The Ultimate Guide to Getting an International Driver’s License (for US Travelers)

Ultimate Guide to Getting an International Driver's License

Ultimate Guide to Getting an International Driver’s License

Ever wonder what it takes to get a driver’s license in a foreign country? Look no further. This is the ultimate guide to getting an international driver’s license.

This article is for the US Traveler that is looking to drive around various parts of the world. The International Drivers Permit (IDP) is most likely going to be your best bet. It is essentially your U.S. driving license translated into ten different foreign languages.

[hr]

Pre-Requisites to Obtaining an International Driver’s License:

  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Have a current, valid U.S. Driver’s License
  • Have two (2) passport sized photographs for the issuing agency
  • Completed the International Driving Permit Application
  • Pay the application fee (less than $20)
[hr]

Where to Obtain an International Driver’s License:

  • Your local AAA or
  • National Automobile Club (NAC)
  • Note – These are the only two places where you can be issued an IDP. Other places will try to charge you more to ‘expedite’ or ‘process’ the whole interaction for you, however, the DMV warns against using these places.
AAA IDP Banner

AAA IDP Banner

[hr]

How long is the International Drivers Permit valid? For one (1) year or until your current U.S. License expires.

Where can I use the IDP? In over 150 countries and counting.

What is the difference between the Inter-American Driving Permit (IADP) and the International Driving Permit? All that is different are the countries that you are allowed to drive in. As the IADP name suggests, you can drive in nearly all North, Central, and South American countries. However, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana do not recognize the IADP.

IDP Countries

IDP Countries (Note: Light and dark blue does not make a difference) (source: wikipedia)

IADP vs. IDP License Comparison
IADP Only IDP Only Both Not Accepted
Uruguay Guyana Brazil (conflicting reports)
Suriname
French Guiana
Belize
Cuba
Panama
Cayman Islands
Jamaica
Puerto Rico

I was unable to find information regarding US Territories, such as Guam and the US Virgin Islands. From cursory reads, it appears the on the USVI, you must purchase a blank booklet from the rental car agency for ~$20.00 USD.

[hr]
My two friends Nate & Steve took part in the Mongol Rally 2014.

My two friends Nate & Steve took part in the Mongol Rally 2014.

International Driving Tips:

  • Always carry your International Driving Permit and U.S. License with you.
  • If you’re unsure of driving laws in a foreign country, contact their embassy.
  • Make sure the road/highway you are on is not a toll road or turnpike. There will be fines associated if caught.
  • ALWAYS BUY RENTAL INSURANCE (if not covered by your U.S. Policy).
  • Practice driving on the left-hand side of the road in a sparsely populated area.
  • You cannot use your IDP in replace of your U.S. License while driving in the U.S.
  • If you are only going to Canada or Mexico, you do not need an IDL
  • Buy a map and plan out your route prior to driving.
[hr]
At the start of the Mongol Rally 2014.

At the start of the Mongol Rally 2014.

If you are looking for an adventure unlike anything else out there, check out the Mongol Rally. A crazy route starting from London and going all the way to Mongolia.

Sources for this article include the DMV, the NAC, AAA, and U.S. Department of State website

Cory

Life-Long Learner, Explorer, & Web Developer. Currently a Software Engineer at Jazz.