Last Updated on December 18, 2023 by Kristin

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Planning to rent a car abroad? If you’re traveling to a destination where English is not spoken, there’s a good chance you might need an International Driving Permit (IDP) in addition to your state driver’s license. The first thing to know is that you cannot get an international driver’s license online.

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Almost everything else can be done online nowadays. But don’t be fooled by companies promising to offer quick IDPs online for a premium price. U.S.-based drivers  cannot legitimately get an IDP online. The only place you can get an IDP is from the American Automobile Association (AAA), and you must apply in person or by snail mail.

What is an International Driving Permit (IDP)?

An international driving permit (IDP) is a paper booklet that drivers can use to supplement their standard driver’s license in more than 150 countries. An IDP translates your driver’s license information into 10 languages. Not all countries require an IDP, but you will need one to rent a car in a host of popular tourist destinations including Italy, Spain and Japan.

Failing to get an IDP in a country that requires one can cause all sorts of hassles during your trip, ranging from losing money on canceled rental reservations to trouble with local authorities. So, be sure to find out whether you need an IDP for the country you’re visiting well before starting the trip.

Where Can You Get an IDP?

If your trip abroad is coming up soon, websites promising to issue IDPs may seem tempting. But be warned: these services are not valid for U.S.-based drivers.

The AAA is the only entity authorized by the U.S. State Department to issue IDPs for U.S.-based drivers. (The American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA) no longer offers IDPs and now directs drivers to the AAA.) Applying for an IDP requires going to an AAA office or sending in your documents through the mail.

How Can You Get an IDP in a Hurry?

The fastest way for U.S. drivers to get an IDP is to go to a local AAA office. First, download and fill out the application AAA provides on its website. When you visit the AAA office in person, you must bring two passport photos and your driver’s license. The application fee is $20.

If you can’t make it to an AAA office, you can send in these materials through the mail. Read the AAA website for instructions on where and how to send the information. Be aware that this process could take up to a couple of weeks.

Watch Out for Scams

For years, websites promising online IDPs have been scamming U.S.-based customers. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been trying to snuff out this problem for decades and it’s still a problem.

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A quick online search yields plenty of results for online IDPs, but those services are either scams or not applicable for U.S. drivers. Again, the AAA is the only organization that can issue these documents for holders of U.S. driver’s licenses.

So, don’t fall into the trap of trying to apply for an IDP online as a quick fix. Instead, make time before your trip to visit an AAA office or apply via regular mail.