Posted Date: February 23, 2021
Do you plan on driving in a foreign country? If so, you’re going to need an International Driver’s Permit (IDP).
Whether you’re planning a road trip through Europe or riding scooters in Thailand, having an International Driver’s License will help you rent a car and avoid paying costly fees if you get pulled over for speeding or any traffic violation.
Let’s take a look at what the IDP is, how it works, and how you can start your application for your international driver’s license online.
What is an International Driver’s License?
An International Drivers License – also called an International Driver’s Permit (IDP), is a travel document that is required in some countries to drive a vehicle while you are abroad. It does not replace your current driver’s license but works in conjunction with it and that states you can legally drive in a country.
The IDP is a valid form of identification and is recognized in 150 countries around the world.
The international driver’s license is a small paper booklet about the size of a passport. It contains your name, photo, and your driver information in 10 different languages, so even if you don’t speak the language, your IDP will for you.
The permit is valid for up to one year from the issued date – the date written on the front of your permit. The effective date must start within 6 months of the application date.
How do you get an International Driver’s Permit?
Only two organizations can issue international driver’s licenses (permits): the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA).
Your International Driver’s Permit must be issued in your home country. It cannot be issued by a foreign government.
While you cannot complete the entire application process for an international driver’s license online, you can get started on AAA’s website by downloading the application form.
There are two ways you can get an IDP.
- By Mail
The easiest way to get your IDP is by going to a local AAA branch. You can find your closest AAA branch here.
Before you head straight to your nearest branch, you’ll first need to print and fill out an application. You can print it out online or pick it up from a AAA branch.
Instructions on how to fill out the application are down later in this post. If you already have passport photos on hand, you’ll want to grab two of them and take them with you.
If not, don’t worry – AAA can take your photos for you at their branch.
Once you arrive at the branch nearest you, speak with a representative, inform them that you want an international drivers license, and they’ll take care of the rest.
If there isn’t a branch near you, or you can’t make it in to a branch for any other reason, you can mail in your signed application along with your passport photos
If you go the mail-in route, you’ll want to double check to make sure you are sending all of the required pieces to AAA. If you forget to send one of the required documents, you’ll have a delay in getting your IDP.
What do you need to mail in?
- International Driving Permit Application
- Two identical recent passport-type photos (2” x 2”) signed on the back.
- A photocopy of both sides of your U.S. Driver’s License
- $20 permit fee paid by check or money order only. You cannot pay by cash if you are mailing in your application.
Where do you need to mail it?
Mail your application to your nearest AAA branch.
You’ll need to get an international driving license for each person who plans on driving. One permit works for the individual whose driver’s license information is in it. It is not transferable to a spouse, partner, friend, or car.
In order to qualify for an international driver’s license, you must meet some minimum requirements. First, you must be at least 18 years old. Secondly, you must hold a valid U.S. or Territorial Driver’s license.
If you meet those requirements, you are well on your way to obtaining an international driver’s permit.
All you’ll have to do next is complete an application form, bring two 2 x 2 passport-type photos, and pay $20.
How Long Does it Take to Get an IDP?
Getting your IDP is a really simple process and quite painless compared to a lot of other bureaucratic processes. If you’re worried about it taking too much time, there is no need to fret.
Filling out the form takes between 5-10 minutes.
You’ll also need two 2 inch x 2 inch passport-style photos that can be attached to your IDP. You can get this done at a variety of places, including at your local AAA branch as you are applying for your IDP, or at pharmacies such as Walgreens or CVS. Depending on where you go, this may take between 10 – 30 minutes.
With your application complete and your passport photos ready, you can walk into a AAA branch and leave with your international driver’s license within 10 minutes.
If you mail in your application along with your photos and payment, you should receive your IDP in the mail within 2 weeks.
If you are already overseas, you can still apply for an IDP. It will take a little bit longer to get, and I’d only recommend doing this if you are an expatriate and living abroad for long periods of time, or if you are traveling long-term for years on end.
In this case, you’ll need to send your application with the required documents to the following address:
1000 AAA Drive
Heathrow, FL 32746
Attn: Mail Stop #28
Expect to wait 4-6 weeks for return mail.
What Countries Do You Need an International Drivers License?
In general, if you are traveling outside of North America, it’s a good idea to get an International Driving License.
