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Maureen McCoy

Road Trip! How to Get an International Driving Permit

Whether you’re beach-hopping in Mallorca or exploring the many enchanting villages of Catalonia, there are few better ways to explore Spain’s remotest corners than by road trip. And to make that trip a success, you need the right documentation.

An international driving permit (IDP) is a good option for anyone who is considering driving while in Spain or elsewhere in Europe. Luckily, it’s also one of the easiest travel documents to obtain.

When to Get an International Driving Permit

Before a recent trip to Europe, I wasn’t sure whether or not I would be renting a vehicle for any day or weekend trips, but I wanted to be prepared just in case. IDPs are valid in many countries and are highly recommended in case a country or rental office does not accept foreign licenses.

You can sometimes get away with renting a car abroad without one of these documents. Still, it’s worthwhile to invest a little time and a little money to make sure your road trip isn’t spoiled by a little bad planning.

How To Get an IDP

One of the easiest ways to get a permit is to visit your local AAA office. If you’re a member, you can get everything all in one place at many local branches: the application, your passport-sized picture, and the actual document itself.

International Driving Permit
An example of an International Driving Permit.
Photos for AAA members are $10 or less, or can even be free, depending on your membership type. The permit fee is approximately $20. If your local branch doesn’t offer passport photo services, visit a local Walgreens or Post Office.

Even if you’re not a member of AAA you can still get a photo for $15 and the standard permit processing for the additional $20. If you’re in a hurry, you can fill out the online application and print it out ahead of time, but it took me less than 20 minutes do everything in the store!

You can also apply for and receive your permit by mail from AAA by following these instructions.

While in Spain

Remember to bring your current driver’s license, and make sure that your address on your application matches the address on your license exactly. When you’re renting a car, you’ll also want to make sure to have your passport on hand—they’ll most likely ask for your passport number and might want a copy of the document.

If you have more questions about driving requirements (for permits, insurance, etc.), visit the U.S. State Department website. Otherwise, you’re good to go. Have a great drive!
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