Here’s a riddle for you: What’s gray and black and read all over? Darn, the title of this article gave it away! That’s right, it’s an International Driving Permit (IDP), and when accompanied by your valid U.S. driver’s license, it’s recognized as a form of identification in more than 150 countries worldwide. So, what’s this little gray booklet all about, and why should you get one from AAA before the next time you leave the States?
YOU DON'T SPEAK 10 LANGUAGES.
The IDP booklet, about the size of a passport, translates the words on your state-issued driver’s license into Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Swedish. Even if you’re not driving, it can help identify you in an emergency. The people assisting you may not speak English, which could slow down the process of getting you back on your way if you don’t carry an IDP.
FEELING YOUR HAIR BLOWING IN THE WIND AS YOU DRIVE THE AUTOBAHN HAS BEEN YOUR DREAM.
Seriously, if you want to rent a car anywhere outside the U.S., you should have an IDP. While it’s not always noted during the reservation process, many rental car agencies in international locations require IDPs, and they may not rent a car to you if you show up without one. And if you have any kind of roadside incident or traffic accident, your U.S. driver’s license alone may not be valid, resulting in fines or legal hassles that you may avoid by having an IDP.
A stretch of the Autobahn near Frankfurt, Germany
BOGUS DOCUMENTS ARE NOT COOL, AND YOU WANT TO MAKE SURE YOUR IDP IS THE REAL DEAL.
AAA is one of just two entities in the U.S. authorized by the U.S. Department of State to issue IDPs. Nationally, AAA issues more than 500,000 IDPs every year. While you may see other companies selling IDPs online, these documents are not officially recognized by other countries and could actually be fraudulent.
IT'S AN INEXPENSIVE SAFETY NET THAT'S EAST TO GET, SO WHY NOT?
An IDP costs just $20, so even if you’re not renting a car, having a recognized document translated into other languages can be helpful in unexpected situations. The entire process to get an IDP takes about 10 to 15 minutes when you start at home on AAA.com/IDP. Complete the online form, print it, and then bring it to any AAA location (you can find your nearest AAA Store by visiting AAA.com/stores). When you get to the store, we’ll take your photo for free if you are a Premier member or at a discount for other membership types. Then, we finalize the paperwork and hand you the IDP on the spot. Your IDP is valid for one year from the effective date that you’ll arrive at your destination. While you’re at the store, you can make your international hotel and car rental reservations at special AAA member discounts (for example, members save 10 percent on international rentals with Hertz). Heck, we can even help you plan your sightseeing and map out your itinerary, if you’d like. Can’t make it to the store, or need an IDP, like, tomorrow? We can make it happen by mail.
Go-kart sightseeing tour in Tokyo, Japan
YOU WANT TO DRESS UP LIKE A SUPERHERO AND DRIVE A GO-KART THROUGH THE STREETS OF TOKYO, JAPAN.
Yes, this is a thing. Before AAA’s content manager Ben Young visited Tokyo, he found out that an IDP was required to experience one of the most popular ways to explore the city: on a self-drive go-kart procession led by a professional local guide while dressed as Mario, Spider-Man, Care Bear or another favorite animated character. Lucky for Ben, one of his friends told him about the IDP requirement before he left the States. Consider other forms of transportation you might want to experience internationally on a sightseeing expedition, like a moped, dune buggy, motorcycle or off-road vehicle. Many of these activities are common inclusions on cruise lines’ shore excursions, so having an IDP with you when you travel keeps your options open to such experiences.
And, remember, AAA is there for you when you travel abroad, just as we are when you’re at home. Call us with any questions, and enjoy safe travels! For more information about IDPs, go to AAA.com/IDP.