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How to Get an International Drivers Permit

Updated on May 29, 2010

If you're traveling overseas and want to drive in a foreign country as a tourist or as an expatriate, you will need to have a locally recognized drivers license, and that means either having a license from that particular country, or an International Drivers Permit. The latter is probably a good deal more logical and is definitely easier (and cheaper) to acquire. I've had several of them myself and I'm going to tell you how easy it is to get yours, as well as share a few details that many Americans may not be aware of. So read on to learn how to get your International Driver's Permit (IDP) and what you can do with it.

1. It's a Permit, not a License.

The International Driver's Permit is not a license, but rather a document (pamphlet, really) that tells foreign officials your US License adheres to certain international laws and conventions. It's a sort of notarization, if you will. Therefore, you will need to already have a valid driver's license before you can be issued an International Driver's Permit.

2. You must be 18 and have a valid license.

You can't be 16 and get an IDP, nor can you get one if you've got a suspended license. And if your driver's license expires a month after getting your IDP, your IDP will become invalid, as you need to present both at the same time.

3. Go to AAA.com and print the IDP application (or pick one up from your local AAA office.)

Fill it in completely and sign it the same way your license is signed. You'll then need two recent passport sized photos, and both photos will need your signature on the back of them. You'll also need to include a copy of your current driver's license and a 15 dollar check or money order made out to AAA.

4. Send your application in.

If you're already overseas and applying for the first time, you'll need to mail everything to this address: AAA/IDP, 1000 AAA Dr., Heathrow, FL 32746 Attn: Mailstop #28. They will cover the cost of mailing the IDP to your foreign address.

If you're currently in the USA, you can drop by your local AAA office (or mail it to your local AAA office) and do it in person. It literally takes about 10 minutes to get it.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Again, this is not a driver's license. This is a super-validation of your existing US Driver's license.

  • Just to be clear, this permit is only for Americans. If you live in another country, you will have your own IDP process to follow from your own local authorities.

  • The International Driver's Permit is only valid for one year. This means you will need to renew it every year you are using it abroad and the renewal process will be the same each time.

  • Some countries require persons with long term residence status or permanent residence status to acquire a local license, which means an IDP may not always be enough, depending on your local laws. Be sure to verify your country's rules before driving.

Image: graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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