How to get an international driving license

How to get an international drivers license?

A common question when you are going overseas is How to get an international drivers license? When you travel overseas or internationally it is wise to take with you an International Drivers License (IDP) also known as; an International Driving Permit IDP. Even if you don’t plan on driving at the time of your booking, you may change your mind once you arrive.

There are many other benefits of an IDP. International Driving Permit can help you to communicate with international authorities. It is translated into 9 different languages, and it is a recognizable form of identification and valid in over 150 countries.

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What is an International Driving License?

As we learned above it is actually called an International Driving Permit and it is kind of like an extension of your existing driver’s license or driving permit from your home country. It is, however, a separate document and you will need to be issued an International Driving Permit.

When you take your valid driver’s license issued by your country or state, combined with the International Driving Permit, you meet the requirements of what is required from the United Nations 1949 Convention on Road Traffic to foreign traffic authorities and car rental agencies.

Who can have an International Driving Permit?

UK international drivers license

For this specific question, I will only discuss permanent residents of the United States of America and Canada. This includes U.S. Territories. Let’s talk about the international driver’s license requirements.

To be eligible you must be a permanent resident but you do NOT have to be a citizen.

You must be 18 years old and have a valid driver’s license issued a State, Territory, or province of the United States or Canada. Your license must remain valid for an additional 6 months.

The basics on how to get an international driver’s license are pretty simple!

What if I have a temporary or learner driving permit? Do I need an international drivers license?

No, you are not eligible for an International Drivers License. You will need to have a valid license.

Toddler girl in a pink car driving a pink toy car. How to get an international Drivers License
You have to at least 18 to get an IDP

How to get an International Driving License?

So now that you know what an international driving license is and who can have one. The question is how do I get an international driving license?

For both American residents and Canadian residents, you will need the following items to ready when applying for your international drivers license requirements:

  • 2 Passport-sized photographs with white background
  • Photocopies of your driver’s license (both front and back)
  • Completed application form
  • A check or payment option
Example of passport photos needed for international driver's license. How to get international driving license

Residents of the United States have two options for obtaining an International Driving Permit. You can apply through AAA international driving license or AATA (American Automobile Touring Alliance).

Both international driving license AAA and AATA applications can be completed online. AAA also has office locations, if there is one close to you, they can help process everything in person.

For Canadian Residents; you will need to go to CAA.com or find a location to have them process the application. If there is a location close to you, this will save on shipping and mailing costs.

AAA international driver's license store
AAA International Driver’s License near me makes everything easier

I personally have always used AAA for my insurance needs so I have an international driving license AAA. Thankfully I have never had to use it but it is recognized in most countries around the world.

Since there was an AAA international driver’s license office near me, it was easy to apply in person. They took my passport photos there and helped me with the application. It was very easy. I would recommend AAA international driver’s license.

All you need is your current valid driver’s license and a credit card to pay for your IDP. AAA has the forms and will take your pictures right on the spot. It’s super easy!

How long does it take to get one?

For both Americans and Canadians, if you visit a store it will take about 30 minutes. If you send it in the mail, it will take about a week.

Once you get your international drivers license its always a good idea to keep it safe, as it is not something to carry with you all the time. I recommend getting a Travel Case, the size to fit a passport. Your new International Drivers License is the size of a passport.

Highway streets with blurred lights. international drivers license aaa

How much does an international driving permit Cost?

For United States Residents the cost is $20.00 USD
For Canadian Residents, the cost is $25.00 CAD
Plus – Shipping if you choose to mail it in.

how to get international drivers license. White international driving permit sitting on a wood table.

Do I need to take a written test or driving test?

As long as you have a current driver’s license that doesn’t expire within 6 months, you do NOT need to take any written or driving skills test.

Do I need an international drivers license for Europe?

Not all countries require you to have an IDP in Europe, but if you are planning on renting a car this could be a requirement.

Countries such as France, Germany, The Netherlands, and Spain will recognize your United States or Canadian driver’s licenses, but they could still ask you for your international driving permit.

