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Getting an IDP

I believe the answer to this is yes, but I want to verify for my own peace of mind. Is the IDP something I can get the same day from AAA? Just walk in that day and walk back out with it? Or is there a processing time? Do I need an appointment?

Posted by
4700 posts

I've always gotten them in about 20 minutes. But I always show up at AAA with my passport picture and application filled out (download it online, fill it out, print it at home), so that saves some time. If you show up at AAA without any of that, they can take your picture to produce a passport photo quickly, but of course it will cost more. I wouldn't show up 10 minutes before closing time either...

Posted by
10308 posts

It's not an "official" document. Just basically a translation of your drivers license.

It will more than likely be filled out in pen.

If stopped while driving you still have to show your drivers license.

Posted by
4700 posts

Some countries require you to have an IDP when driving there, in addition to requiring your regular driver's license. So if you choose not to get one in a country where it is required, you are breaking the law. It's like speeding: OK if you don't get caught, but if you get caught, expect to pay a penalty. It's up to you whether you really want to take that chance.

Rental car companies probably won't care about an IDP. You'd need one if you are stopped by the police.

Posted by
7832 posts

Contact your local AAA office to find out what their processing time is. When I needed one a few years ago, I had to go back a few days later to get it.

Posted by
8889 posts

I disagree with Frank's comment. An IDP is a very official document. It validates your licence. It is regulated by international treaty.

Before anybody can say if you need one, you need to answer two questions:
1) Which country issued your licence?
2) Which countries do you intend to drive in?

Some European countries require an IDP if you have a non-European licence.
If stopped by the police you need to show both your licence and the IDP, without it your licence is not valid. The rental agency may or may not ask to see it, but that is not relevant, it is the police who will wish to see it if you are stopped.

Posted by
6372 posts

I agree with the other poster, call your AAA office and verify the processing time. I get one the same day from my AAA office and you most likely will also, but they are not all the same so doesn't hurt to check first. Even if you don't bring a passport sized photo, if you have them take it there it only takes a few minutes for them to prepare the IDP.

Posted by
2916 posts

The last couple of years I've gotten them at my local AAA office in 20 minutes or so, just showing up mid-day. The first time I had to fill out the application there, plus get my photo taken. The second time I had the application filled out, but again no photo. It was quick both times. But it's a fairly big AAA office, so it might vary at other locations.

Posted by
2545 posts

Mine have always taken 20 minutes or less. I go in with no photo or application or appointment - I just show my US license, fill out the form they give me, pay them to take a photo, and they print the IDP right then.

Call your office, but the norm seems to be same day.

And yes, get one if the country you are driving in requires it. They've never asked to see it at the rental office, but the police will probably want it if you are stopped or in a car accident. I've never been stopped or in any auto trouble, luckily. But I would hate to be caught in another country without legally required documentation.

Posted by
5471 posts

Just to echo on the "legality" of the IDP, it is a document of record, it is an Internationally agreed upon format and the AAA plays the role of the designated entity in the US (there are some other options as well) authorized to issue them.

From a legal perspective, it holds the same weight as a Notarized Document, which it essentially is, a "Notary" has verified that your license is valid for your country. It is valid in only countries that have agreed to accept that format and honor your license as sufficient for driving in their country.

Posted by
6372 posts

the rental agency at O'Hare in Chicago never asked me for an IDP even though all I had was a French driver's license.

This is the same case in most countries that 'require' an IDP. Car rental agencies don't normally ask for or require an IDP to rent a car in those countries (they never have in France in my experience), but it's still a legal requirement and if you end up interacting with authorities who ask you for it you could be in trouble if you don't have one.

So, yes, some states do require it if you're stopped for any kind of driving offense and don't have an English translation of your home license. But that does not mean the car rental agencies will require it.

Posted by
6888 posts

We have have gotten IDPs many times at different AAA offices in different states. All of them took a photo of driver and created the IDP, 20 minutes at most. Around $20.00. Easy.

Posted by
84 posts

Well, it seems my logistical question about visiting AAA has turned into a debate about whether or not an IDP is necessary. In any event, I will be getting one. Cost and inconvenience of getting one < cost and inconvenience of a fine. Thanks for the reassurance about visiting AAA.

Posted by
1323 posts

Lol, mountainmama, welcome to where questions sometimes turn into conversations. Lots of people here have conversed this way for years, so it’s not totally off the wall. :) And it is sometimes very useful for those “yet to arrive here” who go back and do some research. And even better, you got an answer!

Posted by
167 posts

To your question...:)... the total time in the AAA office was about 10 minutes..if that long. We’re members, but I can’t imagine that it would make a difference.

Posted by
84 posts

Tom, that’s because that wasn’t the question ;-)
I’m going to France from the US. Already planning on getting one, full stop. It was just a logistical question about going to AAA.

Posted by
3477 posts

I really can't understand the, for lack of any other term, hostility when the topic of the IDP comes up.

It is required in many European countries if you don't have an EU issued license. The fact that you may never need to show it is irrelevant. But the fact that a police officer could fine you for not having it is very real even if it rarely happens. But apparently, European police are much friendlier than those I have encountered in the US and will go so far as to take you to your hotel to get your passport or other documents when they need to see them if you left them there (which I find impossible to believe, but have never been in that situation since I always have my documents with me), so they may also simply overlook your lack of the legally required IDP.

Why not pay the $20 - $30 to get it and not have to worry. In the overall cost of travel to Europe, it isn't even a blip. And the time and effort to get it minimal (of course if you don't have a AAA office near, it can take time to get there and back).

It is just like having your driver license at home. I have one, but have only had show it once in the past 30 years in a situation related to driving. Does that mean the next time I need to renew it I will skip that? Of course not. I hate the time it takes and spending the money it costs to get the renewal, but it is what it is.

Posted by
1323 posts

Mark, I am hoping the OP understands your comment wasn’t directed at her, since she posted the question but was only looking for help with the process of getting an IDP. Not whether or not she should.

Posted by
31325 posts

I haven't read all the replies, but in my experience it's very easy to obtain an IDP at any AAA office without an appointment. Depending on how busy they area at the time, it could take about 20 minutes or so. Most offices seem to be able to take the Passport-style photos that are required.

You're probably already aware of this, but an IDP is used in conjunction with your home D.L. so you must take both.

Bon Voyage!

Posted by
3477 posts

My comment above was just in general in reference to the replies all questions about the IDP seem to generate. Not aimed at anyone specifically nor anyone who replied in this posting necessarily.

Posted by
12391 posts

If you drive in Italy with a non EU license without a valid IDP the fine is 400€ minimum (art. 132 of the Italian motor vehicle code).
The rental agency won’t ask to see it but if you get pulled over by police you will be asked to produce one. The patrol officer may be nice enough to let you go without a ticket after a simple warning, but that is enterily up to his magnanimity or whether he had a good or bad day at work or at home. You decide based on your risk appetite.
The AAA next to my office has always produced an IDP for me in less than 10 min. If it took longer is because there were people ahead of me in line.

Posted by
7832 posts

but if you get pulled over by police you will be asked to produce one.

And you do not have to do anything 'wrong'. On more than one occasion I saw the police randomly wave cars off the road. ( just ahead of me)

Posted by
1549 posts

You can get your IDP with a start date 6 months later, then it’s valid for a year after the start date.