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Ultimate Guide: How to Get an International Driving Permit (IDP) Easily

a driver pulled over and checking a map pulled over on an international drive

Imagine the thrill of exploring the picturesque countryside of France, zipping along the coastal roads of Italy, or navigating the bustling streets of Tokyo. Driving in a foreign country offers unparalleled freedom and opens up a world of possibilities for your next vacation.

But before you hit the road, there’s one crucial document you need: an International Driving Permit (IDP). In our comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the step-by-step process of obtaining an international driver’s license to ensure a smooth and enjoyable driving experience abroad.

We’ll cover everything from understanding what an IDP is and its purpose, to navigating the application process and considering insurance needs. By the end of this guide, you’ll be fully prepared to embark on an unforgettable driving adventure in a foreign land with confidence and peace of mind.

Short Summary

  • Understand the International Driving Permit (IDP) and its requirements for international travel.
  • Research local driving regulations, insurance coverage options, and renewal processes to ensure a safe experience abroad.
  • International Driving Permit (IDP) applications can be submitted in person or by mail with processing times up to several weeks.
  • An IDP is valid for 1 year from the date of issuance.

Table of Contents

Understanding the International Driving Permit (IDP)

An International Driving Permit (IDP) is a travel document that includes your personal identification information translated into multiple languages. When used alongside your valid U.S. driver’s license, an IDP allows you to drive legally in foreign countries.

This convenient document, often called an international driver’s license, verifies the validity of your current license and can be essential when dealing with car-related businesses or local authorities that may not recognize your home country’s license. In some countries, an international driver’s license is required for a legal and hassle-free international driving experience.

To obtain an IDP, you must apply through an authorized issuing organization. The only agency authorized by the U.S. State Department is the American Automobile Association (AAA). (Note: The American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA) issued IDPs in the past; however, they stopped offering this service in 2023.)

Having an IDP is one of the most valuable, reliable, and convenient travel documents, second only to a valid passport. Moreover, it’s a must for anyone planning to drive abroad.

What Is an IDP and Why Do You Need One?

An International Driving Permit (IDP) translates your driver’s license into multiple languages, giving you the legal right to drive in foreign countries and making it easier for car rental companies to verify your driving credentials. Even if the country you’re visiting doesn’t recognize your U.S. driver’s license, your IDP will allow you to drive legally without any hassles.

Obtaining an IDP not only grants you the freedom to explore other countries by car but also serves as an additional form of identification when needed. In many countries, an IDP is required for foreign drivers to drive legally within their borders. 

Before embarking on your next international road trip, make sure you have your IDP handy to avoid any potential complications. As a rule, carry it along with your U.S. driver’s license whenever you are driving outside of the country.

An International Driving Permit serves multiple purposes:

  1. Verification of Identity and License Validity: An IDP verifies your identity and the validity of your international driver’s license.
  2. Language Translation: An IDP provides a translated version of your license, essential for driving in countries that don’t recognize your home country’s license or require a local language translation.
  3. Car Rental Requirement: Most rental car agencies will not rent a car to international drivers without an IDP, especially when the driver has a state-issued license from a different country.

Ultimately, having an IDP can save you from potential fines, delays, or other inconveniences while driving internationally, ensuring a worry-free international adventure.

Eligibility for an IDP

Before you start the application process for an International Driving Permit (IDP), it’s crucial to ensure you meet the eligibility requirements. 

You must:

  • have a valid driver’s license from your home country and 
  • meet the age requirement, typically 18 years old.

Additionally, make sure you have all the necessary documents and information ready before you begin the application. This preparation will streamline the process and help you obtain your IDP without any delays or denials.

Valid Driver’s License Requirement

To obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP), you must have a valid driver’s license issued by your home country. This local license must be current and not expired or suspended. 

The duration of validity for a U.S. driver’s license or a state driver’s license varies depending on the country of issuance, so ensure your license is in good standing before applying for an IDP.

Remember, an IDP is not a substitute for a valid driver’s license but rather a supplementary form of identification.

IDP Age Requirement

The minimum age requirement for an International Driving Permit (IDP) is typically 18 years old. This ensures that you have enough driving experience and maturity to navigate foreign roads safely and responsibly.

However, keep in mind that some countries may have additional age restrictions or requirements for drivers. It’s crucial to research the specific regulations for the country you plan to visit to guarantee compliance and avoid any issues while driving abroad.

