Traffic around a round-about.

When do you need an international driver's license?

Learn how to legally drive with an international driver's license when you're in a foreign country.

Your dream foreign vacation is coming and you want to be able to hit the open road and see all the sights. But before you start driving in other countries, it is important to understand the rules and laws. Identification changes and requirements can be confusing. Many countries require an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive legally. Fines for driving without an IDP can be quite costly.

An IDP allows you to drive legally in 150 countries. In addition, an IDP translates your identification information into 10 languages. Be sure to plan ahead before your international trip.

Do I need an IDP?

In some cities and countries public transportation is very common and may fit your needs nicely. If you determine you'd like to drive in the foreign country, acquaint yourself with the rules of the road since they may be different than what you are accustom to.

Depending on the country you're planning on visiting, an IDP may needed. There are a few countries, notably China, which do not recognize the IDP so it is important to check to see if a country recognizes the IDP before you leave. In addition, some countries, notably Mexico, Canada and England allow United States drivers to use driver's licenses from the U.S. for short periods, usually not more than six to 12 months.

Before you travel abroad it is best to get an IDP as a form of identification if you intend on driving while there or renting a vehicle. Most countries recommend having an IDP that has your name, photo and driver information. An IDP may not be issued more than six months in advance of desired effective date.

Where and how to get an international driving license or permit

In the United States, there are only two organizations that can issue an IDP, the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA).

To be eligible for an IDP, you must:

  • Be a permanent resident of the U.S. or territories, U.S. citizenship is not a requirement;
  • Be at least 18 years of age and hold a valid driver's license issued by a state or territory of the United States; and
  • Keep your license valid for at least six months from the issue date of your IDP.

An IDP application can be obtained online or through the mail. The State Department, also recommends obtaining IDPs from an American Automobile Association (AAA) site or American Automotive Touring Alliance (AATA) office. A few of the application requirements to apply are:

  • A completed IDP application form,
  • Original passport pictures each signed on the back,
  • $20 USD permit fee, and
  • A photocopy of both sides of your driver's license.

How long does it take to get an international driver's license or permit?

Driving tests states that an IDP can be issued immediately at an AAA branch. Typically, it may take 10 to 15 business days by mail from AAA or AATA. An IDP is valid for one year.

Can I use my U.S. driver's license in Italy?

According to the U.S. Embassy in Italy, Americans planning to visit Italy as tourists who intend to drive should obtain an International Driving Permit before leaving the United States. Tourists may also use their valid American driver's license if accompanied by an official translation in Italian.

Can I drive in the U.K. with a U.S. license?

You can drive in England with your current valid license for up to 12 months, but if your journey takes you further into Europe, you may want to consider an IDP.

Will I need auto insurance in a foreign country?

Foreign auto insurance protection may be required by the country you are visiting. Even though you have U.S. auto insurance, depending on the country and the terms of the U.S. auto insurance policy, the U.S. policy may not cover claims in the foreign country. Please check with your agent prior to traveling.

The information in this article was obtained from various sources not associated with State Farm® (including State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and its subsidiaries and affiliates). While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. State Farm is not responsible for, and does not endorse or approve, either implicitly or explicitly, the content of any third party sites that might be hyperlinked from this page. The information is not intended to replace manuals, instructions or information provided by a manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional, or to affect coverage under any applicable insurance policy. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. State Farm makes no guarantees of results from use of this information.

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