Travel Tips: How To Get An International Driving Permit As A U.S. Citizen?

There are going to be occasions where you might want to rent a car while you’re in a different country.  People do it all the time especially in countries known for their scenic landscapes.  

What would be better than to take a road trip through Argentina, Chile, Iceland or Europe?   Argentina and Chile offers the Patagonia.  It’s beautiful mountain ranges that could be seen within a day.  A car could help you see some of the most beautiful landscapes in Europe from Switzerland to Germany.  In Iceland, a car would be helpful to see all of the country’s waterfalls on your own time and schedule versus being on a tour bus.

However, you will need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to rent a car.  For U.S. citizens, it’s an extremely easy process where you don’t have to deal with the horrendous DMV.  The IDP is not a replacement for your U.S. driver license.  It’s a document that accompanies it, translates your driver license’s information and allows you to legally drive a car while you’re abroad.  It has a passport size photograph of you, your relevant driver information and your full name.   It’s pretty much valid in all the countries in the world.

Participating Countries

Restrictions & Requirements

The IDP does have it’s restrictions and requirements.  The restrictions are:

  • It’s non-renewable but valid for up to a year of its issued date.  In other words, you can use it for one year.  After one year, you have to reapply.
  • The IDP can not be used as your driver license in your home country.  In other words, you will have to still show your driver license when pulled over.

The requirements are simple:

  • The minimum age to apply is 18 years old.
  • IDP can only be issued in your home country.  In other words, you have to get your IDP from the U.S. if you have a U.S. driver license.
  • Your U.S. driver’s license AND IDP has to be used together while driving abroad.

How To Apply For An IDP

For U.S. Citizens, the only two places you could get an IDP is from American Automobile Association (AAA) or the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA).  It’s a simple process that could be done in-person or by mail.  I had it done in-person and received by IDP within 30 minutes of walking into the nearest AAA location.   The basic application requirements include:

  • Correctly completing the IDP application
  • Having a valid U.S.-issued driver’s license
  • Providing 2 passport-sized photos along with your signature and date on the back of the photos
  • Paying the application fee

It’s a simple process that took less than 30 minutes at my local AAA office.  I walked-in with my debit card and 2 passport-sized photos then I filled out the AAA application while waiting for my name to be called.  I paid the $20 fee while AAA processed my IDP then I walked out with my new IDP.  It was a very stress-free process.

WARNING: Don’t get hustled by other companies out there offering IDPs.  The ONLY TWO places that are approved by the U.S. Government to issue IDPs are AAA and AATA.

Translation Pages


AAA Application

AATA Applicatioon



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