What Is An International Driving Permit? And How Do I Get One?

I posted a photo on Instagram about renting a car in Muscat, Oman. Subsequently, I detailed how I rented the Cadillac Escalade and how much I paid for the car the following day.

I received a message from a subscriber asking:

Hi. I noticed that you rented a car in Oman. I’ve never rented a car in another country because I thought you needed a drivers license for that country. Is that true?”

This is a great question and I thought it would be beneficial to share my experience with anyone that may be considering renting a car and/or driving in a foreign country.

RENTAL CARS

I rarely rent cars when I travel, though given I had limited time in Oman, and I was staying at a hotel an hour away from where I would be launching my scuba diving adventure, I thought renting a car would be more efficient.

Driving in Oman (and most countries) require obtaining an International Driving Permit, so I had to get one of those before my trip. I was expecting it to be a time consuming process, but much to my surprise it was quick and seamless.

WHAT IS AN INTERNATIONAL DRIVING PERMIT (IDP)?

An IDP is, essentially, a form of identification that translates your driver’s license information into 10 languages. Many countries require this, because they may not otherwise have a practical way to tell if your license is valid.

IDPs are valid in about 150 countries worldwide (you can find the countries that honor them on page two of this document). You always need to present your valid IDP in conjunction with your valid driver’s license.

While IDPs are issued in many countries around the world, if you have a US driver’s license then your IDP also has to be issued in the US.

HOW TO OBTAIN AN IDP

You can get an IDP through AAA, which is what I did, and based on my experience I’d say it doesn’t get much easier than this.

To get an IDP you need:

  • To fill out an application, which you can download online or fill it out in-person at a AAA branch.
  • You’ll also need two original passport pictures. You can either bring with you or have them taken at the AAA branch
  • You’ll need a valid US driver’s license
  • You’ll have to pay a fee of $20 for the IDP

Then you have two options for processing your application through AAA:

  • If convenient, you can just go to your nearest AAA branch office
  • Alternatively, you can mail your completed IDP application form, two original passport photos, $20, and a copy of both sides of your driver’s license, to the nearest AAA branch office

HOW LONG IS THE IDP VALID?

The IDP is valid for one year. However, if you have to renew your drivers license before the IDP expires, it appears the IDP will transfer over to the new driver’s license, since the IDP doesn’t list your driver’s license number on it.

Do You Need To Pass A Test To Get An IDP?

Not test is required to obtain an IDP. It’s worth noting that an IDP isn’t somehow certifying you as an amazing international driver or that you’re familiar with road rules around the world.

Rather it’s just intended to translate and confirm the fact that you have a valid driver’s license in the US (or whatever country you had it issued in).

MY EXPERIENCE GETTING AN IDP

I stopped by a AAA office in Atlanta a few weeks before my trip. I had found two passport pictures that I had taken a few years ago and assumed they would work. However, I did not print out the application.

I entered my local AAA and explained to the person sitting at the front desk that I needed an IDP and had two passport photos. She asked for my driver’s license and gave me a 1-page application to fill out.

I was then charged $20 for the IDP (it would’ve been $32 total if I would’ve needed passport photos taken). The woman wrote some of my details on the IDP and placed a AAA stamp on it.

Much to my surprise, the process couldn’t have been easier, and took approximately 5 minutes total.

FINAL STAMP

It’s rare that I rent cars. This is my second IDP (as they expire every year) but I regret not obtaining an IDP earlier in my travel experience.

Personally, I had not obtained one because I thought it would be a hassle. I did not understand the details of obtaining an IDP and assumed it would be similar to obtaining a regular drivers license…written test, driving test, wait for it in the mail, etc. Fortunately that wasn’t the case at all.

Do you have an International Driving Permit? What was your experience obtaining one?

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