International Driver's License


Announcer: Go behind the wheel, under the hood and beyond with Car Stuff from HowStuffWorks.com.

Scott Benjamin: Hi, everyone. Welcome to Car Stuff. I'm Scott Benjamin, the auto editor here at HowStuffWorks.com.

Ben Bowlin: And my name is Ben Bowlin. I hang with Scott. I do some things, and I say some stuff.

Scott Benjamin: Good. You're being very vague again.

Ben Bowlin: Well -

Scott Benjamin: Just covert?

Ben Bowlin: I was thinking about actually going covert, going underground for a while. Studio 1A, we've got our fingers in a lot of pies, so to speak, internationally, and I'm not at liberty to say exactly what I'm getting into, Scott, but I can tell you that it involved maybe a little bit of travel.

Scott Benjamin: Really?

Ben Bowlin: Uh huh. Hypothetically!

Scott Benjamin: Hypothetical travel.

Ben Bowlin: I can never confirm nor deny - neither confirm nor deny.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, I understand.

Ben Bowlin: So, that's why we've stumbled upon this episode of Car Stuff. This is about the driver's license.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, but not just any driver's license. We're talking about an international driver's license. And a lot of people may not have ever even heard of something like this. The only reason we stumbled across it, really, was because we actually had a listener that asked about driving from - I believe it was from Canada or was it - somewhere here in North America all the way down to the very tip of South America, and he was asking about licensing, oddly enough. And I said I don't think I'd worry so much about the license. I would worry about the DariƩn Gap.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, which we had talked about too.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, because you had mentioned that in the past, right?

Ben Bowlin: Yes.

Scott Benjamin: There's a segment of the Pan American Highway, right?

Ben Bowlin: One of the most dangerous.

Scott Benjamin: Well, it's missing. There's nothing there. You've got to get through something like 20 miles of Panamanian jungle.

Ben Bowlin: Which makes it dangerous if you're not expecting it?

Scott Benjamin: And swamp. It's like it's a swampy, jungle area. It's not something that you can really get through, and that's the only hitch in the plan, I guess.

Ben Bowlin: Right, but who are we to tell people that they shouldn't pursue their dreams?

Scott Benjamin: No, no, no, give it a shot because you can ship the car around that section. You can do that anyway.

Ben Bowlin: And what a story it'll be.

Scott Benjamin: Exactly.

Ben Bowlin: So, we decided that we wanted to just take a moment and address some of the ideas about an international driver's license. So, first off, what is it?

Scott Benjamin: Well, quite simply - you want to tell them, or do you want me to do it?

Ben Bowlin: No, you do it. You do it.

Scott Benjamin: Okay. It looked like you were about ready to break into it there, so I didn't want to step on your toes. Basically, what it comes down to is this. It's a backup for your standard driver's license that you have issued here in the States. What it does is it's just another form of documentation that goes along with your driver's license. It explains that you are a valid registered driver to someone of another country.

Ben Bowlin: And you have to carry your regular license with you.

Scott Benjamin: Correct, correct. Yeah, you have to carry the other one with you at all times, so you have to have both pieces of ID. Actually, there are three pieces of ID. There's a card that you get with an international driver's license, and the car has just your typical information, your driving information. The other one is like a booklet. It's almost like a passport size booklet.

Ben Bowlin: In nine languages.

Scott Benjamin: Exactly. I heard 10.

Ben Bowlin: Is it 10?

Scott Benjamin: I think it's 10.

Ben Bowlin: It might be 10 now.

Scott Benjamin: Well, maybe English is included for some reason.

Ben Bowlin: Are they counting English?

Scott Benjamin: I don't know because it would be on our driver's license anyway, and you would have no problem communicating that, I would think.

Ben Bowlin: You've got to cover the bases, bro.

Scott Benjamin: I don't know. I'm not sure. Maybe you're right. Maybe you're right. But the thing is that these licenses are valid in more than 150 countries, and there's a whole list of countries that participate in this, and it's part of a - what was it? A United Nation convention that happened, and there's several years where these road and traffic safety conventions were held. It's going back to the '20s, the '40s, and it looks like the '60s, where these international driving permits kind of sprang forth, I guess. The countries listed here, there's everything. It's Peru, Honduras, Hong Kong, Jordan, Bulgaria. There's an alphabetical list here that you can go through, but like I said, it's more than 150 different countries that it's valid in, but you do have to have you state ID along with it. You can't just use the international license alone. It won't be accepted.

