How to get an International Driver’s License

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I’m flying to Germany in a few days to drive a Mercedes Benz S550 from Stuttgard to Amsterdam to Paris, so I needed to be sure I have an International Driver’s License / Permit.  It is very easy to obtain one of these through your local AAA or DMV office.

What is an International Driver’s Permit / License?

According to Wikipedia:

An International Driving Permit (IDP) is an identity document that allows the holder to drive a private motor vehicle in any country that recognizes IDPs. To be valid, the IDP must be accompanied by a valid driver’s license.

The IDP, which is slightly larger than a passport, is a multi-language translation of the driver’s license from the issuing nation, complete with photograph and vital statistics. Oftentimes, short term visitors do not need an IDP since their driver’s licence suffices.

According to the 1949 Convention on Road Traffic, an IDP remains valid for one year from the date of issue. However, according to the Vienna Convention, an IDP remains valid for no more than three years from the date of issue, or until the expiration date of national driving permit, whichever is earlier. An IDP is not valid for driving in the country where it was issued.

I drove in France in 2013 when we visited the Beaches of Normandy while in Paris.  I didn’t have the International Driver’s Permit and nothing happened, but then again, I didn’t get pulled over or in an accident.  Sometimes, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Going to AAA for the International Driver’s Permit

I’ve been a member of the Automobile Association of America since I first received my license.  Some people see this as an unnecessary luxury, while I see it as a valuable timesaver whenever I renew my auto registration.  But, AAA is so much more.

To speed up the application process, download the application form from AAA’s website, and complete it ahead of your visit to the local office.

You’ll need to bring cash or check for the $15 application fee and $8 + tax for the 2 passport photos.  You can also bring your own passport photos, but I figured the convenience of doing everything at the AAA office was worth the extra couple of dollars I could have saved if I went someplace else to get them taken.

I went to the AAA office near my house, checked in, and within 15 minutes had my photos taken, my application processed, and the International Driver’s Permit in my hand!  Efficient!

Going to the DMV for the International Driver’s Permit

I dread going to the DMV for anything, so I couldn’t imagine going there for something like this.  Luckily, you don’t have to step foot inside a DMV office.  However, it is going to cost you.

The DMV website provides information about the International Driver’s Permit and offers to connect you with a service that will process it within 24 – 48 hours.

When you click on that link, it takes you to a site I’ve never heard of.  Additionally, they charge $50 ($15 application + $35 service fee) and you have to provide your own passport photos.  Additionally, you either have to pick it up in New York City or pay an additional $30-80 for overnight shipping via FedEx.

Thanks, but no thanks.

Conclusion

If you have an AAA membership, spend 15 minutes at their office and get it done for about $23.  If you don’t have a AAA membership, take the extra money you would have spent using the DMV’s recommended service and pay for a AAA membership that is $48 annually.  You’ll get your International Driver’s Permit the same day and you’ll be able to take advantage of all the other AAA benefits and discounts the membership provides.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. There’s a typo I the final “Conclusion” paragraph. The first sentence reads:

    If you have a DMV membership, spend 15 minutes at their office and get it done for about $23.

    Whereas it should read:

    If you have a AAA membership…

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