What Is an International Driving Permit?

Man driving in Europe

 John Lamb / Getty Images

An International Driving Permit (IDP) is a multiple-language document that verifies that you have a valid driver’s license. While many countries may not officially recognize your driver’s license, they will accept your valid U.S., Canadian, or British license if you also carry an International Driving Permit.

Some countries, such as Italy, require you to carry an official translation of your license if you plan to rent a car (unless you hold a license from a European Union member nation). An International Driving Permit fulfills this requirement, saving you the hassle and expense of having to get your driver's license translated. The IDP is accepted in over 150 countries around the world.

US International Driving Permit

In the United States, you can only obtain an IDP through the Automobile Association of America (AAA) or American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA). These agencies are the only authorized IDP issuers in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of State. You do not need to—nor should you—go through a third party to get your IDP. You can apply directly to AAA or AATA.

To apply, download the application form from either group, fill it out, and make a copy of both sides of your valid driver's license. You'll also need two passport-sized photos that should be professionally taken (many AAA offices offer photo services if you decide to apply in person). There is a fee for the IDP, plus any additional costs for photos and shipping. You can either mail your completed application to AAA or AATA, or you can apply in person at your nearest AAA office and receive the IDP immediately.

Your new IDP will be valid for one year from the date of issue. If your driver's license is currently suspended or revoked, you may not apply for an IDP. All U.S. residents with a U.S. driver's license can apply for an IDP, even if they are not a citizen.

Canadian International Driving Permit

Just as U.S. citizens must apply at specific locations, Canadian citizens can apply for International Driving Permits only at Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) offices. An IDP issued in Canada that is not from the CAA is not valid for driving internationally.

The application process is straightforward. You will need to provide two passport photos and a copy of the front and back of your driver’s license. You can mail your application and payment or bring them to your nearest CAA office. 

UK International Driving Permit

In the United Kingdom, you can apply for your IDP in person at many post offices. You will need to supply a passport photo, a copy of your driver’s license, and the application fee. If you have an older paper license, you'll need to bring your passport as well to verify your identity.

You must apply for your U.K. International Driving Permit within three months of your travel date. However, if you have a U.K. driver's license and you are traveling within the European Union, you do not need an IDP.

Read the Fine Print

The exact rules of driving internationally vary by country, so be sure to read the fine print on your IDP application form, the processing agency’s website, and the websites of any rental car companies you plan to use during your trip. Keep these tips in mind so you can drive abroad without worry.

  • Don’t forget to bring your driver’s license with you. Your IDP is invalid without it.
  • Acceptance varies by the destination country and by the driver’s nationality. Check IDP requirements for all of your destination countries.
  • Research IDP requirements for the countries you drive through, even if you do not plan to stay in those countries.