurance provider to confirm whether your existing policy provides coverage for international driving. If it doesn't, you may need to explore additional insurance options to keep you protected while on the road.

Additional insurance options

One option to consider for driving abroad is to get an international car insurance. This type of insurance can provide you with the necessary coverage to drive legally and protect yourself and your vehicle in case of an accident or damage while driving abroad.

Insurance companies like Progressive, State Farm, and GEICO offer car insurance for international driving permit holders. It's essential to research different insurance providers and their offerings to identify the best options available for your specific needs. By securing the right insurance coverage, you can enjoy your international driving adventure with peace of mind.

IDP Validity and Renewal

As you plan your international trip, it's important to understand the validity period and renewal process for your IDP. This ensures that your IDP remains valid throughout your trip and that you're prepared to renew it if necessary.

Validity period

An IDP is typically valid for a period of one year from the date of issuance. This means that you'll need to plan your international driving adventures within this timeframe.

Keep in mind that some countries may have additional restrictions or requirements regarding the duration of an IDP's validity, so be sure to research the specific regulations for the country you plan to visit.

The IDP renewal process

Renewing an IDP involves going through the same application process as obtaining a new one. This includes submitting a completed application form, two passport-sized photos, a valid driver's license, and the applicable renewal fees.

The processing time for your renewal application can take up to a few weeks, so it's essential to plan ahead and ensure your IDP remains valid throughout your travels.


Obtaining an International Driving Permit is a crucial step in preparing for your next international road trip. From understanding the IDP and its purpose to navigating the application process and insurance considerations, this blog post has provided you with a comprehensive step-by-step guide to help you secure your IDP and hit the road with confidence.

Whether you're exploring the scenic landscapes of Europe, the bustling cities of Asia, or the open roads of Latin America, an IDP is your passport to a world of unforgettable driving adventures. So gear up, plan your route, be sure to avoid these internaional road trip mistakes, and set off on the journey of a lifetime with your IDP in hand.

Frequently Asked Questions

What countries require an international drivers license?

Americans are required to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) in order to drive in countries like Australia, Austria, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Laos.

Note that China never signed onto the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Travel. As such, Americans cannot rent a car there without first getting a Chinese driver's license.

What countries accept a US driver's license without an IDP?

Your U.S. driver's license is valid in Canada and Mexico, but may only be accepted in other countries for a limited time.

To know what you need for the places you'll be visiting, check with the U.S. State Department.

What is the primary purpose of an International Driving Permit (IDP)?

The primary purpose of an International Driving Permit (IDP) is to verify the validity of international driver's licenses and translate them for use abroad.

Which organizations are authorized to issue IDPs in the US?

The American Automobile Association (AAA) is the only organization authorized to issue IDPs in the US. The American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA) no longer issues IDPs.

How long is an IDP valid for?

An IDP is valid for one year from the date of issuance.

Is an Inter American Driving Permit the same as an International Driving Permit?

While similar in function to an IDP, an Inter-American Driving Permit (IADP) is only for use in the following countries across North, Central, and South America:

  • Argentina
  • Bolivia
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • Guatemala
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Mexico
  • Nicaragua
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • United States
  • Venezuela

As you can see, the IADP is not issued by all countries in the Americas. Most of the Western Hemisphere countries not listed above are signatories of the 1949 Geneva Convention and/or the 1968 Vienna Convention. The signatory countries of these agreements recognize the IDP as their international driver's license standard instead of the IADP.

Traveling to one of these contries? You can apply for an IADP through AAA with the same form and procedures as we have discussed for applying for an IDP. Simply check the appropriate box on the application form.

About the Author: For over 20 years, the U.S. Passport Service Guide team has helped hundreds of thousands of travelers with their travel document questions and shared advice about how to make traveling abroad simpler, safer, and more enjoyable.

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