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Getting an International Driver’s License (Permit): 5 Things to Know

Are you planning on taking an international road trip? Then you might want to consider learning how to get an International Driving License (IDL). Having one can save you time, energy, and money when renting a car and driving in a foreign country. Most people don’t know how to get an international driver’s license, but there’s no need to worry; GoodCar’s here to help!

So buckle up as we explore eight things you need to know about getting such a license. Learn more about what an IDL is, where to get it from, and the cost involved — as well as other essential details — before taking a spin around the world!

Background

Assuming you’re a citizen of the United States, you generally need two things to drive in another country: a valid driver’s license from your home state or country and an International Driving Permit (IDP).

First, check whether your regular driver’s license will suffice. In some countries, the United States has reciprocal agreements that honor each other’s licenses. For example, Americans can use their U.S. license to drive in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and much of Europe. However, many other countries do not have such agreements with the United States. That means you’ll need an IDP to drive there. Even if your destination does have a reciprocal agreement with the United States, getting an IDP is still a good idea. That way, you have a translated version of your driver’s license should you be pulled over or get into an accident while driving abroad.

To apply for an IDP, you must be 18 years old and have a valid driver’s license from your home state or country. You’ll also need two passport-style photos and proof of identity, such as a passport. The application fee is $35 as of 2022. Once you’ve submitted your application and fee, it will take about six weeks to receive your permit. When it arrives, double-check that all the information on it is correct before using it to drive abroad.

How to Obtain a Driver’s License (Permit) for the U.S.

How to Obtain a Driver’s License

Assuming you are a citizen of the United States, obtaining a driver’s license is a pretty straightforward process. The first thing you need to do is to obtain a learner’s permit. The permit allows you to practice driving while a licensed driver supervises you. To do this, you must be at least 15.5 years old and pass a written test on traffic laws and signs.

Once you have your learner’s permit, you can start practicing driving. You must log at least 50 hours of supervised driving before taking your road test. Once you pass your road test, you will be issued a driver’s license!

If you are not a citizen of the United States, things are a bit more complicated. You will need to obtain an international driver’s license (permit) to drive legally in the U.S. To do this, you must be at least 18 years old and have a valid driver’s license from your home country. You will also need to provide proof of insurance and pass a written test on U.S. traffic laws and signs.

Once you have obtained your international driver’s license (permit), you can legally drive in the U.S. for up to one year. After that, you will need to obtain a regular U.S. driver’s license if you continue driving in the U.S.

What Documents You Need for an International Driver’s License

If you don’t know how to get an international driver’s license, you’ll need a few things. 

  1. A valid U.S. driver’s license: You must have a valid driver’s license from the United States to apply for an IDP. If your license is expired, or if it will expire within six months of your planned trip, you will need to renew it before applying for the IDP.
  2. Two passport-style photographs: These should be 2-inch by 2-inch photos, taken within six months of your application date, against a white background with a full face view. 
  3. A completed application form: This form can be found on the American Automobile Association (AAA) website and must be signed by you and a witness. 
  4. The fee: There is a $15 fee for AAA members and a $20 fee for non-members, which can be paid by check or money order. 

Once you have gathered all the required materials, you need to send them to the address listed on the AAA website or take them to your local AAA office.

What the Permit Means

When you obtain an international driver’s permit (IDP), also called an international driving license, you are authorized to drive a motor vehicle in any country that recognizes IDPs. The permit is evidence that you possess a valid driver’s license issued by your state of residence. It is not a substitute for a driver’s license. It does not entitle the holder to operate a motor vehicle without observing the laws of the road or the requirements of the issuing authority.

How to Apply for International Driving License

How to Apply for International Driving License

Assuming you are from the United States and wish to know how to obtain an International Drivers License (IDL), also known as an International Driving Permit (IDP), you must first contact the American Automobile Association (AAA) or the National Auto Club (NAC). Applying for international driving licenses is surprisingly easy, so don’t fret!

It is important to note that while an IDP allows you to drive in several foreign countries, it is not a substitute for a valid driver’s license. When operating a vehicle abroad, you must have an IDP and your regular driver’s license.

The process for obtaining an IDP is relatively simple, and you must submit two passport-style photos, your existing driver’s license, and a completed application form. The American Automobile Association and National Auto Club charge a fee for processing the application and issuing the IDP, typically priced from $20-40 USD.

Once your application has been processed, you will receive your IDP in the mail within a few weeks. It is typically valid for one year from the date of issue and can be renewed if necessary. Now you know how to get an international driving permit!

Special Situations

There are a few special situations where you will need to obtain an International Driver’s License (Permit) in addition to your regular driver’s license. If you plan to drive in another country for more than a year, you must get an International Driver’s License. You will also need an International Driver’s License if you plan to drive for commercial purposes, such as driving a taxi or truck. Finally, if you have been convicted of certain traffic offenses, you may also be required to get one. Luckily, now you know how to get an international driver’s license!

Also, it is a good idea to learn more about the specific types of vehicles you have access to during your travels, which is why GoodCar’s car database continues to expand regularly!

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