How To Get An International Driving Permit

International Driving Permit

Over the course of my travels, I’ve rented cars all around the world. When renting a car, I haven’t needed to show much more than my passport and driver’s license.

For our trip to South Korea, Kim noticed something interesting while reading about our destination. She saw that to rent a car, I’d need to get an International Driving Permit.

You can get an International Driving Permit from two places:

  • AAA (American Automobile Association)
  • AATA (American Automobile Touring Alliance)

International Driving Permit

You can apply by mail from both options but I decided to visit a AAA location close to home to get my International Driving Permit on the spot.

International Driving Permit

Rather than download the application, I filled out a copy given to me at AAA. This took under a minute to complete.

You’ll also need two passport photos. You can bring your own or have your photo taken at AAA for a fee (free for AAA members). Out of convenience I decided to have my photo taken at AAA. I don’t recall the exact price, but I’m pretty sure that it was $10. (I could’ve had passport photos printed for cheaper at a drug store but sometimes convenience is worth a small amount extra.)

After both of these things were done, I brought my application to the front desk and showed my valid U.S. issued drivers license so the application could be completed.

I then paid the $20 fee and waited about 5-7 minutes for my International Driving Permit.

International Driving Permit

Overall, the whole process  for getting an International Driving Permit on the spot took around 20 minutes. I’m sure times can vary if your AAA location is busy.

International Driving Permit

The International Driving Permit is not a license, it needs to be brought along with your valid driver’s license.  The IDP is good for one year from the date of issue and you need to be at least 18 years of age to apply.  Your IDP will have a couple of pages which list all of the places it is valid. I think it numbers over 150 countries.

Applying for an IDP by mail:

  • Download the application for AAA or AATA
  • Fill out the application
  • Include two passport photos (2×2) & photocopy of the front and back of your drivers license.
  • Pay the $20 fee by check or money order.
  • AATA charges a $10 shipping & handling fee. I didn’t notice a fee for AAA unless you wanted rush service.

Have you ever needed an International Drivers Permit to rent a car? If so, what country were you in?

6 thoughts on “How To Get An International Driving Permit

  1. Robbo- So same as SKorea. What’s it like driving in Sri Lanka?

    Fanny- I can’t find the info on AAA about the photo fee for members, my wife thought she read it was free. Did you get the rail pass at home? When we visited Japan, it had to be purchased in advance and could not be bought in Japan. Driving on the other side is fun and interesting! I’ve done in a few times. Enjoy your trip!

  2. I just went to AAA to get my IDP for Japan and it took me no more than 20 minutes as well and most of that was just waiting to be called to see the agent. They told me if I needed photos, it was cheaper if I was an AAA member–they did not say whether it was free though..

    I’m renting a car for Hokkaido as it’s the best mode of transportation since we want to go east and explore the flower fields. Then, I’ll be buying a JR East Rail Pass to travel down to Tokyo where I will ultimately fly out of. I’ve never driven on the other side of the road, so that will be interesting.

  3. fathiss- We had the rail pass and took it all over. Is a car rental for you a better option?

    JohnJ- Absolutely! On every site that I checked rentals on, a message came up about it. Upon arriving at Sixt, there was a sign about it plus I was asked for the IDL with my license etc… As for the other countries- not sure it’s a must, I’ve never needed it before.

  4. Did you ever need it in S. Korea? Were you even asked for it? I guess what I’m really asking is if it’s valid in over 150 countries, is it required in all those countries? I’ve always viewed it as a way for AAA or AATA to make $20+.
    I rented a car in Salta, Argentina and never offered nor was asked for an IDP. State driver’s license was the only requirement for the car rental agency I used —

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