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Everything You Need to Know About International Driving Permits for US Drivers

Updated: Feb 19

Whether you’re planning a road trip across Europe or renting a car for business in Japan, understanding the ins and outs of getting an International Driving Permit (IDP) is essential. In this comprehensive guide, we'll cover everything you need to know about IDPs as a US driver.


What is an International Driving Permit (IDP)?

An International Driving Permit is an official document that translates your US driver's license into multiple languages, allowing you to drive legally in over 150 countries when accompanied by your US driver’s license.

When Do You Need an IDP?

While not required in every country, an IDP is highly recommended for international travel, especially in non-English-speaking nations. Some car rental agencies may insist on it, and it can be indispensable in case you encounter law enforcement or other authorities.

An IDP is valid for one year for US drivers. It cannot be renewed, so plan accordingly to get another IDP if your trip extends beyond this period. Since the IDP is not a standalone document, you cannot drive internationally if you US driver's license is expired, even if your IDP is not.


How to Obtain an IDP

See our posts about how to get an IDP for detailed information for your circumstances, but the general process is straightforward:


  1. Verify Eligibility: Ensure you have a valid US driver's license.

  2. Choose your method: The only organization in the US authorized to issue IDPs in the US is the American Automobile Association (AAA). You can obtain an IDP directly from a local AAA office or through an expediter like Fast IDP.

  3. Complete the Application: Provide necessary documentation, passport-sized photos, and the required fee.

  4. Allow Sufficient Processing Time: Make sure you give yourself enough time for the processing method you choose, as processing times may vary.

What an IDP Does NOT Cover

While an IDP allows you to drive in most countries, it doesn't grant you permission to drive everywhere. Some countries, such as Brazil, have specific requirements, so it's essential to research and understand the driving regulations of your destination. See the FAQs at for more information.


Spotting Scams: Protect Yourself

As mentioned in a previous post, scams related to IDPs are prevalent. Stick to authorized providers like AAA and be wary of suspicious online platforms. Remember, legitimate IDPs can only be issued by AAA in the United States, though expediters like Fast IDP can help you get an IDP from AAA more quickly.



An International Driving Permit opens up a world of possibilities for exploration, but it’s important to plan ahead to make sure that you get your IDP by the time you need to drive. Make sure you give yourself enough time before you need to drive, and have a great trip!



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