International Driving Permit & Other Travel Documents
Europe,  Tips, Tricks, and Hacks,  Travel

Do You Need An International Driving Permit?

The International Driving Permit (IDP) is required in more than 80 countries.  If you plan to drive while you are in one of these countries, you must have your IDP.  Fines for driving without an IDP can be costly (check the local laws for the country you are visiting).  When you go to rent a car, you will be asked to present your actual driver’s license and your IDP.

International Driving Permit and other Travel Documents

The IDP is also an accepted form of identification in 150 countries worldwide.   Although many countries require you to have an IDP, it is not a driver’s license.  You still need to have a valid, state-issued driver’s license with you.

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Time for Our Spring Holiday

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We are heading off on our spring holiday soon and it’s a doozy this year!  A two-week Trans-Atlantic cruise on the new Princess ship the Sky,  followed by a two-week trip through Portugal.  During our tour of Portugal, we will be driving and so we need to get an International Driving Permit. 

We are very excited about our trip and working hard to make sure not to forget anything.  I’ve ordered new packing cubes to perfectly fit in my suitcase of choice.  A new cross-body bag that will hold all the stuff I need to tote around.  This bag is medium size but still has room for my iPhone, camera, makeup essentials, wallet, water bottle, and travel documents.  Even my iPad will fit if I want to cram that much in the bag.  And last weekend, we headed out to AAA to get our International Driving Permits.

The Process of Applying for an International Driving Permit

Hubby and I have rented cars in Europe quite a few times. And fortunately, we are members of AAA and the International Driving Permit is a service they offer.  We got out pictures ready, two of the standard “passport” size photos for each of us, and drove over to our local AAA office to get the permits.

At the office, we completed the application for the IDP, and in just a few short minutes were at the desk of a lovely AAA service agent.  As the service agent completed the paperwork and prepared our permits, we were making small talk back and forth.  I said what an excellent service it was that AAA offered the permits. 

The agent told us this was one of their most popular services and that she often completed more than 20 applications in a day.   That got me thinking … where do people who aren’t AAA members go to get permits?  The agent said she didn’t know where else you could get the IDP.  I suggested that perhaps there were offered at the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV), where you get your real Driver’s License.  “No,” she said, DMV does not offer this service. 

Doing The Research

Wanting to know how I would help someone who wasn’t a AAA member get an International Driving Permit, I did what we all do, I began searching the Internet.

What I found was surprising: there are only two  agencies authorized by the United State’s State Department to issue IDP’s; the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American Automobile Touring Alliance

You do not need to be a member of either association to use their service to obtain an IDP, they offer this to anyone.  You can complete the application on-line at either agency, but you can’t submit the application on-line as you have to have those two “passport” size photos and a photocopy of our State-Issued Driver’s license.  Therefore you have to mail the application and of course, that will take a bit longer.

The cost of the service is the same from both agencies, $20.00 per permit.  However, there are many AAA locations all over the US.  But from what I could find the service is only available from AATA through the mail.   

The IDP is valid for one year.  If you happen to be one of the lucky travelers who will be traveling outside of the US for longer than a year, both agencies can issue you a new IDP (via mail of course) as long as your US Driver’s License will be valid for at least six months beyond the issuance date for the IDP.

Don’t Take Short Cuts

There are many ads on the internet offering up versions of International Drivers Licenses and IDP’s.  However, the State Department only recommends AAA or AATA for this service.  Purchasing an IDP from outlets that may not be authorized to issue IDP’s could lead you astray, and your IDP may not be valid or legal.

Measure Twice, Cut Once

This is the adage of every carpenter and seamstress I have ever known.  To put it in layman’s terms … Be prepared and do the research.  It doesn’t take much time to prepare for your trip and in this case, get an International Driving Permit.  However, if you choose to take your chances, not get the IDP and drive anyway, know there can be negative consequences.  To learn more about driving and road safety in countries outside of the United States of America, check out the U.S. Department of State.  It’s always good to know before you go.

VickieDe has eaten her way through more than 300 cities in over 40 countries. Learning along the way that food and culture go hand in hand. Read More

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