International Driver's Permit

How to Get an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) – The Definitive Guide

by Zutobi · Updated Oct 05, 2021

Operating motor vehicles abroad is useful when looking to visit remote areas that are not served by public transportation. Avid international travelers will likely be interested in figuring out the best method to legally operate a motor vehicle overseas. If you fall into this category, you’re in luck!

In this article, we cover everything about the international driving permit, including:

  • What is an international driver’s permit?
  • Why is an international driver’s permit necessary?
  • How do you get an international driver’s permit?
  • How do you use an international driver’s permit?
  • How long does it take to get an international driver’s permit?
  • Do all countries require an IDP?
  • International driver’s permit vs. international driver’s license

Let’s get straight into it!

What Is an International Driver’s Permit?

An International Driver’s Permit (IDP) is a form of identification that allows you to drive in over 175 different countries, as long as you already have a valid license in your home country. The IDP will also translate your English-language driver’s license into languages such as Chinese, French, Japanese, Spanish, and several more. This allows you to identify yourself in foreign countries, even if you’re not able to speak the native language. 

Why Is an International Driving Permit Necessary?

There are several benefits to owning an international driver’s permit if you’re planning your next vacation overseas. Even if you don’t plan on driving while on vacation, it may be a good idea to get one anyway. Here’s why you should consider it.

#1 – It Is an Internationally Accepted Identification Card

The international driver’s permit comes in 10 different languages and is accepted in over 175 different countries across the globe. Having one could help ease communication with local authorities, especially when language barriers are present. 

#2 – It Is Required by Major Car Rental Agencies

If your journey includes trips to rural areas, public transport or ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft may be unavailable. A rented car may be the only option for getting to many of these places. Some foreign car rental agencies will require nonresident renters to provide proof of an international driver’s permit to obtain a vehicle. To be on the safe side, you may want to acquire an IDP if you plan to leave the city for some time.

#3 – It Is Not Hard to Acquire

You may hear the term ‘International Driver’s Permit’ and assume applying for one would be a pain. That couldn’t be further from the truth! In the next section, we’ll talk about how you can get your hands on an IDP before your next adventure abroad.

How Do You Get an International Driver’s Permit?

In the United States, there are only two organizations that offer the international driver’s permit – the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA) and the American Automobile Automobile Association (AAA). To qualify, you must be 18 years or older and a licensed US driver.

The process and requirements for both are essentially the same. However, while AAA offers physical locations to complete your application, AATA’s IDP process is conducted entirely through mail. This may be something to consider when moving forward.

Regardless of the organization you choose, you will be required to present the following documents to complete your application. 

  • IDP Application
  • Two original passport pictures 
  • A copy of your U.S. driver’s license

You will be charged a $20 permit fee when submitting these documents for review. Upon acquiring the permit, you will have six months to use it before it expires.

How Long Does It Take to Get an International Driver’s Permit?

The time it takes to get an international driver’s permit will depend largely on whether you choose to apply with AAA or AATA. However, both organizations have similar processing times. After a 10-15 minute visit to the AAA office, or the post office to deliver your AATA application, you should anticipate your IDP arriving about two weeks after submission

How Do You Use an International Driver’s Permit?

Using your international driver’s permit is just like using your driver’s license in the states! You can use it as identification when asked by local authorities abroad. It can also be used to prove information about you such as your age, date of birth, home country, and more – all without you saying a single word.

However, you must always carry your permanent US driver’s license with you while driving with an IDP abroad. An IDP alone is insufficient, your driver’s license will be used to prove your knowledge and skill behind the wheel. 

Are you looking to get your US driver’s license? You’re in luck. Zutobi provides a number of resources designed to help student drivers in all fifty states pass their driving test and stay safe on the road. Utilizing a gamified experience for all users, Zutobi is a great way to study core driving concepts without being super overwhelmed by a dense driver’s handbook. 

Do All Countries Require an IDP?

All countries have their own rules and regulations regarding whether an international driver’s permit is required to operate a motor vehicle as a foreigner. European countries such as Croatia, Austria, and Poland all require American drivers to hold an IDP with an American license while driving their country.

Other countries simply allow you to translate your American driver’s license into a local one once you arrive. However, getting an IDP to save time and avoid any potential confusion would undoubtedly be the best option.

International Driver’s Permit vs. International Driver’s License

Simply put, there is no such thing as an international driver’s license. Any company offering you special privileges by applying for their ‘international driver’s license’ over the standard international driver’s permit is a scam and should be reported to the Better Business Bureau immediately

As we mentioned earlier, the international driver’s permit can only be obtained from two organizations in the United States – the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA) and the American Automobile Automobile Association (AAA). If you’re applying for an IDP elsewhere, you’re in the wrong place!

All in all, applying for an international driver’s permit is a great investment of your time and worth $20 if you’re anticipating going abroad in the next six months. Not only will you be able to drive in any of the 175 countries that accept the IDP, you will also have access to a universal identification card that translates to 10 different languages. Be sure to reference our guide whenever you’re ready to apply for your international driver’s permit in the United States.

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