Safe Roads: Driving abroad? Get a permit

J. Skyler McKinley

So, you’re ready for your big international trip, right? Your passport is current, your tickets and lodging are booked, and your bags are packed—check, check, and check. So far, so good. But did you remember to get an IDP?

These three little letters can have a big impact. An IDP is an International Driving Permit, and it’s important to have one if you plan on driving while in another country. Why? As it turns out, some countries, such as Hungary, won’t recognize your United States driver’s license unless you have an IDP. Other countries, such as Spain, will honor your driver’s license, but only if it’s been translated into Spanish—which is exactly what an IDP does. There are more than 150 countries that recognize IDPs as a valid form of identification, which translates your United States driving privileges into 10 languages.

What’s more, most major car rental companies require you to have an IDP before you can even rent a car overseas, and you can only get one from your home country—something to take care of long before you leave the U.S.

Luckily, you belong to AAA Colorado. By virtue of the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic, AAA is one of just two entities authorized by the U.S. Department of State to issue IDPs. That means you can just swing by your nearest AAA Colorado store and we’ll issue you an IDP, right there, on the spot. The cost of the permit is $20, and you will need to bring two original passport photos. However, if you don’t have any compliant photos, don’t fret, we’re happy to take them for you at a discounted cost. If you have a Premier level membership, the photos are free.

Fines for driving without an IDP can be steep. The bottom line is that if your destination requires a passport in order to enter that country, it’s a safe bet you’ll also need IDP in order to drive. Even if your plans don’t involve driving, I recommend getting one, just in case. After all, the best adventures are often unplanned, and with an IDP in your pocket, who’s to say where the road will take you?

IPDs are valid for one year, and can be issued up to six months in advance of the desired effective date. If you’re within that window, and you know you’re traveling abroad, stop by your nearest AAA Colorado store to pick up a whole lot of peace of mind.

J. Skyler McKinley is AAA Colorado’s spokesman and director of government affairs.