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Who doesn’t love a good road trip?  And when you are traveling, there is something really special about having the freedom to go where you want, when you want…especially when visiting foreign countries.  Being able to experience the country on your terms, from stopping off at scenic overlooks, taking back roads through quaint villages, and stopping at roadside restaurants and shops.  So if your goal is to be able to drive in a foreign country, then you must know how to get an international drivers license.

How to get an International Drivers License - Pin

What is an International Drivers License?

The international drivers license is not really a driving license, but rather a special permit.  Also called the International Drivers Permit (IDP), it is actually just your existing driving license translated into 11 languages.

AAA International Drivers License

The international drivers license does not replace your current driving license, it is just a supplemental permit.  Therefore, you will still need to carry your regular license with you at all times.  Having both the IDP and your current driving license is necessary in many countries.

An international drivers license is only valid for one year from the date of issuance, and it will not be issued more than 6 months before you need it.

Do I Need an International Drivers License?

In short, not always.  It depends on what country you are planning to drive through.  Currently, the international drivers license is recognized in roughly 150 countries around the world.  A list can be found HERE.  You should have the IDP in order to drive in these countries, and in some countries you must pay an additional registration fee upon arrival.

International Drivers License driving

We loved our experience of driving in New Zealand – one of the best for a road trip!

If you plan to rent a car abroad, then there are roughly 40 countries that require you to have an international drivers license in order to obtain the rental car.  Typically, the car rental company will spell this out for you in the terms and conditions. The last thing you want is to show up and not have the IDP when they ask to see it at the rental counter.  So be sure to find out for sure before your trip!

Am I Eligible for an International Drivers License?

There are a few requirements in order to get your international drivers license.  First, you must currently hold a valid drivers license in your country of residence.  If your driving license has been suspended or revoked, then you are not eligible for the international driving permit (IDP).

Further, your current drivers license must be valid for at least 6 months after your IDP is issued (so that it doesn’t expire after receiving your IDP).  Lastly, you must be at least 18 years or older to get an international drivers license.

International Drivers License Online — Watch Out for the Fakes!

If you do a search online, you may find numerous companies that say they can get you an international drivers license.  But beware!  The U.S. State Department website states that only the National Automobile Club and the AAA offer international driver’s permits in the United States.

So even though others might seem legitimate and even their documents look real, more than likely they are fakes.

Your IDP should look something like the photo above.  It is a 4 x 6 booklet with your name, date, place of birth, and your home address. This page is then repeated throughout the booklet in 9 different languages.

If you have questions about an IDP that you purchased elsewhere, feel free to contact your local AAA office or take it there in person to verify its authenticity.

How to Apply for an International Drivers License?

As mentioned above, the U.S. State Department only recognizes the National Automobile Club and the American Automobile Association (AAA) as the only places to get a valid international drivers license in the USA.

Requirements for Applications:  You will need the fill out an application form, show your valid drivers license, provide a passport-sized photo to go on your new permit, and pay the $15 fee. If you do not have passport photos, you can get them taken at the AAA office for a small fee.

There are 2 ways you can apply for your International Drivers License

1.  In person:  The easiest way to get your international drivers license is to stop by a local AAA office in person.  You can print the application out online and fill it out prior to your visit, then you just need to drop it off and wait a few minutes for them to process it.  Overall, it’s quite an easy process and doesn’t take very long.

international drivers license in front of AAA

Getting our International Drivers License in person at our local AAA Office in Atlanta, GA

2.  By Mail:  You can also fill out the form and mail it to your closed AAA office for processing. When it is ready, you can stop by to pick it up.  Keep in mind that it could take up to 15 days or longer for mailing and processing.  If you are in a time crunch, then it is better for you to get your IDP in person on the same day.

Personally, we recommend stopping by your local AAA office in person.  The process is short and simple.


Bring Both Your Driving License & International Drivers License When You Travel

When it is time to set out on your overseas adventure, just remember that an international drivers license is just a certified translation of your driver’s license. You still must keep your actual driving license with your at all times while you are driving internationally.  If for any reason you need to show your documents to an officer, you should give them both items.

Tips for Driving in Another Country

From driving on the opposite side of the road, rules, and road signs, the idea of driving in a foreign country can be a little stressful.  But you can take the worry out of it if you are well prepared to drive in another country.  For more information, check out our post Tips for International Driving.


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