Renting a car when traveling can be a confusing experience, especially when it comes to understanding what you need. Do you need extra insurance? Can you get an automatic vehicle? What are the mileage restrictions? And do you need an International Driving Permit (IDP)?

What is an IDP and do I need one?

The International Driving Permit (IDP) is a small passport-like booklet that you can get prior to your trip. The permit functions as your international driver’s license. Determining whether you need one is similar to many travel questions. The answer is often: “it depends.” You’ll want to check with the country you are visiting to see whether they require one. Some countries, like Japan, are very strict about having an IDP if you’re a foreigner and want to drive in the country. Other countries have restrictions if you don’t have one. This includes rules regarding maximum distance or insurance coverage limits. Some may even require one if you’re planning to drive a car for an extended period of time. Though I would say that most English-speaking countries do not require one.

If you don’t need one, should you still consider getting one? I think it’s worth exploring. The benefit of having an IDP is that your driver’s license becomes immediately recognized if you were to have a traffic incident abroad. For example, suppose you had an accident while driving in Korea. If the police were to arrive at the scene, they might not be able to read your local driver’s license. The IDP, on the other hand, translates your driver’s license into ten languages. This can help to break down communication barriers and resolve potential misunderstandings.

Where to get an IDP in the US?

If you are in the US and decide to get one, you will need to contact the American Automobile Association (AAA) or the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA). You’ll need to fill out the applications, provide two passport sized photos, and pay the $20 application fee. Keep in mind too that you don’t need to be a member of either organization to get an IDP.

Have you ever encountered a situation where you needed or wished you had an IDP? If so, please share your experience below.


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