Traveling to a different country through different modes of transportation can be adventurous, but nothing beats driving your own car and having the freedom to go wherever you need to go. Whether you have your own car with you or you have rented one out, in many foreign countries you’re going to need an International Driving Permit. If you are not sure, call the car rental agency in the foreign country well ahead of your trip.

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What’s an International Driving Permit?

As the name suggests, an International Driving Permit, or IDP, is what allows you to legally drive a motor vehicle in another country. Most people mistakenly call this an international or foreign driving license, which more or less makes sense. But the truth is that it’s not supposed to be a foreign counterpart to your local driver’s license. In fact, you’ll need your original driver’s license before you can get a permit.

What the IDP does is that it simply serves as a translated version of your original U.S. issued license. It will contain your full name, photograph, and other information that’s relevant to your original license.

Much like your own driver’s license, getting an IDP will be subject to a couple of restrictions:

- More often than not, you have to be at least 18 years old to get an IDP.

- You have to get the IDP from your country of origin, the U.S. in this case.

- You can only use the IDP in other countries.

- When driving abroad, you have to have both your IDP and your local license with you at all times.

? IDPs usually last for a year.

? You don’t get to renew an IDP, but you can apply for a new one.

Applying for an International Driver’s License (for U.S. Citizens)

U.S. Citizens are required by the government to apply for an IDP with either the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA) or the American Automobile Association (AAA).

Below are the basic requirements:

- Filled out IDP application form

- Your U.S. driver’s license

- For mail-in applications, a photocopy of the driver’s license on both sides

- Two passport-sized photographs of yourself with a signature at the back of the photos

- Fees (varies based on the destination, shipping method, etc.)

It’s also possible to apply for an IDP when you’re already out of the country. Just call either agency so they can guide you and provide you with the details.

Keep in mind that only the AAA and AATA are the authorized agencies to issue U.S. sanctioned IDPs. Avoid dealing with other companies or individuals in order to not become a victim of IDP fraud. If you’re applying from another country, make sure the courier you’re using will mail directly to either of these agencies.

Drive Responsibly Abroad

As a person with an International Driver’s Permit, you are duty bound to follow the traffic rules and regulations of the country you’re driving in. Make sure that you keep yourself abreast with the latest laws of every country you’re travelling to so that you do not risk getting your IDP revoked. This is also what ensures you have a safe and memorable vacation abroad.