Applying for Your IDP

Now that you’re familiar with the IDP and its eligibility requirements, it’s time to dive into the application process. Acquiring an IDP is relatively straightforward, but it’s essential to know which organizations are authorized to issue them and what steps to follow.

To start, you’ll need to find an organization authorized to issue IDPs.

Authorized IDP Issuers

In the United States, only one organization is authorized to issue IDPs: the American Automobile Association (AAA). As previously mentioned, while the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA) used to issue them as well, this is no longer the case.

You do not need to be a member of AAA to obtain an IDP from them. However, it’s crucial to make certain that you’re dealing with a legitimate issuer, as counterfeit IDPs can lead to serious consequences. Always verify that you’re dealing with AAA when applying for your IDP.

Be aware of increasing numbers of IDP internet application scams that charge exorbitant fees of around $300. Be cautious and only apply at an official AAA office near you to avoid these scams.

To find the nearest AAA office, click here. If you have other inquiries regarding IDPs you can contact:

AAA (American Automobile Association)

1000 AAA Drive
Heathrow, FL 32745-5063

Travel Contact Center
Ph: 800-436-4222

Monday – Friday: 9 am – 6 pm
Saturday 9 am – 4 pm
Sunday 10 am – 4 pm

Travel Contact Center Email

IDP Application Process

When applying for an IDP, bring the following items to any AAA office:

The application process for an IDP involves submitting:

  • a completed IDP application form
  • two identical 2×2” color passport photos, 
  • a signed copy of the front and back of your driver’s license, and 
  • an application fee of $20 per person, plus any applicable shipping costs.

If you’re unable to visit a AAA branch in person, you can apply for an IDP by mail. Simply include the required documents and payment listed above and mail them to your nearest AAA branch office.

IDP Application Processing Time

The processing time for an International Driving Permit (IDP) can vary, similar to passport processing times. It may take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the issuing authority and the availability of expedited options. If you need your IDP quickly, check with the issuer to see if expedited processing is available for an additional fee.

To avoid any last-minute stress, it’s wise to apply for your IDP well in advance of your trip. Our expert recommendation is to apply as early as 6 months before your planned departure date to make sure you have your IDP in hand before you hit the road.

Driving Abroad with Your IDP

As long as you carry your driver’s license along with your International Driving Permit (IDP), you’re ready to drive the roads of other countries. However, before you hit the road, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations for driving in foreign countries with your IDP. This includes understanding which countries recognize the IDP (many do!) and adhering to local driving laws and road traffic signage.

Research the driving laws of the country you’re visiting beforehand, as ignorance is never an acceptable excuse for violating the rules. Being well-prepared will ensure a safe and enjoyable driving experience abroad.

Countries That Recognize The IDP

An International Driving Permit (IDP) is recognized by over 150 United Nations member countries and accepted in more than 175 countries as a legitimate form of identification. 

This means that with an IDP, you’ll be able to legally drive in most countries around the world. However, it’s important to note that some countries may have additional requirements or may not recognize the IDP. In some cases, countries have their own international driving permits that must be acquired instead.

Before you begin your international driving adventure, be sure to research the specific driving permit requirements for the country you plan to visit. This may include checking if an IDP is necessary or if there are additional documents or permits required. 

By doing your homework beforehand, you can be sure that you are equipped with the proper international driving permit and/or driver’s license to comply with the laws of your destination country.

Local Driving Laws

While your IDP allows you to legally drive in foreign countries, you must also follow the local driving laws and regulations of the country you are visiting. This includes understanding road signs, speed limits, and any unique traffic rules that may apply. 

Remember, driving customs and rules can vary significantly from one country to another, and ignorance of the law is not an excuse for breaking it.

Before setting off on your international road trip, take the time to research and understand the local driving laws of your destination. This will not only keep you safe on the roads but also ensure a more enjoyable and stress-free driving experience. After all, the last thing you want is to end up with a hefty fine or worse because you didn’t know the local driving rules.

Insurance Considerations

Driving internationally with an IDP also requires you to consider insurance coverage. Your existing insurance policy likely will not cover driving outside the U.S., so it’s essential to explore additional insurance options to protect yourself and your vehicle while driving abroad.

Before you travel, research the insurance requirements of the country you are visiting and make sure that you are compliant. This preparation will help you avoid any unexpected issues and provide peace of mind during your international driving adventure.

