You’re getting ready for your overseas trip, and you’ve already made the decision to rent a car while you’re traveling abroad. It’s economical, it’s convenient, and you’ll be able to see a lot more places than if you had to rely on trains and public transportation; but have you thought about whether or not your driver’s license will be recognized in the country you’re visiting?
The legality of a driver’s license is something we tend to take for granted, because there’s a common belief that a government-issued driver’s license is good anywhere in the world. Although this is true for many countries, there are some governments that don’t recognize the validity of a foreign-issued driver’s license. That’s why it’s important to find out ahead of time whether you need further documentation in order to rent a car or drive in the country you’re planning to visit.
Getting the Right Information
The best way to find out whether your driver’s license will be sufficient in your destination country is to go online and visit its government-sponsored tourism website. Most of these sites will contain important tourist information related to travel and transportation, and you should be able to find out if your driver’s license will be recognized or not. Likewise, you can also visit the country’s official consulate website, which should have the necessary information you need. You can also call the main office of your country’s consulate, where a staff member should be able to help you.
If all else fails, you can contact the American Embassy of your destination country by phone or via email and ask about the validity of your driver’s license while traveling in the region. You’re sure to reach someone who can give you all the facts concerning your license and whether or not you’ll need further documentation.
International Driving Permits
In some countries, rental car companies require customers to have an International Driving Permit. This is a multi-language permit that confirms that you currently hold a valid driver’s license in your country of residence. Countries that may not recognize your U.S. license will automatically recognize an International Driving Permit. Likewise, several countries, including Italy, require an officially-recognized translation of your regular driver’s license when you rent a car – unless you carry an International Driving Permit, which they will immediately accept.
If you’re a resident of the U.S., you can get an International Driving Permit from either the Automobile Association of America (AAA) or the National Automobile Club. According to the U.S. State Department, these are the only two authorized permit issuers in the country.
An International Driving Permit costs approximately $15, and you’ll also have to pay the cost of shipping if you send your application by mail. You can apply for your permit online from the AAA or National Automobile Club websites. You’ll need to get two valid passport-sized photos, which you can obtain from your local AAA office or an officially-recognized passport photographer’s; however, don’t use a photo taken from a coin-operated booth, because these are automatically rejected. When you apply for your International Driving Permit, be sure and include a copy of your U.S. driver’s license.
Once you have your International Driving Permit, it’s important to remember that you’ll still need to carry your original U.S.-issued driver’s license on your trip; otherwise, your International Driving Permit will not be recognized.
Once you’ve done your homework and secured the correct documentation, you’ll be allowed to rent a car and drive on your own during the entire length of your stay overseas. It may seem like a bit of a hassle to obtain this special permit, but in the end you’ll find that it’s well worth it to ensure that you’ll have the freedom to drive anywhere you want during your trip.