International Driving Permits

Travelers overseas can enjoy the open road by getting an International Driving Permit. The International Driving Permit is a document which translates your current driver’s license into a standardized format. The document is also translated into the country’s language so that foreign officials can understand what types of vehicles and restriction you have on your license. The permit is translated into German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, and the Scandinavian languages making it easier for motorists and local law enforcement to bridge the communication gap. The International Driving Permit is not currently required to drive in any country however you may find that it significantly speeds up the process for renting a vehicle. In fact, some foreign rental car agencies are extremely hesitant to rent a vehicle without the International Driving Permit.

The cost for an International Driving Permit is just $15 plus shipping and handling. Only two authorized issues are recognized by the US States Department. The American Automobile Association (AAA) is one issuer and the National Automobile Club (NAC) is the other. Regardless of the agency selected to obtain the permit, the applicant must have a valid driver’s license. International Driving Permits are issued for the following driving privileges: motorcycle, passenger car, vehicle over 7,700 pounds, vehicle over 8 seats, and vehicle with heavy trailer. Applicants must be over 18 years of age to receive the permit.

The International Driving Permit cannot be obtained more than six months prior to your trip and must be renewed annually. The permit was the result of a convention held in Geneva in 1949 to enable tourism through various countries. Driving through countries can be hectic enough without the hassle of a communication barrier during the car rental process. Additionally, local officials were having difficulties interpreting the variety of licenses issued by the different countries around the world, let alone the differences in the licenses issued from each state in the US. The International Driving Permit cuts through the red tape and makes traveling hassle-free. The US State Department does recommend contacting the country’s embassy to find out about driving laws and regulations.

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AAA has an online application that can be printed to expedite International Driving Permit requests (http://www.aaa.com/vacation/idpc.html). Two recent passport type photographs size 2 inches by 2 inches of the applicant with the applicant’s signature on the back as well as a copy of the front and back of the applicants driver’s license must be provided with the application. Once the application is completed, applicants can bring the form to the closest AAA office or mail it to AAA/IDP at 1000 AAA Dr., Heathrow, Florida 32746, Attn: Mailstop #28. Payment options include Bank Check or Money Order made out to AAA, American Express, Visa, Discover Card, and Mastercard. Cash is not accepted.

NAC also has an application that can be downloaded from the internet (http://thenac.com/international_driving_permit.pdf) and mailed. NAC requires the application, two 2 inch by 2 inch current passport photographs of the applicant, a legible copy of the front and back of the applicant’s state-issued drivers license must be included with the completed application. The mailing address to send the application package to is the National Automotive Club, Attn: IDP, 373 Vintage Park Drive, Suite E, Foster City, California 94404. If the package is completed in entirety, the processing time is usually 10 to 15 business days upon receipt. If your trip is scheduled sooner, expedited processing and shipping is available with a 2 day domestic turnaround for an additional charge. The NAC contact phone number is (650) 294-7000.