Over 150 countries accept the IDP, but some require it in order to rent or drive a car. Some of the more popular vacation destinations that require the IDP are:
How to fill out the AAA International Driver (IDP) Application
Filling out the International Driving Permit Application is relatively easy. Let’s quickly walk through it.
The application form will look like this:
Before you get started filling out your application, make sure you have your United States driver’s license on hand. You’ll need it to fill in a few of the boxes in the form.
It is important to note that if you have a temporary license, you should wait until you are in possession of your permanent license before you travel or fill out the AAA International Driving Permit application.
While a temporary license is a valid license, authorities abroad will probably not accept a temporary license.
Or, if your license is set to expire before your trip date, you should get your new license before beginning your international drivers license online application.
In the top section, enter your first, middle, and last names, exactly as they appear on your driver’s license.
Add your email address and phone number. You don’t need your license for these fields. Write down your correct contact information.
Refer to your driver’s license for this next section.
On the third row, add your driver’s license number, state of issue, and driver’s license expiration date. All of this information will be found on the front of your license.
After adding your license information, you’ll need to add a few personal details including your Birthplace City, State, or Country (of birth), and Birth Date – written in Month, Day, Year format.
Then enter your current home address followed by your City, State, and Zip Code.
There is a box directly underneath those labeled Foreign addresses if known. You don’t have to worry about this field. If you are moving to a permanent residence, you can fill it out or if you know the address of your accommodation, you can fill it in here.
If you don’t know your foreign address or will be driving around a lot, don’t worry about it. This field isn’t required.
The last two boxes are important. The Departure Date from the U.S.A. is the date of your flight. Knowing this information will help you fill out the next box: Permit Effective Date.
Your permit must go into effect within 6 months of your application date – meaning that your permit’s year of eligibility will begin counting down on the effective date.
It is recommended that the effective date either be the same as your departure date or the day you know you will be picking up your first car rental abroad.
International Driving Permit vs. Inter-American Driving Permit
Now that the main boxes are filled out, you have just a few quick check boxes to fill – but they are important.
First, you’ll need to state which type of permit you are applying for. You have two choices – either the International Driving Permit or the Inter-American Driving Permit.
To see which option you should check, you need to answer one question.
Will you be driving in either Brazil or Uruguay?
If you answered no, check the International Driving Permit box. If the answer is yes, select the Inter-American Driving Permit.
I repeat, check International Driving Permit unless you are going to rent or drive a car in either Brazil or Uruguay.
If you plan on driving in either of those two countries you will need to select the Inter-American Driving Permit.
The Inter-American Driving Permit is similar to the International Driving Permit. It is an identity document that licences the holder to drive a motor vehicle in another nation when accompanied by a valid driver’s license from their home country.
It is less common than the International Driving Permit but is necessary for driving in Brazil and Uruguay.
For anywhere else in the world, choose the International Driving Permit.
There is a third option for those who are planning to drive in Brazil or Uruguay AND in another country outside of South America. If that is the case, you may have to apply for both an International Driving Permit and an Inter-American Driving Permit.
Select Which Vehicles You Are Allowed to Drive
Finally, select which types of vehicles your current driver’s license is valid for.
The vast majority of people will only check the Passenger Car box. This is the most common option. This means you can legally drive vehicles that hold up to 8 passengers.
This is your basic driver’s license, and this is the box most travelers will need to select.
If you know you are going to be renting a motorcycle, and you have a motorcycle license, then you can select that.
How do you know if you have a motorcycle license? Generally, if you haven’t specifically gone out of your way to take a test and get special motorcycle license, then you don’t have one.
If you are still unsure of which vehicles you are allowed to operate, check the back of your driver’s license. It will tell you what class of license you have.
You can then check AAA’s website to see what vehicles you are allowed to drive. The classes vary by state, so you’ll want to make sure you are looking at the state that issued your license.
Sign and Date the Application
Finally, the last step is to sign and date your application.
If you are mailing yours in, fill out your return address information in the box in the bottom right corner. This is the address where AAA will mail your International Driving Permit.
Make sure to send in both pages of the application if you mail it, or take both of them with you if you visit a branch in person.
Overall, an IDP is a peace of mind travel document that enables you to drive legally in foreign countries. If you get caught speeding without one, you may end up with a hefty fine. It’s definitely worth the $20 it costs to get one.
With these instructions you should be able to fill out your application and get your IDP in no time!