How to Get an International Drivers Permit For Americans
AAA offers an international drivers permit if you have a valid drivers license. This is a must have for international travel. Even if you don’t plan on driving during your trip it is a great back up form of identification. The international drivers permit is a small booklet that resembles a passport with a passport photo that can be used for identification while traveling.
A few years ago I was driving in Chile and was pulled over on the highway. I was so nervous and didn’t speak a lick of Spanish. I handed the officer my international drivers permit as well as my California drivers license. He looked over the documents and even though he couldn’t communicate with me why he pulled me over, it was obvious I was going too fast. He tried to tell me to slow down and turn on my headlights (despite that it was 11am) and let me on my way.
In Thailand, our international drivers permits saved us from paying fines for driving a motorbike. The permit even allowed us to drive motorcycles in Asia. With traffic checkpoints around every corner, this permit saved us from paying 500B fines on a daily basis. Although you don’t need a license to rent a bike in Thailand, the corrupt police love to set up checkpoints to get money out of clueless tourists for not having a Thai license. Every time they saw our international permit they would let us on our way and not try to fine us.
To get the permit you can apply via mail or walk into an AAA office. You’ll need 2 passport photos (must be 2×2) and the fee is $15 for members and non-members. If you don’t have passport photos you can take them in office (they cost $8 for members and) $15 if you’re not a member. You can just walk in, fill out a form and walk out with your permit on the same day. It’s a must have for travelers!
While not every county accepts this permit, most do. Here is a list that as of Jan. 2014 accepts this driving permit:
* Not party to 1949 Convention: International Driving Permit Honored.
** U.S. driver’s license and IDP recognized on presentation to local police and payment of special registration fee upon arrival.
Burkina Faso (was Upper Volta)*
Cambodia (was Kampuchea)
Cape Verde Islands*
Central Africa Rep.
Congo, Rep. of (Brazzaville)
Congo, Dem. Rep. of (Kinshasa)
Cote d’ Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
France (including French overseas territories)
Papua New Guinea
St. Kitts & Nevis*/**
St. Vincent & The Grenadines
Sao Tome & Principe*
Serbia & Montenegro
Trinidad & Tobago
United Arab Emirates*
Vatican City (Holy See)