AAA Offers An International Driving Permit - Here's What To Know

Ever gotten the travel bug after being stuck at home? If so, you're probably ready to go on a long-overdue vacation! But depending on the chosen destination, your U.S. driver's license may not be sufficient to drive and rent a vehicle. In that case, you'll need to acquire an International Driving Permit. Here's what you need to know about this international license and how to get your hands on one.

What does the International Driving Permit allow you to do?

Think of this permit as an international driver's license, which also happens to be its nickname. By obtaining this permit, you can legally drive in a foreign country, despite only having an American driver's license. And while the license is broadly recognized, not every country accepts it, so it's essential to check whether the country that you're visiting recognizes it before applying. Check this list to see if your destination agrees with the IDP.

Applying for an International Driving Permit

In order to get your hands on an International Driving Permit, you'll need to apply for one directly from the American Automobile Association (AAA). To qualifiy you must be18 years or older and have a U.S. driver's license. According to the US Federal Trade Commission, this is the only legitimate way to obtain an International Driving Permit, so if you see this permit advertised anywhere else, avoid buying it. The process is easy — fill out the application form and take it to your nearest AAA branch. You'll also need to bring two passport-sized photographs of yourself, a valid U.S. driver's license, and a $20 application fee. Alternatively, you can mail AAA all of these items. Once you've completed the application process, it should take approximately two weeks for the IDP to be delivered. It's a good idea to apply well before your travel date to ensure you get your permit in time for your vacation.

Receiving your permit

As mentioned above, not every country accepts the International Driving Permit. Research each destination's requirements in advance in case they mandate an Inter-America Driving Permit (IADP) instead. If the IDP is indeed what you need, then using it while abroad is fairly simple. Always keep the IDP on your person while driving in case you encounter a police traffic stop. Also, keep your regular U.S. driver's license on you at all times, since the IDP isn't proof of driving competency on its own. The IDP is invalid if not accompanied by a U.S. license. While we've discussed the rules for Americans traveling abroad, they slightly differ for people traveling to the United States from other countries. Anyone from a foreign country wanting to drive in the U.S. has to apply for an International Driver's Permit in the country where their license is issued. But only drivers with U.S. driver's licenses are permitted to apply for an IDP from AAA within U.S. borders. So be sure to apply for your IDP well before your travel date.