FAQs: International Driving Permit

March 8, 2005

Questions

 


 

Introduction

An international driving permit must be obtained to be able to drive in most foreign countries. If you're planning to travel abroad, you may apply for and obtain an International Driving Permit in the United States before starting your journey.

Where can I find information about obtaining an International Driving Permit?

AAA has all necessary information for obtaining an International Driving Permit. You can visit AAA's web site, and type “international driving permit” in the “Search” box to find the information that you will need.  

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How will I benefit from carrying an International Driving Permit on my next overseas trip?

The International Driving Permit (IDP) is a document that provides important information from your driver's license in eleven different languages, including English.  This document came into existence by virtue of a treaty signed in 1949 by the United States and other foreign countries.  As an official document, the IDP is recognized in over 150 countries today.  Carried in conjunction with a valid U.S. driver's license, the IDP can help break down language barriers when traveling in non-English speaking countries.  In addition, the IDP provides an additional source of identification. 

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I am traveling to South America. Should I get the International Driving Permit or the Inter-American Driving Permit?

The International Driving Permit is valid in all countries in South America except Brazil and Uruguay. The Inter-American Driving Permit (IADP) must be issued for those two countries.

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Am I required to have an International Driving Permit in foreign countries?

There are some countries that do not recognize a driver's license from the United States, but officially recognize an IDP (e.g., Hungary). There are other countries that honor a valid driver's license issued by states within the US, but require a local language translation (e.g., Spain). The IDP can be used in these types of situations.  Keep in mind, however, that while a certain country's government may not require an IDP, car rental companies located in that country, such as Hertz, may require an IDP in order for you to rent a car. Purchasing an IDP prior to departure can save a lot of potential hassles.

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What happens if I am stopped and given a citation against my International Driving Permit?

The IDP does not hold any powers of its own apart from your valid driver's license from your home state, which means that you do not have a separate driving permit with an IDP. The IDP is valid only when carried in conjunction with and acting as a translation of a valid US driver's license. If you are stopped by a law enforcement official while traveling in a foreign country, present your US driver's license and your IDP to the officer. If a citation is issued to you, it will be reflected on your driving record maintained by the US state in which your US driver's license was issued.

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Can I use the International Driving Permit as a primary form of identification?

No. There have been instances of travelers being denied aircraft boarding when the IDP was the only form of identification offered. The IDP is valid only in conjunction with a valid driver's license issued in the same country as the IDP.

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What if the country that I'm visiting is not listed on the back of the International Driving Permit application?

Some countries do not appear on the list, because they did not ratify the treaty that brought the IDP into existence. China is the country asked about most frequently.  China has not ratified the treaty; however, the IDP does include a Chinese translation and may be helpful as identification.

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Do I still need an International Driving Permit to drive in Hong Kong?

The United Nations recently provided official notification to the US State Department indicating that the treaty presently applicable to Hong Kong continues to apply to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the name given to the territory by China.  Such notification should not be misconstrued to mean that China now recognizes IDPs, as the People's Republic of China has never become a party to the treaty.

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Can I use a scanned/digital photograph for my International Driving Permit?

No, only Polaroid type photographs are accepted. Photographs can be either color or black and white. Photocopies are not acceptable.

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If someone visits the United States from a foreign country and discovers that they need an International Driving Permit, can they purchase one from AAA?

An IDP must be issued in the same country that issued the driver's license of the traveler. Therefore, a person from the United Kingdom has a UK driver's license, that person's IDP must also be issued in the United Kingdom.

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I have a driver's license issued in the United States, but I am a citizen of another country.  Where should I obtain an IDP?

The IDP must be issued in the same country that issued the driver's license. In the case of a driver's license being issued in the United States, the IDP must also be issued in the United States. Contact the nearest AAA office to obtain an IDP.

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If someone has a driver's license from a United States territory such as Guam, Puerto Rico, or the US Virgin Islands, how would an IDP work in that case?

Because the driver's license was issued by a US possession, their IDP would also be issued in the United States. Contact a AAA office in the United States and the IDP can be issued and mailed.

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What do I need in order to obtain an International Driving Permit?

You need to complete a brief application form (available through your nearestAAA office, also downloadable from AAA web sites), provide 2 passport-sized photographs with your signature on the back of them, a photocopy of your valid US-issued drivers license, and a check or money order for $10 in US funds. If transacting by mail, these items would need to be mailed to a AAA office in the United States. Otherwise, everything can be handled in a single office visit.

Can anybody with a US-issued driver's license obtain an International Driving Permit?

Almost. You must be at least 18 years old in order to obtain an International Driving Permit.

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What languages are used in the International Driving Permit?

Information in the IDP is covered in 11 languages: English, French, Italian, Swedish, German, Chinese, Arabic, Spanish, Japanese, Russian, and Portuguese.

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