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I need an international drivers license.. on the double!
July 21, 2009 3:53 PM   Subscribe

Has anyone from the US ever had to apply for an international drivers license? I'm a dummy and didn't realize it supposedly takes 4-6 weeks to get one!

We learned from the DMV you MUST get them through AAA [which is weird, but whatever].

I'm leaving on August 14th for Israel [staying 8 days, want to rent a car for the entire stay there] / then off to Paris [staying 9 days, need to rent a car for 3] and don't have 4-6 weeks to wait. Can anyone offer some advice or personal experiences obtaining one? We found a few places online that say they can expedite for a fee, but they all look shady.

I live in NYC, and have a valid US drivers license. Any help would be appreciated! Thank you!
posted by nakleh to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total)
 
When I have rented cars in foreign countries before I have used my regular US driver's license (issued by the NYS DMV).

Do these countries require an international driver's license?
posted by dfriedman at 3:59 PM on July 21, 2009


These have little purpose, other than to translate the fact that you are licensed into several languages. They do not give you any greater permission to drive than your NY license. Double check with your rental agency: you probably don't need this. Here is a useful link to the Israeli government's site on the topic. Seems to say that as a tourist your US license will let you motor around happily for 1 year.
posted by thejoshu at 4:00 PM on July 21, 2009


Strange, every time I've had to get an International Drivers License from AAA, it took less than an hour. After filling out a form at any AAA, they take your picture, stamp a few pages, and present you with your new license.

Its in a shape of a small book with multiple languages on different pages. The whole thing was pretty cheap; I can't remember the exact price but no where more than $50.
posted by telsa at 4:01 PM on July 21, 2009


That's because there is no such thing as an international driver's license!

At least, not one with any legal effect. Yes, AAA does offer an official-looking permit, but the mere fact that it's not being offered by a government agency should tip you off that these things aren't required anywhere.

If you really do want one, pop down to your local AAA branch, and you can walk out with one in about fifteen minutes. Basically, all it is is a little pamphlet with a statement that you are licensed to drive in your jurisdiction translated into a dozen-odd languages. But neither Israel nor France should particularly care whether or not you have that, provided you can display a valid New York license.

Don't sweat. If you want peace of mind, you can do this, but you don't have to. They seem to be most useful in places like Central/South America and Sub-Saharan Africa, where the ability to flash official-looking papers can have a beneficial effect on obstructionary/corrupt bureaucrats.
posted by valkyryn at 4:01 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh, and in France, you'll be golden for 90 days (PDF).
posted by thejoshu at 4:03 PM on July 21, 2009


You can rent a car in both Israel and France with a US license. You're fine.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:16 PM on July 21, 2009


Italy, at least, requires either an International Drivers Permit (yes, it does exist, and is official) or an Italian translation of the US drivers license. But most (all?) other EU countries accept the US drivers license for a couple of months.
posted by HFSH at 4:53 PM on July 21, 2009


That's because there is no such thing as an international driver's license!

At least, not one with any legal effect. Yes, AAA does offer an official-looking permit, but the mere fact that it's not being offered by a government agency should tip you off that these things aren't required anywhere.


Actually, you *must* have an International Driving Permit (the document that the AAA and other automobile associations all over the world offer) in conjunction with your actual drivers license from your home country to drive legally in Japan, among other countries. Failure to do so is the same as driving without a license, and you can be penalized as such.

So saying that they have no legal effect is incorrect.

nakleh, in my experience I was able to get one from my local AAA office in an hour, and I brought my own passport-sized photograph along. I believe there was a $10 fee. Check this page for more details.
posted by armage at 7:14 PM on July 21, 2009


Italy requires the International Driving Permit from AAA, but it's not a separate license. I went to the AAA branch on the UWS - it's on 62nd and Broadway - and my husband and I got our international permits in under an hour. They take little passport-size photos and you fill out some paperwork and you walk out with them.

I don't know if Israel or France require them, but getting one is easy, so why not? Incidentally, when we presented them to the car rental place in Italy they said we only needed those if we got pulled over. They only wanted to see our US drivers license for the rental. YMMV, Italy is not Israel or France, etc.
posted by bedhead at 7:49 PM on July 21, 2009


Reiterating that what you get from AAA is not another drivers license, it's just a semi-official supplemental document to your existing license, basically a packet with your picture and translation into several languages.

You can definitely get this in 15 minutes at most any AAA. When I used to work from a travel company, that's where we sent people (you don't need to be a member), and when I needed one for work travel myself (for driving/rental in Greece), went very quickly and cost ~$30 including them taking the picture of me.
posted by polexa at 10:29 PM on July 21, 2009


I'm another person who was told an IDL was necessary for living overseas. I was in California, got it in a couple minutes at a AAA (for $30). It might well have been useless and nobody ever asked to see it, but it seemed better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

Much as AAA isn't a gov't agency, my understanding is that the IDL is a document saying a knowledgeable person (who lives in your state, knows what your license is supposed to look like) has looked at your license and agrees that it is legit, yours.

What has AAA had to say? If NYC AAA is not like Calif., any chance you can find a more obliging office in NJ or Conn?
posted by ambient2 at 10:41 PM on July 21, 2009


They seem to be most useful in places like Central/South America and Sub-Saharan Africa, where the ability to flash official-looking papers can have a beneficial effect on obstructionary/corrupt bureaucrats.

This. I am an American expat living and working in Africa and I can NOT tell you how useful this stupid piece of pink documentation has been.

Got mine at an AAA office in California for $15, although they raped me another $15 just for the picture since I didn't show up with an extra passport photo for them to use. Took about 20 minutes. Its worth it, get it for peace of mind and other future travels.
posted by allkindsoftime at 11:56 PM on July 21, 2009


I came here to nth what everyone else has already said, but after reading your question again, I'm wondering why the DMV would tell you that. Are you sure they weren't talking about passports or visas? Or maybe just covering their bases in case it took more than 20 minutes?

Like everyone said above, an international driver's permit is just a little piece of folded up cardboard that translates your actual license into a bunch of different languages. When I went to get one, I just waltzed into the local AAA branch, asked for it, and was out the door in 15 minutes. The lady was nice and even gave me a discount so that the thing ended up only costing $15.

As far as advice, just go down to your closest AAA location and you'll probably walk out with what you need in under half an hour. Like someone else said above, it's not a government thing that they'll have a backlog on, so the time it takes to get the permit should only be as long as the line you're waiting in.
posted by fantastico at 12:02 AM on July 22, 2009


I got mine from the AAA the same day - about an hour, here in Milwaukee. If you have to wait four weeks, I'd check the next nearest AAA office. I never really needed it in Spain but it was nice to have.
posted by JJ86 at 6:05 AM on July 22, 2009


Thank you everyone for your responses! I'm constantly amazed at how helpful this forum is.
posted by nakleh at 7:04 AM on July 22, 2009


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