Existing Policy Coverage

Your existing insurance policy most likely will not cover driving outside of your home country, so it’s recommended to check with your provider. If you’re involved in an accident or experience vehicle damage while driving abroad, your current policy may not provide coverage for those incidents.

To ensure that you’re adequately covered, contact your insurance provider to confirm whether your existing policy includes coverage for international driving. If it doesn’t, you may need to explore additional insurance options to stay protected while on the road.

Additional Insurance Options

One option to consider for driving abroad is to get international car insurance. This type of insurance can provide you with the necessary coverage to drive legally and protect yourself and your vehicle in case of an accident or damage while driving abroad.

Insurance companies like Progressive, State Farm, and GEICO offer car insurance for International Driving Permit (IDP) holders. It’s essential to research different insurance providers and their offerings to identify the best options available for your specific needs. By securing the right insurance coverage, you can enjoy your international driving adventure with peace of mind.

IDP Validity and Renewal

As you plan your international trip, it’s important to understand the validity period and renewal process for your IDP. This ensures that your IDP remains valid throughout your trip and that you’re prepared to renew it if necessary.

IDP Validity Period

An IDP is generally valid for 1 year from the date of issuance, meaning you must plan your international driving adventures within this period.

However, some countries may have additional restrictions or requirements regarding the duration of an IDP’s validity. Therefore, it’s essential to research the specific regulations for the country you plan to visit to ensure compliance.

The IDP Renewal Process

Renewing an IDP requires following the same steps as when you first applied. You will need to submit a completed application form, two passport-sized photos, a valid driver’s license, and the renewal fees.

Since processing your renewal application can take a few weeks, it’s crucial to plan well in advance of your trip abroad. Ensure your IDP remains valid throughout your travels by starting the renewal process well in advance.


Obtaining an International Driving Permit (IDP) is a crucial step in preparing for your next international road trip. Our comprehensive guide has provided you with complete step-by-step instructions, from understanding the IDP and its purpose to navigating the application process and insurance considerations, ensuring you secure your IDP and hit the road with confidence.

Whether you’re exploring the scenic landscapes of Europe, the bustling cities of Asia, or the open roads of Latin America, an IDP is your passport to a world of unforgettable driving adventures. So gear up, plan your route, avoid common international road trip mistakes, and embark on the journey of a lifetime with your IDP in hand.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What Countries Require an International Drivers License?

A: Americans are required to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in countries like Australia, Austria, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and Laos.

Note that China never signed onto the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Travel. As such, Americans cannot rent a car there without first getting a Chinese driver’s license.

Q: What Countries Accept a US Driver’s License Without an IDP?

A: Your U.S. driver’s license is valid in Canada and Mexico but may only be accepted in other countries for a limited time.

To know what you need for the places you’ll be visiting, check with the U.S. State Department.

Q: What Is the Primary Purpose of an International Driving Permit (IDP)?

A: The primary purpose of an International Driving Permit (IDP) is to verify the validity of international driver’s licenses and translate them for use abroad.

Q: Which Organizations Are Authorized to Issue IDPs In the US?

A: The American Automobile Association (AAA) is the only organization authorized to issue IDPs in the US. 

Please note: The American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA) no longer issues IDPs.

Q: How Long Is an IDP Valid For?

A: An IDP is valid for 1 year from the date of issuance.

Q: Is an Inter-American Driving Permit the Same as an International Driving Permit?

A: No. While similar in function to an IDP, an Inter-American Driving Permit (IADP) is only for use in the following countries across North, Central, and South America:

  • Argentina
  • Bolivia
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • Guatemala
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Mexico
  • Nicaragua
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • United States
  • Venezuela

As you can see, the IADP is not issued by all countries in the Americas. Most of the Western Hemisphere countries not listed above are signatories of the 1949 Geneva Convention and/or the 1968 Vienna Convention. These signatory countries recognize the International Driving Permit (IDP) as their international driver’s license standard, not the IADP.

Traveling to one of the countries listed above? You can apply for an IADP through AAA with the same form and procedures as we have discussed for applying for an International Driving Permit (IDP). Simply check the appropriate box on the IDP/IADP application form.

Be sure to subscribe to our blog for the latest international travel policies and our expert advice from over 20 years of helping readers like you prepare to go abroad.

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About the Author: For over 20 years, the U.S. Passport Service Guide team has helped hundreds of thousands of travelers with their travel document questions and shared advice about how to make traveling abroad simpler, safer, and more enjoyable.

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