What is an International Driving Permit and Who Needs One?

Some people use the words “traveler” and “tourist” interchangeably, while others argue there is a difference. Tourists, these people claim, are sort of like spectators. They enjoy visiting new places in pre-packaged tours or on cruise boats with set itineraries and with meals all planned out.

All Places are Straight Ahead!

Travelers, on the other hand, are those who like to get out and explore a region, wing an itinerary, and aren’t afraid to drive on the “wrong” side of the road or to get lost. These are the people who are the ones most likely to need an international driving permit (IDP).

What Is an International Driving Permit?

An IDP is an official document that translates a driver’s information into ten different languages and is valid in over 170 countries. The IDP will also have your picture and name on it. This document does not replace a driver’s license. A traveler will still need to carry his regular driver’s license, in addition. The IDP can only be issued in a traveler’s country of origin.

The requirements for IDPs differ from country to country. Some nations require that a driver have this permit, while others only highly recommend it. The American Automobile Association (AAA) recommends that travelers carry one even if they don’t plan on driving, as the translated personal information on this document can come in handy during a number of different situations.

Travelers will need to check if their destination country or countries requires an IDP to drive. The UK’s Automobile Association’s website has a list of countries that require or highly recommend the IDP, but it is important to check directly with the nation you are traveling to, since requirements like this are often fluid and can change.

Where to Obtain an IDP?

United States drivers can obtain an IDP through either the American Automobile Association (AAA) or the National Automobile Club. These are currently the only two entities in the United States that have been authorized by the Department of State to issue this document. Absolutely no other entities can legally sell this document, so anyone else offering IDPs may be a scam artist looking to take an unwary traveler’s money.

Both AAA and the National Automobile Club have IDP applications available online or from one of their offices. The fee for an IDP is moderate. For example, in 2012, it was only $15.

Who Qualifies for an IDP?

To obtain an IDP, a person must be 18 years or older and have a United States driver’s license that will be valid for at least six months longer than the issuance date of the IDP.

How Long Does an IDP Last?

You cannot get an IDP earlier than six months before you need it to be effective, and the IDP is only good for one year from the date it is issued.

U.S. travelers who are planning on going overseas should check with their destination country to see if they will need an IDP to drive before they depart. It is always better to be safe than sorry and have the proper documents than to be caught without them.

About the author

Richard Torres is an international traveler and car-enthusiast, who writes on behalf of www.carinsurance.org.uk, a website that offers affordable and reliable car insurance.