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International Driving Permit

Please clarify:

I thought I read somewhere that I could get an IDP from AAA without a membership. I called the local office and was told no. Is this true? And if so, where can I get one? The California DMV website took me to AATA (American Automobile Touring Alliance) where I can mail in the application. Is this a credible site? If so, do you know how long will it take? I leave for Italy on April 14th.

Appreciate your help!

Posted by
3159 posts

Not true , I get one every year from a local AAA office before my trip . I think you have an uneducated employee there or someone who is trying to sell you membership .

Posted by
4637 posts

As a nonmember of AAA you pay $5 more than a member. Otherwise no difference. You get your IDP in AAA. Call them again. If the same answer ask for the name and call headquarters and employee will be reoriented or reeducated.

Posted by
2703 posts

I've also never heard of needing to belong to AAA to get an IDP. Done it many times.

Posted by
31319 posts

kathy,

That sounds like a load of rubbish from an employee who hasn't been properly trained. AAA / CAA are official designated agencies for providing I.D.P.'s to North Americans and membership is not a requirement. Have a look at their website - http://www.aaa.com/vacation/idpf.html

I'd suggest trying again, or try a different AAA office. If the employee insists that membership is a requirement, ask to speak to a manager.

Posted by
6580 posts

What's so ridiculous is that it's not really an official document. The "license" is to translate the info on your driver's license into different languages--as if they cannot tell your name, address, city and state of the license.

I've always carried one (obtained at AAA), but never been asked for it one time.

Posted by
7205 posts

Another strike against the almost irrelevant and useless AAA. I don't even really understand how they exist any more.

Posted by
8889 posts

What's so ridiculous is that it's not really an official document. The "license" is to translate the info on your driver's license into different languages--as if they cannot tell your name, address, city and state of the license.

I wish people wouldn't keep posting such b--lsh-t. It is an official document, regulated by an international treaty. It is as "official" as a passport. If it wasn't official, the police wouldn't accept it.
It is an official certified translation, certifying that your licence is genuine, and what it is valid for, in a format that is recognisable to police the world over (because it is a standard format they have been trained about).
Police cannot be expected to understand all the languages in the world, nor to recognise valid driving licences from the 190+ countries in the world, and spot if it is genuine, fake or a library card.

It is your home licence that is not an official document in Italy, until legalised by the IDP.

Posted by
21353 posts

As a non-member I have obtain the permit from AAA since they are the only source available. My guess is that they probably offer a discount to members. And Chris is correct, as usual.

Posted by
4524 posts

The IDP most certainly is an official document. It is REQUIRED by law in several European countries along with your regular drivers license. Without both documents, you are technically in violation of their laws. The IDP is set up and filled out according to international treaty.

AAA (in the US) is the only agency authorized to issue IDPs. Be very wary of any other online outfit that claims to provide them. It is not some kind of scam or money making scheme developed by AAA.

AAA does NOT require membership to obtain an IDP. They do charge a fee for their costs and require non-members to pay a little more. You can also save money from AAA if you bring in the proper photos.

Finally, while most people think of the IDP as just a translation of your license, it also serves as a validation of your license to any officer or rental agent unsure or unable to understand things like expiration dates or whether it is fake. And the translation can be helpful as not everyone in Europe speaks English or speaks it fluently. And English isn't the only language an officer would need to know since Europe attracts visitors from all over the world.

Posted by
4637 posts

Frank, they indeed offer discount to members - 5 bucks.

Posted by
99 posts

Wow, this is really good to know. I will go to AAA in person and have it done.

Much appreciated,

Kathy

Posted by
756 posts

Frank, as a AAA member you do not get free photos.

Posted by
3311 posts

Despite a gazillion internet posts and articles to the contrary, an IDP is most certainly not a translation of one's license.

Posted by
6370 posts

Tom, forget AAA and travel forums, every website I can find including DMV and US GOV sites state that it is a translation of your DL. If not that, then what is it? And why is it required in countries that require an official translation of your driver's license?

Posted by
3311 posts

It's a license that satisfies a European convention (Vienna?). It combines
1. some fields from your license
2. some new fields not on your license
3. an interpretation of some other fields from your license like what types of vehicles and weights are authorized.