Technically you are required to have an international driving permit, and you risk being fined if you happen to get pulled over or are involved in an accident.

TourRadar

It’s always a good idea to have one when traveling internationally and if you plan to drive and rent a car. Driving in Europe can be a lot of fun and is a great way to see many things, but shop around to find the best price on rental cars as they can become expensive.

We recommend using a platform like Rentalcars.com to compare all the rental car company’s prices.

Do I need an international drivers license to drive in Asia?

Asia covers so many countries and territories. The diversity in Asia is vast and laws vary drastically, and neighboring countries drive on different sides of the road. For this section, I will break this up into Southeast Asia, and Greater Asia.

Greater Asia

Greater Asia or also know as East Asia includes the countries of China, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, etc…

I would consider these countries to be similar to the United States and Canada when it comes to driving laws and even infrastructure. The traffic laws are more strict than what you will find in Southeast Asia.

This is a general statement but based upon my experience in traveling through these countries there is a noticeable difference.

Riding a motorbike through a fruit market of Asia. Showing that you always need an international drivers license in Southeast Asia.

Do I need an international drivers license for Greater Asia? Most countries do recognize the international driving permit as a valid license combined with your driver’s license from home.

However, China does NOT recognize the IDP. To drive in China you would need to obtain a Chinese Driver’s License. The only way for a foreigner to obtain a Chinese driver’s license is to have a valid resident permit to apply.

If you are traveling to Japan, you can use your IDP, but be aware that Japan drives on the opposite side of the road from that of Canada and the United States.

Southeast Asia

Living in Southeast Asia, I can tell you know that driving rules are not as strict as they are in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Can you believe it is even possible to rent a car, scooter, or motorbike without any form of driver’s license!

Don’t do this, I am just using this as an example to show you know driving laws are very different.

Living in Southeast Asia, I drive almost every day. I have an international driving permit. Luckily I have never had to use it or have been in a situation that has needed it.

getting an international drivers license. Traffic on the road with cars packed in the streets. To show how to get an international drivers license

So do I need an international drivers license for Southeast Asia?

This may seem counter to the above statement above as licenses are not always required in these countries, but if something were to happen and you did not have your international drivers license you could find yourself in trouble.

If you did rent a bike or car and there happened to be damage, by not showing or having your IDP, your insurance company might not cover you for the damages, or heaven forbid you are in an accident you might not be covered. Basically you are assuming all the risk by not having one.

If you are planning to visit Thailand, or Bali, Indonesia and want to rent a scooter and ride along the beach; please make sure you have an international driving permit.

The other reason to have this is that local Police are known to fine or bribe tourists that don’t have a proper license. I have also witnessed this in other countries like Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

Your IDP will help you communicate in their own language that you have a valid driver’s license and may even help you avoid a ticket or a fine.

If you happen to rent a scooter or motorbike in one of these countries. Please wear a helmet. This is coming from a mother of 3 and I want you to be as safe as possible.

Do I need an international drivers license to rent a car, scooter, or motorbike in a foreign country?

Once again, some countries will accept your US or Canadian driver’s license, but in my world travels, I have learned it is always a good idea to have an international drivers license. You can always check with the car rental company to find the most updated and accurate information.

Travel Insurance can cover your rental car and more:

Two cars in a rear end car crash
Gre

On one of our trips to Europe, I was about 4-5 months pregnant. We did have some concerns not just about driving and renting a car, but about our (my) health during the trip.

One thing that we did, and we continue to do when we travel now is to purchase travel insurance. This way if anything were to happen you are covered for multiple reasons. You can purchase travel insurance for your rental car, but it can also cover your flight delay or cancelation, and any health issues that might arise.

If you are new to travel insurance, and I am not an expert, but they take the cost of your trip and give you a quote. You will be offered different levels of protection.

