An international driver’s license in Spain, officially known as the International Driving Permit (IDP), is a document that translates the information from your U.S. driver’s license into Spanish. When driving in Spain, you must have the IDP to assist foreign agents in validating your license. It is important to understand that the permit is not a replacement for the license; it is a supplement. In many other foreign countries like Spain, it is illegal to operate a vehicle without having both the IDP and U.S. license on hand.

On that same token, you cannot use the international driver’s license to operate a vehicle in the United States. While it is a valid document, its only purpose is to ease comprehension in reading your license in countries where English is not easily understood. Below, you will find step-by-step instructions on how to obtain the permit.

What is an IDP?

An IDP is a document that works in conjunction with your driver’s license while in a foreign country. The permit translates pertinent information from your license to help foreign agents understand it. While it does include identifying information, it is only valid alongside a U.S. license.

You can obtain one from one of two agencies in the state: the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA). It is also important to note that U.S. citizens cannot use the international driver’s license in the USA to drive. You must obtain a state-issued license.

When do I need an international driver’s license in Spain?

If you plan to visit Spain and drive during your trip, you must obtain an AATA or AAA international driver’s license. It is valid for one year from its date of issuance.

As such, if you plan to stay longer or become a resident, then you must complete the process to obtain a Spanish license. Keep in mind that you must be older than 18 years of age with a valid U.S. license to obtain the permit.

How to Get an International Driver’s License in Spain

To obtain a AAA international driving permit, there are a few steps you must follow. The first is gathering documents such as passport photos and driver’s license information. The application you must fill out requires information such as:

  • Full name.
  • Home and foreign address.
  • Arrival and departure information.

The type of international driver’s license you obtain will depend on the U.S. license you have. For example, if you have a motorcycle license, you will receive the same type of permit.

Once you have your documentation, you can submit the documents in one of two ways: by visiting your local AAA driver’s license office or via mail. The cost of the permit is $20. However, additional fees may apply for shipping. If you are sending in the request via mail, you must locate the address of your local AAA office and send it there.

You must meet the same requirements to obtain the international driver’s license online through the AATA. If you prefer to mail in your application, you must submit it to the organization’s address:

American Automobile Touring Alliance
P.O. Box 24980
San Jose, CA 95154

Note that when mailing the international driver’s license application, you must include a money order or check, as the offices do not accept cash.

How long does an International Driving Permit last in Spain?

An international driving permit in Spain expires one year after its issuance date. The permit works in conjunction with your U.S. driver’s license, not as a replacement. As such, if your driver’s license expires, it becomes invalid.

If you plan to reside in the country for an extended period of time and drive, you must visit a driver’s license office in Spain to obtain a Spanish license. You may have to pass a written and road exam to test your knowledge of traffic regulations in the country.

Where to Get an International Driver’s License in Spain

If you are already in Spain when you need an IDP, you can still obtain an international driving permit by mailing it overseas. You must first gather all pertinent documents including two recent passport photos, U.S. license photos and a completed application.

Keep in mind that to submit a AAA international driver’s license application while overseas, you must mail it using FedEx due to U.S. customs regulations. The envelope must list the following address:

1000 AAA Drive
Heathrow, FL 32746
Attn: Mail Stop #28

When mailing an application through the AATA, you may send the envelope through the International DHL Express/Courier option. The listed cost is $85. However, that may vary depending on the destination.  

Tips for Avoiding International Driver’s License Fraud

There are numerous websites that claim to offer international driver’s licenses. They provide false information regarding what you can do with the IDP and what the limitations are. It is very important to remember that only two U.S. agencies have the proper authorization from the U.S. government to issue the permit. Any other website claiming to offer the service is fraudulent. Using these fake services leaves you at risk of identity theft.

You may also lose a lot of money as these sites often charge up to hundreds of dollars for a AAA international driver’s license fee that only costs $20 through the agencies. Having a fraudulent document can delay your travel plans and put you in legal troubles.

To avoid becoming a victim of these websites, make sure you only visit official AAA or AATA’s websites to apply. In addition, submitting the application online is not currently available. Any website claiming to provide that service should be a red flag.

Driving Rules in Spain

Driving with an International Driving Permit in countries like Spain is very different than driving in the U.S. While both countries drive on the right side of the road, there are other important traffic rules to know about.

Seat belts are compulsory for front- and backseat drivers in private vehicles. In addition, motorists must remain off their phones unless the mobile device is hands-free. Moreover, when driving in Spain, motorists must always have the following items in their car:

  • Reflective vests
  • Warning triangles
  • Proof of license,  vehicle inspection and registration
  • Crash helmets, for motorcyclists
Last updated on Friday, March 6 2020.