Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What's an International Drivers License and Why Do I Need It?

An International Drivers Permit ( known as  IDP - it's not really a license) is a document that is a multi-language translation of your U.S. drivers license and confirms that you hold a valid U.S. drivers license at the time the permit was issued. In the U.S., 50 states have 50 different drivers license and police who may pull you over in a foreign country have no way to know if yours is legitimate and if you don't speak the language other issues can arise.

You can't use the IDP alone to rent a car overseas - you need the permit AND your U.S. drivers license, so don't bring one and not the other.  Not every country in the world requires an IDP, but having one never hurts if you are planning on driving in another country.

There are two legitimate places to get an IDP  - through AAA or the National Automobile Club. The cost is currently $15. You'll also need 2 passport photos and a copy of your signed drivers license if you want to apply by mail and the turnaround time is about 15 days. (You cannot apply more than six months in advance for an IDP). If you go to a AAA office with the pictures and payment, they can issue the document the same day.

Well in advance of your travel date, go to the tourism board of the countries you will be visiting to determine if you need an IDP.  In Italy, for instance, if you are stopped by authorities, you will need an IDP as a form of identification.  If the country you are visiting requires one and you don't have it, you will not be permitted to rent a car.

There are companies that issue these permits with surcharges - it isn't necessary to pay more than AAA or the National Auto Club require.  You do not have to be a member of either association to get a permit either.

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