The fields are simultaneously labeled in a dozen or so languages.

Some freak out about the different English words "permit" and "license" with regard to IDP but the source is the French word 'permis' and it can be translated either way to English.

The whole translation/IDP thing is not particularly well thought out in practice and not what novices expect. It's frequently waved away by car rental agency staff with "don't waste my time" attitude.

Posted by
6370 posts

Whether it's called a translation or an interpretation doesn't really matter. If it's required by a country to legally operate a vehicle in that country, then it should be obtained. It's true that car rental agencies rarely care or ask that you have one because it's not required of them in order to rent you the car. It's only needed in rare instances where you become involved with the police (or other authorities) of a country due to some kind of driving incident. It's just better all around to have it even if not needed than to need it and not have it and possibly pay the price.

Posted by
4524 posts

It's frequently waved away by car rental agency staff with "don't waste my time" attitude.

That's because car rental staff typically speak English and so an American wouldn't need to have their license translated into the local language for them to know it is ok. And I can definitely tell you that in Greece, at least several years ago, car rental agencies REQUIRED the IDP or they wouldn't rent a car. I've also been asked for it in England, when the agent could not understand how the expiration date worked for my state license.

Posted by
8889 posts

I've also been asked for it in England, when the agent could not understand how the expiration date worked for my state license.

That's easy, there is no such word as "expiration" in English, its "expiry date". And they have funny back-to-front dates in the US, and they can't even spell "licence". No wonder people get confused.

Posted by
5465 posts

Well, I can throw in my two cents.

First the concept of the IDP started after WW2. The main need was to agree on whether I as a holder of an Iowa Drivers license can drive in other countries. So in 1949, a number of countries agreed that if you hold a valid drivers license in one country, the signatori countries would honor that drivers license in other countries. Of course all countries have many odd regulations about licenses (permits, training licenses, restricted licenses, etc.) so the IDP was developed to address whether your license is approved for driving under the terms of the convention. So what does the IDP signify?

  • It is a Notarized testament that your license is valid in the country of origin and meets the minimum requirements under the convention agreement. Basically it ensures that your License will be honored in member countries.
  • It organizes pertinent information into a standard format with fields labeled into several languages so that a "Native-Only" speaker can figure out what is what.

The convention did allow that the task of Notarization could be delegated to organizations like the AAA or their equivalent in other countries, but in some cases, Embassies and other Governmental agencies can also fulfill the need.

Do you need it? Well, it is required in many countries, Rental agencies may not care, even some Police may not care, but generally it is useless (like your drivers license) until you need it, and when you don't have it, it can be a big problem. You are paying thousands for a trip, hundreds to rent a car, pay for insurance, pay for gas, but question paying $15 for an IDP?

Posted by
6370 posts

I vote for Paul's response as the best yet on this subject.

Posted by
4524 posts

It's loopy to have had an agency in England ask for one.

It may have been loopy, but I almost didn't get a car since I didn't have an IDP for driving in GB. At that time, the state of Illinois issued renewal stickers that went on the back of the license. And that only stated something like "valid 4 more years from date of expiry on front" or some such confusing jargon. The pre-printed expiration date remained on the front. So the agent saw the original date, couldn't figure out or wouldn't trust the sticker on the back and wasn't excepting my license. She asked if I had an IDP, which would have cleared things up lickety split. Eventually she conferred with her manager and they decided it was valid.

It was definitely one of those "you don't need it until you need it" moments.

It's worth noting that in the US alone, there are 51 different drivers license formats. Almost all are now standardized due to federal requirements, but before recently they were all quite different.

Posted by
2916 posts

The whole translation/IDP thing is not particularly well thought out in practice

I definitely agree with that.

Posted by
5465 posts

Douglas points out a good instance where your Drivers License would be very confusing to someone in Europe. We have another twist in Iowa, when we renew, we do not get a new license immediately, but a piece of paper to carry with the old one with the new info until the new one arrives in the mail weeks later. Unlikely I would get caught in that circumstance, but could happen.

This leads to another point. An IDP is good for a year, but if you renew your license during that year, you need a new IDP so the information matches.

Posted by
99 posts

Update: I went to AAA and had no problem getting an IDP for $36 without a membership. Done. Thanks!