While making plans to travel abroad, consider adding an international driver’s license to your list of preparations. Just like the U.S., other countries require you to meet licensing requirements in order to operate a motor vehicle. However, certain countries do not accept foreign driver’s licenses on their own for this purpose. As a result, travelers often apply for an international driving permit in order to drive while traveling abroad.

Otherwise known as an IDP, this document verifies and translates your current license for easy acceptance in other countries. The requirements to obtain this permit include carrying a valid driver’s license and paying the necessary fee. Once you have your document, you can get behind the wheel and travel like the locals.

What is an International Driving Permit?

It is important to understand that while often referred to as an international drivers license, this document is not technically a license. Instead, it only verifies the validity of your driver’s license from your home country.

In other words, this permit alone is not enough to obtain driving privileges in a foreign country. You must also carry your own valid driver’s license in order to legally operate a vehicle while abroad.

Additionally, an IDP is used to translate your current license into different languages. It contains your photo, name and information just like any other photo ID. In the event that you are pulled over, this document will help minimize any language barrier with law enforcement.

Keep in mind that these permits are only valid for a certain amount of time, and not all countries accept them. Therefore, it is important to verify when and if you will need this document during your travels.

When is an International Driving Permit necessary?

After “What is an IDP?” the next important question to answer is “When do I need one?” To determine this, you need to consider which country or countries you plan to drive in. You must also think about how long you intend to visit each country, as this has an impact on driving requirements as well. In some countries, you may need to obtain a local license rather than an international permit.

Other countries will accept your home license for a certain amount of days before requiring an IDP or local license. Make sure to find out the specific licensing regulations for foreign drivers, or contact each country’s embassy for further assistance.

Which countries require an International Driving Permit?

Most countries require more than just your current driver’s license to obtain driving privileges. Fortunately, IDPs are recognized in more than 150 countries. In other countries, you may be required to obtain a local license in place of or along with this permit. This generally depends on the country and how long you plan to visit.

If you are wondering “Do I need an international driver’s license or a local license?” make sure to research every country you plan to drive in, especially if you plan to cross any borders. Even if this permit is not required during your trip, most countries recommend that you obtain this permit anyway, for extra safety and convenience.

How to Get an International Driver’s License

It is not currently possible to order an international drivers license online, but you can submit your application in person. According to the application requirements, you must present the following items during your visit:

  • A completed application
  • Two photos of passport size, with your signature on the back
  • A photocopy of both sides of your valid driver’s license
  • $20 fee payment

You can also submit your international drivers license application by mail if you are unable to apply in person. For this option, you must submit all of the above documents to an official agency. Keep in mind that mail-in applications require a money order or check for payment of the permit fee.

How long do international driving permits last?

In general, IDPs are valid for one year from issuance. After the expiration date, you are required to apply for a new document in order to drive during future travels. Additionally, you must also consider when you plan to travel before you apply.

Overall, this permit can only be issued up to six months in advance of the required effective date. Another detail to keep in mind is the expiration date of your driver’s license. In order for this permit to remain valid, your driver’s license must also be valid during that period.

Where to Get an International Drivers License

To obtain your driving permit, you must apply in the country where your current license was issued. For example, residents with a U.S. driving license are required to apply with an official U.S. agency. There are currently only two private agencies in the U.S. that are authorized to provide this driving permit. These are the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA).

Overall, the AATA and the AAA international drivers license fee and application are the same. However, only AAA accepts applications in person. This means you can obtain your AAA international drivers license during your application visit. Otherwise, you must wait between 10 and 15 business days to receive your document in the mail.

Tips for Avoiding International Drivers License Fraud

When applying for your permit, it is important to protect yourself from international licensing scams. Driving with fake documents can result in travel delays and even legal troubles. Unfortunately, certain websites may claim to provide valid permits, when in reality the documents issued are fake. To ensure that you obtain a real permit, keep the following rules in mind:

  • Only official international drivers license offices are authorized to sell this permit.
  • The permit does not grant or restore driving privileges.
  • The permit itself is not considered a valid form of photo identification.
  • Permits obtained in the U.S. are not valid for driving in the U.S.

Make sure to avoid entities that claim to provide permits for unlicensed or suspended drivers. Overall, the best way to avoid fraud is to order an AATA or an AAA international driving permit for your travels. These agencies are approved to sell driving permits to citizens through the U.S. Department of State.

Different Driving Rules in Foreign Countries

When you visit international driving permit countries, it is also important to learn about the local traffic laws and customs. Each country has its own approach to driving, which may be very different from the US. In addition to applying for your IDP, make sure to study the country’s traffic regulations to prepare yourself for driving on foreign roads. This helps you avoid potential accidents or tickets during your trip. Examples of different driving rules include the following:

  • In countries like the UK and Australia, cars travel on the left side of the road rather than the right.
  • In France, drivers must yield the right-of-way to vehicles entering the roadway from the right.
  • In Germany, cellphone use is prohibited unless you are parked with the vehicle turned off, or you are using a hands-free device.

International Drivers Permits in the United States

The U.S. is one of the many countries that accept international permits. However, not all states require this permit for driving. Many states allow driving in the USA with a foreign license, as long as the license is valid. To find out which states require the permit, you must research the DMV policies for that state.

In regards to the application for an international drivers license, the USA cannot issue these permits to foreign visitors. Therefore if you are traveling to the U.S. from another country, you must obtain this document prior to your visit.

Last updated on Friday, March 6 2020.