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Getting my International Driver’s Permit

So my moving date and work visa for South Korea are still pending– a bit nerve-wracking at this point.  There’s nothing more irritating than the notion of receiving a last-minute notice to book your ticket and move across the globe to a country, where you’re uncertain as to what you should expect in familiarity or a lack thereof.

In a way, I’m not quite sure how to pack for relocation abroad or for a move to South Korea.  I have read that certain products are hard to find- i.e. tampons, deodorant, larger sized shoes and clothing, etc….  While I assume that most food and product concerns can be dealt with or worked around if I ever find myself without; the inability to fit shoe/clothing sizes there, can’t be “worked around”.  Also, I have questions about where to base my credit cards, ATM accounts and a handful of other questions regarding official documents I may need besides a working visa.  Ugh. Well, maybe like most things, you just have to trust your traveler’s sense and wing it…

One thing I can cross of my list is my International Driver’s Permit (aka a ‘license’).

  How to get your international driver’s license:

The process took me all of 15 minutes to complete last week at my local AAA. Woo hoo…I feel like I just became of legal car driving age again! While I’m not sure if I’ll need to drive anywhere in South Korea, the process of obtaining one was relatively quick, painless and easy, in comparison to what I had gone through earlier with notarizing and apostilling documents for a work visa. For $15/year, it couldn’t hurt to have one!

IDP booklet
The International Driver’s Permit 14pp booklet

What is an International Driver’s Permit (IDP)?

Basically, an IDP allows me to use my U.S. driver’s license to legally drive in over 150 countries around the world (*Note: There are a few exceptions- I believe, South America is one of them). Although the IDP is a 14-paged passport/visa-like document, it is not considered –nor is a substitute for– a driver’s license (the U.S. does not issue International Driver’s Licenses). The document is a “permit”, which must accompany my U.S. license. It translates my license into 10 languages (English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Russian and Arabic, Japanese, Scandinavian, Italian, Portuguese) and verifies that I am, indeed, a recognized motorist of the United States.


When does your IDP expire?

It expires one year from the date requested to start.

IDP countries


IDP transcribed French

How to get one

The U.S. government currently authorizes only 2 companies to legally distribute this: AAA (where I got mine and you are not required to be a member) and the National Automobile Club. To buy this from with any other website dealer or company, which claims to sell permits or offer International Driver’s Licenses are at best, risky.

The earliest application request can be made 6 months in advance. Applications for a permit can be made via mail or in-person and from the United States or abroad.

  What do you need to apply for an IDP?

–  A complete application found on either website
–  2 original passport photos
–  A photocopy of the front & back of your driver’s license
–  A $15 payment fee as well as, shipping or handling fees, if applicable

*Note: A passport photo will be used and seen in the document.

Other Info about Driving when abroad:

Tips for Traveling Abroad- US State Department Road Safety Overseas  ( website)


  1. Jill says:

    Sounds amazing!! Congrats on your international driver’s license!! As for obtaining necessities in South Korea… there is always the internet. You can always shop online for shoes and tampons. Good luck!! Keep blogging!! I can’t wait to keep following!!!

  2. Sounds like you’re gearing up for an eye-opening, amazing experience. Packing for a long term stay can be daunting, but we humans always seem to adjust. Somehow. 🙂

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