Can You Drive Internationally with a US License?

Driving is a skill that modern humans heavily depend on for a plethora of reasons. Being able to operate motor vehicles is a huge benefit, particularly in terms of owning your own car to go places. From commuting to and from work and taking the kids to school, to pleasure driving to relax or getting the shopping done more easily, the benefits hardly stop. Who can forget about the occasional overnight or weekend trip with your loved one? A personal four-wheeler is an invaluable thing to own in the 21st century and everyone knows it. Before individuals can get one, however, they need to pass their driving test and obtain a driver’s license.

Becoming a Driver

Getting a driver’s license is different around the world. There are many differences in how the test is taken and how one prepares for it. Perhaps the most famous example comes to us from the United States of America where people cannot really do much without driving. The sheer size of the country and the way of life imply the use of cars on a regular basis. Cities and towns are built with driving in mind, something that European cities do not favor for example. Still, a license is a license, right? Well, not always, as there are some limitations to where you can drive with which one.

 One License, Multiple Countries?


So is it possible to drive abroad with your domestic driver’s license? Is there a way to legally drive a vehicle on foreign roads with a foreign license? In this article, we will be focusing on the US license and talk about whether or not it is possible to drive internationally if you have one. Some countries solve this with special permits, others do not have many restrictions, but is there some kind of a universal rule for US drivers? Read on to find out more. If you are soon traveling abroad and need more information on how you can drive on a foreign territory with your US license, make sure to check out this site.

Does an International License Exist?

You have probably heard of licenses that are described as international, the documents that allow tourists and business people to drive without any problems on foreign soil. When you think about it, any license should perhaps also be an international document since traffic laws are largely the same and standardized everywhere. So why would there be any problems with operating motor vehicles abroad? Well, it is more complicated than that and it has more to do with other things surrounding the action of driving, not driving itself. The laws, regulations, language barriers, and insurance policies all have a role to play in this and they greatly limit the freedom of foreign drivers.

To combat this, there is actually something often referred to as the international driver’s license. The proper, correct term however is international driving permit (IDP), since it is not really a different license per se. Once you have this permit, you are allowed to drive a motor vehicle legally in 174 countries alongside your US license. So, to answer the titular question, it is a definite yes. It is possible to drive internationally with a legal US document that confirms you have passed the driving test and it actually covers most countries in the world, particularly those where most tourists travel.

What is This Permit?


Permit, or permission, is an accompanying document that contains your name, your photo, and your driver information. You must still carry the actual US license alongside the IDP just in case a police officer or a foreign government body asks for it as proof. Regarding who can obtain it, it is not that strict really. All you have to make sure of is to be at least 18 years old and have a US license that is going to remain valid for six months after the international driving permit has been issued. So if you want to get it in February for example, your actual license has to be valid through July.

The most common reason why people have their IDP issued is the fact that most rental car agencies abroad ask for one. Driving while traveling is not something all tourists do, but those who do really tend to depend on it. To make their driving experience abroad possible, the rentals try to make it as convenient and legal as possible, hence the need for this permit.

Where to Get It?

So where can a US citizen have their IDP issued, we hear you ask? Well, only a single government organization in the country can issue it to you and that is the Automobile Association of America, also known as AAA or Triple-A. It is an easy and straightforward process because it kind of needs to be. A lot of people need it so it has been made as simple as it can be. If you can have access to a local branch of AAA, you can have it issued immediately. Just get down there and ask for one. It can also be done through the mail where you have it delivered. However, it takes too long as you have to wait anywhere from 10 to 15 business days to arrive from AAA. It is also not that expensive to get. As of the year 2017, the fee for an IDP stands at $20. It is valid for one year after which you will need to have another one issued.


Things to Remember

While it is a legitimate, internationally recognized document that allows you certain driving freedoms in 174 countries, it is still not recognized everywhere. For example, China is absent from this list and their government asks for a license issued by China in order to drive there. Similar situations exist in other countries too, like in Brazil and a handful of African countries.

About Nina Smith