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How Do I Get an International Driver’s Permit? 

They’re useful, affordable and easy to obtain through AAA

Planning a trip overseas? Don’t forget to pick up an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) — sometimes called an international driver’s license — at a AAA Washington store before you go. 

Many countries won’t recognize a U.S. driver’s license but will accept an international driver’s permit. Even if you’re going to a country where you are permitted to drive on your U.S. driver’s license, it can still come in handy while overseas. You might need it if:

  • You’re stopped by a police officer and can’t speak or read the language;
  • You’re asked for ID by a non-English speaker but you left your passport back at the hotel;
  • You’re renting a car;
  • You’re traveling outside of major cities and tourist areas where there are fewer English speakers. 

What’s more, an international driver’s permit is easy, fast and affordable to obtain through AAA either by mail or in person at AAA stores in Washington and Northern Idaho. 

An international driver's permit is recognized by more than 150 countries worldwide, and can be useful as secondary ID and for car rentals.
An international driver’s permit is recognized by more than 150 countries worldwide, and can be useful as secondary ID and for car rentals. Photo: AdobeStock

What is an international driver’s permit (IDP)? 

An international driver’s permit (IDP) comes in the form of a booklet that translates key driver’s license information into 10 different languages. Whereas driver’s licenses are peculiar to states and nations, IDPs provide a standard, known document that is recognized by more than 150 countries.

The permit contains your name, birthplace, address, what class of vehicle you are authorized to drive and if you need to wear corrective lenses or have any driver’s restrictions. 

Tip: An IDP does not replace your driver’s license. If you are stopped in a foreign country, you will need to present it along with your valid U.S. driver’s license. So, in other words, don’t leave your driver’s license at home. Both pieces of ID must be carried together at all times. The IDP will be valid for one year. 

Why do I need an international driver’s license?

An IDP is recognized by more than 150 countries. Some countries, like Hungary, require an IDP, while others require (or strongly prefer) a translation of your driver’s license information, such as in Spain. 

Also, even in countries that accept a U.S. driver’s license, some car rental companies will not rent you a car without an international driver’s permit. 

Tip: A few countries will not accept an IDP or your driver’s license, most notably, the People’s Republic of China. If you want to drive in China, you will need a valid license issued in China. Hong Kong, now a territory of China, will recognize IDPs. Some South American countries, including Brazil and Uruguay, won’t accept an IDP but will accept an Inter-American Driving Permit. (You can also obtain an Inter-American Driving Permit through AAA.)  

View inside a AAA Washington store to illustrate that you can get an international driver's permit, also called an international driver's license AAA at store locations or by mail. If you're searching for AAA international driver's license near me, find your closest AAA store.
AAA Washington is one of only two private entities in the U.S. sanctioned by the U.S. State Department to process international driver’s permits. The AAA international driver’s license application process can be completed in under a half an hour at one of our stores. Photo: AAA Washington

Apply In Person

The quickest and easiest way to get an IDP is to go to your nearest AAA Washington store and apply in person. AAA is one of only two private entities sanctioned by the U.S. state department to issue an IDP. If you go to a store, you can obtain an IDP the same day. Normally, the process takes less than a half an hour.

See the list of AAA Washington stores here. 

  • To secure an IDP at a AAA Washington store, all you need to bring is:
  • A completed IDP Application (the application form is also available at AAA stores);
  • A valid U.S. driver’s license;
  • Two original recent passport-style photos printed on photo paper with your signature on the back (you can get passport photos taken at AAA stores for an additional fee);
  • Pay the $20 permit fee, plus tax. 

Apply By Mail 

You can also send your printed IDP application to the AAA store located in Seattle (see address below). We will process and return your international driver’s permit within a few days.  

If you are applying by mail, you will need to send: 

  • Your completed IDP application form
  • Two original passport pictures each signed on the back;
  •  A photocopy of both sides of your driver’s license;
  • If desired, include additional U.S. funds for expedited return mail service. (See USPS.com or Fedex.com for rates)
  • Include a check or money order for $24.05 ($20 permit fee, $2.05 Seattle tax and $2 for domestic mailing).
  • Mail to:
    AAA/IDP-Auto Travel
    1523 15th Ave. W
    Seattle, WA 98119 
An international driver's permit translates key driver information into several languages. In some countries, it is mandatory or strongly preferred. Get your international driver's license at a AAA store.
An international driver’s permit translates key driver information into several languages. In some countries, it is mandatory or strongly preferred. Get yours at a AAA Washington store. Photo: AAA Washington

What are the requirements for U.S. residents? 

You must obtain your international driver’s permit from the country that issued your driver’s license. In other words, if you have valid U.S. driver’s license, the IDP must be issued from the U.S.  Plus, your driver’s license must have at least six months remaining before the expiration date.  

In order to qualify for an IDP issued in the U.S., you must: 

  • Be 18 years or older;
  • Hold a valid U.S. or territorial driver’s license.

Regardless of whether you technically need one to drive in the country you plan to visit, an International Driver’s Permit is a good document to hold as a secondary piece of ID while traveling overseas. It is quick, easy and affordable to obtain, and you can complete the entire process through AAA Washington. 

—Written by AAA Washington staff

—Top Photo: AdobeStock

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