There are over 225 million licensed drivers in the United States, which means almost 70% of the country’s population drives. Chances are, you’re one of these drivers, and you’re used to getting yourself around.
So if you’re traveling or moving to another country temporarily, you might be wondering about how to drive there legally so you can still retain an independent lifestyle. In this article, we’ll explain how to get an international driver’s license while you’re abroad.
What Is an International Driver’s License?
An international driver’s license is also known as an international driver’s permit (IDP). This driving permit lets you drive in over 175 countries all over the world, so long as you can provide evidence of your US driver’s license.
On your international driver’s license, it’ll have your full legal name, a picture, and your personal information in 10 different languages. An IDP is valid for one year and the fee is usually $20. You’ll want to check ahead of time to see if the fee’s changed so you have the right amount ready.
Who Can Get an International Driver’s License?
Anyone who already has a valid driver’s license that’s valid for the next six months is eligible to apply for an international driver’s permit. You also have to be a permanent US resident or citizen, and at least 18 years old.
This license will not only allow you to drive legally in over 175 countries, but it’ll also serve as official ID. This means you can use your IDP to buy alcoholic drinks, get into clubs, and rent cars.
If you need tips on how to drive internationally, US Passport Help Guide has all the information you need.
Where to Get an International Driving Permit
In this country, there are only two places you can get your IDP from the Automobile Association of America (AAA) and the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA).
If you choose to apply in person at an AAA office, you can get your IDP straight away. However, if you choose to apply by mail, this can take up to 15 business days for you to receive your international driver’s license.
If you see any other companies offering international driver’s licenses, they’re most likely scams. The good news is you don’t have to be a member of either AAA or AATA in order to get an IDP from them, so stick to either organization and ignore all other offerings.
How to Get an International Driver’s License
Since this process can take some time to complete, make sure you start the application process early. However, IDPs are only given to you at a maximum of six months before you need it, so you have a limited window of time to apply so you can get it in time for your trip.
As we said above, you can get your international driver’s license by either going in person or mailing in your application. We’ll go into more detail below.
What Do I Need?
You’ll need to fill out either the AAA IDP application or the AATA IDP application. In addition to the application, you’ll have to have a valid US driver’s license, two passport-sized photos (make sure to follow the federal guidelines or you’ll be rejected), and a valid form of payment (cash, check, or credit card, depending on how you apply).
Applying in Person
When you apply in person for your IDP, you can go to your local AAA branch; there are no AATA branches to apply in person at, unfortunately. Bring all of the things listed above and be ready to hand them over when it’s your turn.
If you don’t have your passport-sized photos, you may not need to worry about it. Some AAA branches will take your photos for an additional fee, so call ahead of time to find out if this service is available.
Also, different branches have their own requirements for payment methods (such as cash only or credit card only), so you’ll also want to get in touch with your preferred branch to double check which payment methods are accepted.
Applying by Mail
If you choose to apply by mail for your international driver’s license, you can choose either the AAA or AATA. In an envelope, include your filled-out application form, two passport-sized photos, and signed photocopies of your US driver’s license (both sides). You’ll also need to include either a check or money order for your application fee.
If you apply with AATA, you’ll have some extra fees. You need to include $10 for standard shipping and handling or $35 for express. If you’re applying while out of the country, you’ll need to pay $85 for international applications.
How Long Will It Take to Get My International Driver’s License?
When you apply in person at an AAA branch, you can get your international driver’s license before you walk out.
However, if you choose to mail in your application, you should expect it to take up to 15 business days to get your IDP. If that’s cutting it too close to your departure date, you can pay extra to have it expedited. With expedited services, you can get your IDP within two business days.
Explore Wonderful Sights by Driving
Now that you know how to get an international driver’s license, you can have such a better time when you’re overseas. Whether you’re going as a tourist or as a temporary resident, there’s so much more you can explore when you can drive yourself.
Plus, since you don’t have to rely on anyone else for transportation, you can go places at your leisure and you won’t feel rushed. Getting an international driver’s license is definitely worth it!
For more tips on what to do when you travel abroad, check out our travel and entertainment section.