Navigate the World: How to Get Your AAA’s International Driving Permit Effortlessly

PUBLISHED ON Apr, 03 2024


Introduction to the International Driving Permit

The Essentials of an IDP

An International Driving Permit (IDP) is more than just a document; it’s your ticket to the highways of the globe. Recognized in over 150 countries, the IDP acts as a legal identification and translates your domestic driver’s license into 10 languages. This versatility ensures that local authorities are able to understand your credentials, no matter where your travels take you.

Why An IDP is Your Passport to the Roads Abroad

Navigating through different countries often means encountering diverse traffic laws and language barriers. An IDP serves as your universal passport to the roads abroad, easing these challenges. It facilitates hassle-free car rentals and compliance with foreign regulations, significantly enhancing your driving experience. Essentially, an IDP carries the peace of mind that allows you to focus on the adventure ahead, rather than bureaucracy.

AAA International Driving Permit

AAA International Driving Permit

Understanding the IDP’s Role in Global Travel

Deciphering the Difference: IDP vs. Inter-American Driving Permit

When it comes to international road trips, you may encounter two permits: the International Driving Permit (IDP) and the Inter-American Driving Permit (IADP). The IDP is broad in scope, valid in over 150 countries around the world. On the other hand, the IADP is specifically for travel within the Americas, excluding the United States. Key takeaway? Ensure you have the correct permit for the regions you’re exploring to avoid any legal roadblocks.

Below is a comparison chart detailing the International Driving Permit (IDP) and the Inter-American Driving Permit (IADP) along with their valid countries and key differences. This chart provides a clear overview of the key differences between the IDP and IADP, including their valid countries, legal frameworks, recognition, purpose, and documentation requirements:


International Driving Permit (IDP)

Inter-American Driving Permit (IADP)

Valid Countries

Valid in over 150 countries worldwide

Specific to drivers in North, Central, and South America

Legal Framework

Governed by the United Nations Convention on Road Traffic

Specific to the Inter-American Convention on Motor Vehicle Traffic


Recognized by many countries as a valid form of identification for driving

Similar recognition to the IDP within North, Central, and South America


Allows drivers to legally drive in foreign countries without the need for additional tests

Facilitates driving for residents of the Americas in neighboring countries within the Inter-American Convention


Requires a valid driver’s license from the issuing country

Requires a valid driver’s license from the issuing country

Countries that Recognize the AAA International Driving Permit

Recognized by many, the AAA International Driving Permit is your ally across continents. Whether you dream of driving through the scenic routes of Italy or navigating the metropolitan mazes of Tokyo, the IDP has you covered. It’s accepted in countries like Argentina, Greece, and Egypt, to just name a few. However, nuances exist, such as Brazil and Uruguay acknowledging only the Inter-American Driving Permit. So, it’s critical to check AAA’s list to confirm your destination’s requirements before you go.

“I was asked for my IDP when I rented a car in Italy (although that was about 7 years ago), but also most recently in Croatia this past summer. I wouldn’t want to take my chances just to save $20.” Joan

Comparison of AAA International Driving Permit vs. Inter-American Driving Permit


AAA International Driving Permit

Inter-American Driving Permit

Coverage Area

Valid in 150 countries worldwide, outside the Americas.

Exclusive to North, Central, and South America.

Issuing Authority

Issued by AAA, one of the two entities authorized by the US Department of State to provide IDPs.

Generally obtained through designated authorities in respective countries within the Americas.


Suitable for international travel outside the Americas.

Primarily intended for driving within the Americas.


Widely acknowledged worldwide, enhancing accessibility to vehicle rentals and navigation abroad.

Recognized within North, Central, and South America, ensuring compliance with local driving regulations in these areas.

The Step-by-Step Guide to Acquiring Your IDP Through AAA

Starting Off Right: What You’ll Need Before Applying

To kickstart your application for an International Driving Permit (IDP) through AAA, gather a few essentials: a valid U.S. driver’s license, $20 permit fee, two original passport-type photos, and the completed IDP application form. Ensuring you have these items ready streamlines the process, making your path to global roads smoother.

The Application Process: From Filling Out Forms to Mailing Them In

Embarking on the application journey is straightforward. Spend a mere 5-10 minutes completing the application form—remember, accuracy counts. Then, if you’re stateside, mail in both pages of your application or take them to a local AAA branch. Are you already abroad? No problem. Although it takes longer, start by sending your application to AAA’s Heathrow office. Just ensure every detail is double-checked, as even small oversights can delay your international road trip dreams.

