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The ABC’s of IDP’s (International Driving Permits)

The ABC’s of IDP’s (International Driving Permits)

When traveling internationally, there is only so much time to cram in all that you want to see and do. Renting a car is the only way to fully customize your travel experience and not be bound by public transportation schedules. Dreams of fulfilling your multinational wanderlust may end at the car rental counter, however, unless you are able to produce an International Driving Permit, which is the required documentation in many countries.

What is an International Driving Permit (IDP)?

Despite popular belief, an International Driving Permit is not a driver’s license. Rather, it is a translation document that converts your existing driver’s license information into multiple languages and allows its holder to operate a private motor vehicle in any country that recognizes IDP’s. Roughly the size of a passport, an IDP is valid when presented along with your state-issued driver’s license. Essentially, it allows for the streamlined bridging of any language barriers in a standardized format.

 What an IDP Is Not   

As stated previously, an IDP is not a driver’s license, and it cannot function as a substitute for one in the country in which it was issued. Additionally, your IDP must be obtained in the country in which your driver’s license was issued. In other words, you cannot apply for one in your destination country in hopes of then renting a vehicle. Additionally, it does not function as a stand-alone identification document. It is designed to serve only as a translation document for your existing license.

How to Obtain An IDP

There are only two organizations authorized by the U.S. Department of State to issue International Driving Permits in the United States. Both the American Automobile Association and the American Automobile Touring Alliance have an application process for providing IDP’s. Membership to either organization is not required for an IDP application. The cost of an IDP is approximately $20 plus the cost of two passport-sized photographs, which must be sent along with your application. Follow the links below to review the application process for both.



Important Note about Fraud

While the AAA and the AATA are the only issuing organizations for IDP’s, there are other companies that claim that they can issue them as well. They generally charge a much higher fee than either of the actual issuing agencies. Do not be fooled by imitators — go directly to the source by following the links provided above. If you believe that you were sold a counterfeit IDP, report it immediately by following the link the Federal Trade Commission provided below.


Key Tips On International Driver Safety

There’s an old saying that goes something like “just because you can doesn’t mean that you should.” In other words, applying for and obtaining an IDP doesn’t immediately endow you with an in-depth knowledge of the local traffic laws and customs of your destination country. While you may be legally permitted to operate a vehicle in a given country, that doesn’t predict you’ll be able to do it very well. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the rules of the road for the country in which you plan on driving. Also, road conditions vary greatly among different countries, and their state of repair (or lack thereof) may present hazards that you may not encounter while driving in most of the United States. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the local traffic signs and their respective meanings as well, as it is a little more difficult to react quickly while speeding along 130km/h.

An IDP is just the first step in your independence, exploring the world by car. Here’s hoping you enjoy many safe driving adventures to come.


By: Denise D.

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