For our 10 day trip to Europe, which included Amsterdam and Italy, it cost us around $125usd per person. But when we rented a car we didn’t have to add insurance, and we knew if anything were to happen we would be taken care of and even evacuated if needed.

342x342 Luggage Stack

Do I need one to use a car-sharing app?

Many countries have adopted and have car-sharing platforms that locals and tourists can use on-demand. Car sharing is rapidly growing in popularity, but many people are unfamiliar with how it works, how much does it cost, do I have to pay for gas, etc…

The first thing you need to know is that car-sharing is another type of car rental. The difference compared to a traditional rental company is that you can rent for a shorter period of time. You rent the car for the time that you need it and not based on a full day.

Car Sharing is easy

Car share written on the road with a silver care parked by it
Car

The first thing you will need to do is find a car share app. Look for apps that are available in the countries that you will be visiting. Here are a few that are available, I am not recommending any but just letting you know what is available.

  • Sixt – is the largest and most widely available in Europe and Germany, also available in the United States and Eastern Europe.
  • Car2go – is Available in North America, Europe, and parts of Asia.
  • DriveNow – BMW only carsharing program in Europe in North America
  • Zipcar – Europe, Nother America, and Taiwan
  • GoCar – for Malaysia

Make sure to have one of these or another app downloaded and ready to use. You will need to create an account or profile. When you get to your destination you can search for the closest carshare point to get your car.

How much does it cost to rent a carshare?

This depends on the location and country, but the costs are around $10 an hour.

Am I responsible for refueling?

This depends on the carsharing app. but most don’t require you to refuel. There are many factors such as distance drove and the level of the fuel tank. If you do not refuel the cost will be added to your hourly rental.

What other options do I have if I don’t want to rent a car?

If you are not keen on renting a car or driving in a foreign country, you are not alone, but what can you do? There’s always public transportation, but that doesn’t always get you to where you want to go. Have you ever thought about booking a tour?

Tours can be a great way to visit a foreign country without the fear of driving and finding your way around. When your transportation and destinations are already coordinated for you, allowing you to relax and enjoy your vacation even more.

TourRadar can help you find a tour in almost any destination.

Tourradar

Which Countries honor International Driving Permits:

Colorful image of the flags in the shape of the globe. international Drivers License
Afghanistan CyprusKyrgystan Russia
 Albania Czech Rep. Laos Rwanda
 Algeria Denmark LatviaSt. Kitts & Nevis
 AndorraDjibouti Lebanon St. Lucia
 Angola Dominica Lesotho St. Vincent & the Grenadines
 Anguilla Dominican Rep. Liberia San Marino
 Antigua Ecuador Libya Sao Tome & Principe
 Argentina Egypt Liechtenstein Saudi Arabia
 Armenia El Salvador Lithuania Senegal
 Aruba Equatorial Guinea Luxembourg Serbia
 Australia Estonia Macao Seychelles
 Austria Fiji Macedonia Sierra Leone
 Azerbaijan Finland Madagascar Singapore
 Bahamas France Malawi Slovakia
 Bahrain French Polynesia Malaysia Slovenia
 Bangladesh Gabon Mali South Africa
 Barbados Gambia Malta Spain
 Belarus Georgia Mauritania Sri Lanka
 Belgium Germany Mauritius Sudan
 Belize Ghana Mexico Suriname
 Benin Gibraltar Moldova Swaziland
 Bhutan Greece Monaco Sweden
 Bolivia Grenada Montenegro Switzerland
 Bosnia Guatemala Montserrat Syria
 Botswana Guernsey Morocco Taiwan
 Brazil Guinea Mozambique Tajikistan
 Brunei Guinea-Bissau Myanmar Tanzania
 BulgariaGuyana Namibia Thailand
 Burkina Faso Haiti Nepal Togo
 Cambodia Herzegovina Netherlands Trinidad & Tobago
 Cameroon Honduras Netherlands Antilles Tunisia
 Canada Hong Kong New Caledonia Turkey
 Cape Verde Hungary New Zealand Turkmenistan
 Islands Iceland Nicaragua Uganda
 Cayman Islands India Niger Ukraine
 Central African Rep Indonesia Nigeria United Arab Emirates
 Chad Iran Norway United Kingdom
 Chile Ireland Oman Uruguay
 Colombia Israel Pakistan Uzbekistan
 Comoros Italy Panama Vatican City
 Congo Jamaica Papua New Guinea Venezuela
 Rep. of (Brazzaville) Congo Japan Paraguay Vietnam
 Dem. Rep. of (Kinshasa) Jersey Peru Western Samoa
 Costa Rica Jordan Philippines Yemen
 Cote d´Ivoire(Ivory Coast) Kazakhstan Poland Zambia
 CroatiaKenya Portugal Zimbabwe
 CubaSouth Korea (Rep.) Qatar
 Curacao Kuwait Romania

