Interested in picking up an international driver’s license or permit (IDP)? This special license allows you to drive rental cars in different countries around the world.
If you’re a frequent traveler like me, you probably love road trips and renting a car to drive around foreign countries on your own.
With an international driver’s license permit, you can rent a car or motorcycle in all sorts of exotic locations with the freedom to stop anytime, and anywhere, traveling at your own pace.
Without the permit, you might not be able to rent a car in certain countries, or you could get in trouble with the police if you’re pulled over for speeding (or just because you’re a foreigner).
What Is An International Driver’s License?
The International Driving Permit, or IDP (sometimes called an International Driver’s License) is a valid form of identification in 150 countries worldwide.
It contains your name, photo and home-country driver’s license information translated into 10 different languages — so if you’re stopped by police or get in an accident overseas, local authorities will be able to read your license details in their own language.
How Do You Get An International Driving Permit?
If you live in the United States, obtaining an International Driver’s License Permit is super easy. There are two official organizations that offer them in the United States — AAA and the AATA.
If you’re Canadian, you’ll want to get one from the CAA.
Simply click on one of the links below, fill out the application form, and drop it off at your local office or mail it in along with two passport-size photos (signed on the back).
- American Automobile Association (AAA)
- American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA)
- Canadian Automobile Association (CAA)
How Much Do IDP Licenses Cost?
An international driving permit from AAA costs $20 USD, and lasts for up to one year. It’s pretty cheap!
In Canada, the IDP costs $25.00 CDN from CAA.
You also may need passport photos if you don’t have any lying around. Simply stop by your local Walmart or FedEx Kinkos to have your passport photo taken professionally.
Or if you have some Photoshop skills and decent camera gear, you can even make your own passport photos like I did to save some money!
Do You Really Need An International Driver’s License?
That depends. Many countries around the world are ok with just seeing your local US driver’s license. For example, Mexico, United Kingdom, Costa Rica, South Africa, Iceland, etc.
But not all of them. In Europe for example, the following countries technically require them:
So it totally depends on where you are planning to travel. Some countries may also technically require an IDP, but they don’t actually enforce it. For example, I’ve rented cars in Italy many times without one.
For a complete list of countries that recognize the IDP, click here.
If you think you may rent or drive a vehicle while traveling abroad, I’d pick up a copy just to be safe.
Especially if you’re going to be traveling to places with a different writing system, like China, Japan, or Arabic speaking countries.
Getting an international driver’s permit after you’ve left the United States is much more difficult and can take up to 4 weeks — so if you’re going to be traveling long-term, it also might be wise.
At the very least, you’ll now have an extra form of picture identification while traveling. You can never have enough of those in my opinion! ★