AAA IDP Application Form

AAA IDP Application Form

Practical Considerations for US Residents and Nationals

Special Scenarios: Military Personnel and US Territory License Holders

For military members stationed overseas, navigating license validity can be complex. Many states extend the validity of your driver’s license for the duration of your active duty. But remember, this doesn’t automatically apply abroad. Before applying for an IDP, check if you can renew your license remotely. If so, pair your expired license with a DL236 card to extend its validity. For U.S. territory license holders, such as Guam, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands, your IDP application process mirrors that of U.S. states, ensuring the freedom to roam internationally.

Timing it Right: Applying Before Departure vs. Already Overseas

Timing your IDP application is crucial. Ideally, align your permit’s effective date with your departure or first car rental day. Apply well before your trip—they take about two weeks to process stateside but could be five to seven weeks if you’re already overseas due to mailing constraints. For expats, foreign exchange students, or long-term travelers, planning is key. Despite the longer wait, having an IDP hassle is far less than facing rental or legal hurdles in a new country.

Avoiding Pitfalls: Unofficial Sellers and Validity Concerns

Spotting Red Flags: Unofficial Vendors and Fake Permits

Vigilance is your best friend when avoiding the pitfalls of unofficial vendors and counterfeit IDPs. Legitimate IDPs are only issued by authorized organizations, like AAA in the United States. Red flags include sellers promising permits valid for more than a year or operating exclusively online without any physical office presence. Brushing up on the hallmarks of genuine permits – such as watermarked paper and secure holograms – can save you from scams, legal trouble, and financial loss.

International Driving Permit

International Driving Permit

Duration and Extension: How Long is Your IDP Valid?

Your IDP is your road trip companion for precisely one year or until your driver’s license expires, whichever comes first. Plan wisely: if you’re in for a long haul abroad or your license is nearing its expiration, timing your IDP renewal is essential. Unfortunately, IDPs don’t do extensions—once expired, you’ll have to apply anew. So, keep an eye on those dates to ensure your international driving adventures never hit a red light.

Making the Most of Your International Driving Experience

Safe Travels: Tips and Resources for a Smooth Journey

For a journey as smooth as your drive, preparation is the key. Always carry your domestic driver’s license along with your IDP. Are you planning on renting a car in a foreign country? If so, read our guide on What Do You Need to Rent a Car. Research the road rules and traffic laws of your destinations thoroughly. Stay abreast of local road conditions, especially in areas prone to extreme weather. For added assurance, keep emergency numbers and your travel insurance details handy. Don’t forget to secure your rental car and purchase rental car excess waiver insurance ahead of time. And, just in case, familiarize yourself with the location of your country’s embassy or consulate.

Staying Informed: Benefits of Enrolling in STEP for US Citizens Abroad

For U.S. citizens touring the tarmac overseas, staying informed is as crucial as wearing a seatbelt. Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive timely updates on safety conditions. Benefits of STEP include alerts about natural disasters or civil unrest, and it facilitates assistance from U.S. embassies in emergencies. Consider it your personal travel advisor, keeping you in the know and on the go safely.

FAQs: AAA International Driving Permit

How quickly can I obtain an IDP from AAA?

You can obtain an IDP from AAA almost as quickly as you can say ‘Bon Voyage’! If you visit a local AAA branch, the process usually takes no more than 10 to 30 minutes. Opting for mail requires a bit more patience – generally 10 to 15 days for processing. Just remember, good timing ensures smooth travels, so apply well before your departure date.

Can I apply for an IDP if my home country’s license has expired?

Sorry, you’ll need to pump the brakes on that plan. An International Driving Permit (IDP) cannot be issued if your home country’s driver’s license is expired. Renew your license first, then you can gear up to apply for that all-important IDP.

Is an IDP necessary for each country I plan to drive in?

It’s wise to check each destination’s specifics, but generally, one IDP will cover you across multiple countries. Just make sure all the countries on your itinerary recognize the IDP. When in doubt, verifying with local automobile associations or rental companies can steer you in the right direction.

What should I do if I lose my IDP while traveling?

If your IDP takes a detour and gets lost, report it immediately. Then, you’ll need to contact the nearest AAA office or an affiliated organization to guide you through replacement procedures. Keep a digital copy of your IDP and license on your smart device or in your email, as this can be incredibly useful in such situations.


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