Wrap up

When I was younger and before I had 3 kids, I would have been a lot apter to say “don’t buy insurance” or “you don’t need an international driver’s license”.

But I have seen and heard of too many bad things happening to people on trips. This is no longer the case. I am now telling you, it’s worth it. You need the protection of an international driver’s license if you plan on driving any vehicle in a foreign country.

Look on the bright side, even if you don’t have to use it, you’re only out about $20 and a little bit of time. That is worth it just for your peace of mind.

Trust me everything in the new country will seem different and scary when you arrive. You want some peace of mind to rely on while you’re away.

Pinterest image of cars driving on the road and a motorbike with a man and women riding. Text on the image says "Do you need an international drivers license?"
Pinterest image of a beach at The Andaman resort Langkawi Malaysia. Text says "The Resort You've Been Waiting For and That You Can Afford"

How do I get an international driver’s license in the US?

If you are a US citizen, the best place to get an international driver’s license is from AAA. It is a very easy process, just find your local AAA office and go there with your valid driver’s license and a credit card to pay (the fee is $20). The AAA office will take your photos for the international driver’s license and have you fill out a form. You will get your new IDP on the same day.

If you are not a US citizen, the US is not allowed to issue you an international driver’s license. You will need to contact the country where you hold a valid driver’s license. They will assist you in getting an international driver’s license through the paper channels.

How do you get an international driver’s license?

The easiest way to get an international driver’s license is to go through a local AAA office. Make sure you have a valid US driver’s license when you go to the AAA office. They will have the forms and take your pictures on the spot. Don’t forget to take a credit card or some other form of payment with you. AAA will give you your international driver’s license on the same day.

How long does it take to get an international driver’s license?

If you can go in person to your nearest AAA office, you can get an International driver’s license on the same day. You will need a valid US driver’s license to qualify for an international driver’s license with AAA.

AAA is the easiest and quickest place to get an international driver’s license.

How much does it cost for an international driver’s license?

If you go to your local AAA branch, the fee for an international driver’s license is $20, you can pay in cash or with a credit card.

Comments

February 15, 2020 at 4:18 am

This is super helpful I am English, but swapped my license for a Canadian one when we moved to Vancouver I should probably update it to a international one next time I renew it!!



February 15, 2020 at 4:13 pm

This answered all my questions for getting an international driver’s license! Thanks!



February 15, 2020 at 9:03 pm

I didn’t know you could do this. Thank you so much for sharing. I will definitely have to think about this – it’s a great option for our next trip!



February 16, 2020 at 1:36 am

Thank you. This post is super helpful. And you are right – you never know when you might want to drive a vehicle when travelling so having this license is a great idea.



February 16, 2020 at 7:24 am

Great post! I’ll need to look into the rules for Aussies before my next trip



February 16, 2020 at 11:09 pm

This is a really helpful post – I’ve been considering swapping my UK licence for an Australian.



    February 18, 2020 at 4:45 am

    Thanks for comments, I’m glad you found it helpful. It’s so difficult to decide which license is best when every country has its own rules and regulations. I wish you could just add one to your passport 🙂



Comments are closed.