Driving in a foreign country can be an easy way to get from one destination to another—and on your own time schedule.For most Americans traveling in a foreign country, the choice to drive means renting a car. However, not all countries consider a U.S. driver’s license sufficient for driving there. You may be required to get an International Driving Permit (IDP) in order to rent a car. Basically, it acts as a translation of a driver’s license providing important data, so the holder may drive a private vehicle in any country or jurisdiction that recognizes the document. It is not a regular driver’s license.
Since an IDP contains your name, photo, and other driver information translated into at least the 10 most widely spoken languages, it can help you avoid problems if you are in need of identification or assistance from local police or other authorities in a country where English isn’t the main language. As a United Nations regulated travel document, an IDP can make foreign travel easier and safer. That’s a good preventive reason to have an IDP before you drive in any of more than 150 countries that accept the IDP document.How to get an IDP
You must be at least 18 years old and have a current driver’s license from your home state before applying for an IDP. You’ll still need to take your U.S. driver’s license along, as the IDP is only valid when accompanied by your U. S. license. You’ll also need to have your passport in your possession at the same time.If applying by mail, you’ll need to send in a photocopy of both sides of your driver’s license. You’ll need to complete an application, include two original passport-size photos with your signature on the back, and pay the application fee, which may run between $20-30. The IDP is valid for up to three years, but it can’t be used for more than one year in the same country. If you plan to stay in a country longer, you must apply for a local driving permit.
Obtain an application at any AAA (AmericanAutomobile Association) full-service location and apply in person or by mail (may require up to 10 days). Or apply online to an organization such as AATA(American Automobile Touring Alliance) and get a digital version of IDP in as little as two hours. Find a list of countries that accept the IDP at international-permit.com.Although an IDP is not required if you are driving your own vehicle into Canada or Mexico, don’t forget to get Mexico liability auto insurance since U.S. liability is invalid in Mexico. U.S. auto insurance also may not meet minimum requirements of other countries, but you can usually buy additional insurance in the U.S. or in your destination country if needed. Check with your insurance company and the U.S. consulate of the country you are visiting beforehand.
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