How to Get Your International Drivers License
Will your license work abroad? In this article, we offer tips on how to get your IDP and how to use your international drivers license.
You are visiting a country where you need an international drivers license during your visit. Like most Americans, you grew up driving in the U.S. and don't know the specific rules and laws to drive safely abroad. Before you start driving on your next overseas journey, it is a good idea to obtain an international drivers license. It is valid in over 150 countries and can help save you money, avoid fines, and make communicating with local authorities go much more smoothly. Also known as an International Driving Permit (IDP), an IDP is an official document recognized by many countries to drive while you are there legally.
Your U.S driver's license does not trump the laws in other countries, which means you need to follow their traffic rules when you're there. It would help if you carried a valid international drivers licenses (IDL) with you on your trip to ensure you don't get fined for breaking their traffic laws.
In addition to an IDL, Tripiamo driving guides are an excellent way to learn about essential laws like driving on the opposite side of the road to keep you safe during your journey.
But do you need an IDP or a foreign driver's license? How can you apply for an international drivers license? And, what countries accept an IDL?
Keep reading to learn more!
What Is an International Driver's License?
If you are planning a business trip or vacation to an area that requires driving, you may need an International Drivers License (IDL) or International Driving Permit (IDP). An international drivers license is simply a global version of your valid U.S. state driver's license.
An international drivers license translates your U.S. drivers license into ten languages (French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Chinese (simplified and traditional), Japanese, Korean, Arabic, and Russian). With an international drivers license, you can drive legally in 174 different countries.
The international drivers license is not intended to substitute your original U.S. driver's license. Instead, it is designed to supplement it by providing information that could prove helpful if you were involved in an accident or stopped by police abroad. Your international drivers license will include your name, photo, and address (to help law enforcement identify you).
Your international drivers license is a legal document issued certifying that you are authorized to operate a vehicle in their particular region. Since international drivers licenses are legally binding documents, you'll need to ensure that your information is accurate on the document and that it is up-to-date. You may also have to be prepared to provide your international driver's license with your U.S. driver's license if the police pull you over during your travels. While it is technically not required by law in every country, it is strongly recommended by most car rental companies and insurance companies.
It's important to note that the U.S. Department of State does not issue the IDP. The fee for an IDP varies by state but ranges from $17-$35 (as of 2017). An IDP is valid for one year from the date it's received. To review all 174 countries that accept international drivers license's, click here.
How to Apply for an International Drivers License.
You can get your international drivers license by mail or in person at the American Automobile Association (AAA) or American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA). The process is simple. You must be at least 18 years old to apply for an international drivers license. In addition, you must have a valid driver's license from your home country and a valid passport to apply for an IDP.
While you can get an international drivers license online, you should know that many unofficial sellers online oftentimes will try and scam you. These unofficial sellers claim to sell legitimate IDLs or IDPs. You are highly advised not to buy any of these products because they are all fake products that can get you in trouble when pulled over by the police on the road abroad.
How to apply for an IDL/IDP through AAA:
To apply for an international drivers license from AAA, you must first have a valid license from the U.S. Next, visit a local AAA branch office and fill out the application. IDP applications can be downloaded from the AAA website but cannot be filled out electronically. AAA branch offices are located throughout the U.S.
The application requires two passport-sized photos and the $20 fee payment. Finally, once AAA has accepted your application, an IDP usually takes about a week to arrive in the mail.
How to apply for an IDL/IDP through AATA:
The first thing you need to do is contact your nearest AATA office. When you arrive at the AATA office, you need to fill out an application form. You will also have to provide the required documents. Next, you'll have to submit your application form and documents to a clerk. The clerk will check your information then give you a receipt for payment. Now it's time for you to send those documents via mail (UPS, FedEx, etc.) along with your photos and payment receipt.
How to Use an IDL/IDP.
Many people will tell you you don't need an international driver's license or permit (IDP) if you have a U.S. driver's license. They're wrong. You do need it.
They tell you this because they don't understand the difference between a U.S. driver's license and an IDP. They're the same thing, but with some critical differences. Most importantly, your IDP will not be recognized without your valid U.S. driver's license.
Next, the second difference: while your IDP doesn't entitle you to any additional benefits, discounts, privileges, or rights, it does allow you to drive in any country it was issued in—it's only suitable for 174 countries!
Finally, an IDP does not prove that you know how to drive or have skills on the road. However, Tripiamo Guides teach you essential skills and rules related to driving in a foreign country. Therefore, an IDL can help you stay safe and be prepared.
In the end, it is recommended to bring your international drivers license (IDP) and your U.S. driver's license when you go to drive abroad. To ensure your safety and ease of travel, an IDP is necessary.
Planning on Driving Abroad?
Tripiamo offers comprehensive driving guides by country for anyone planning an international journey.