How To Get An International Driver’s License Permit

International Drivers License
Obtaining an International Driving Permit

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.

Maybe you want to go driving in Iceland, rent a car to explore Morocco, or learn to drive on the opposite side of the road in Ireland.

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).

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:

  • Austria
  • Bosnia-Herzegovina
  • Greece
  • Germany
  • Hungary
  • Poland
  • Italy
  • Slovenia
  • Spain

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! ★

Useful Travel Planning Resources

Packing Guide

Check out my travel gear guide to help you start packing for your trip. Pick up a travel backpack, camera gear, and other useful travel accessories.

Book Your Flight

Book cheap flights on Skyscanner, my favorite airline search engine to find deals. Also read my tips for how I find the cheapest flights.

Rent A Car

Discover Car Hire is a great site for comparing car prices to find the best deal. They search both local & international rental companies.

Book Accommodation

Booking.com is my favorite hotel search engine. Or rent local apartments on Airbnb ($35 discount!). Read my post for tips on booking cheap hotels.

Protect Your Trip

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance.

THANKS FOR READING

Hi, I’m Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for the last 9 years as a blogger, photographer, and digital nomad. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel more with crazy stories, photography, and useful tips from my journey.
Matthew Karsten
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