Ben Bowlin: So, that's - if there's 150 countries that accept it, then that means there's a little more than 40 - between 40 and 50 - that don't because depending on who you talk to in the UN, some countries are not considered countries.

Scott Benjamin: Exactly, so do your research before you head out and buy one of these.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, plus, do you really want to go to a place that's already not considered - that seems kind of dangerous.

Scott Benjamin: That's another good point is where exactly are you headed? You might want to look into that.

Ben Bowlin: But the majority of countries do accept this license, and more countries accept the international driver's license than accept your domestic US license.

Scott Benjamin: Correct. That's correct. But you do have to have both at the same time.

Ben Bowlin: Still have to have it.

Scott Benjamin: It's this Catch-22 that you have to have both at the same time. Now, the reason for that is that you can't use it as a substitute license. Let's say if your license was suspended or revoked, that doesn't count as a driver's license. You can't just use that here in the states and say that you're licensed - or anywhere. You have to have both. You have to be 18 in order to have this, so even though you can drive at 16 in a lot of states, you have to wait until you're 18 to get an international license.

Ben Bowlin: You don't have to take a test, though.

Scott Benjamin: No, that's right. Yeah, you're right. There's no test required because you've already taken the test for your state, and you've got your license, so that's really all the proof you need. Now, what you do need to apply - you'll find this on any of the sites that mention international driver's licenses. You need a photocopy of your current valid driver's license. You need an applicant photo in color with a blank background, so it's like a passport type photo that you need, really. There's very specific requirements for that, so make sure you look into that as well, and of course, the form. There's an application form that you can find at several different - well, actually, a couple different websites, not several.

Ben Bowlin: A couple.

Scott Benjamin: There's only a few places that this is available.

Ben Bowlin: There's AAA, National Auto Club, right?

Scott Benjamin: Yep.

Ben Bowlin: And let's see. I don't know if the .gov sites actually have the application.

Scott Benjamin: I found one that was called idlservice.com.

Ben Bowlin: Yes, that's recommended by the -

Scott Benjamin: Oh, is it really?

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, it's mentioned.

Scott Benjamin: Recommended by the government?

Ben Bowlin: I believe so, yeah.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, okay, very good. So, idlservice.com. The thing about this there's a fee that goes with it. It's kind of like a passport fee, really, when you look at it this way. And you can choose how long your document is good for. You can decide that you want it good for one year, and that's $35.00 right now.

Ben Bowlin: Keep going.

Scott Benjamin: Three years is $45.00. Five years is $55.00, and 10 years is $75.00, so you can go all the way up to the 10 years validity on this thing. Of course, you pay shipping to get it back to you, and there's priority mail and business next day express and that type of thing. It really isn't all that expensive. You can buy insurance on this thing, so if you do lose it while you're abroad or if you're a man, you can bring the - I'm just kidding. I'm just kidding. If you lose your license while you're overseas, you can have this replacement s ent directly to you, and there will be no issue at all, no cost, I think. I don't know. It's just kind of an interesting thing to have, but as we found out -

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, you don't - the majority of Americans don't need it.

Scott Benjamin: No, you don't really need it.

Ben Bowlin: Because you want to go to Canada? That's fine. Drive to Canada.

Scott Benjamin: True, true. You'll find that people that have traveled to Europe and have traveled to Mexico, and they've gone the usual places - they head over to Italy, and they're gonna have a long week there, and they're gonna rent a car. There's really no problem. As long as you're able to speak to the authorities there and the rental car agency and communicate exactly what you're doing, and they can understand the English that's printed on your license, then you're okay. It's not a bad idea to have just so that this translation is there. It eases the way, I guess, really.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, and especially if you have to travel a lot, and you have to rent a car most times.

Scott Benjamin: Exactly. But this is really an optional thing. It's useful, but it's optional. Really, there's gonna be very few instances where you'll actually really need this thing.

Ben Bowlin: Right.

Scott Benjamin: Like you said, you can drive a car in almost any country in the world if you have one of these things. You can rent a car. It doesn't matter where you are, really, in those 150 countries.

Ben Bowlin: It still functions as ID.

Scott Benjamin: Exactly. It's ID. It's backup ID for your passport. Let's say you need another form of ID with a photo, here it is. Because that's often asked, and what are you gonna give them? Your astronaut application card? I don't know. That's from The Jerk.

Ben Bowlin: I thought it was - okay, look. When I applied for that, I thought it was real, okay? I know it's my fault, but I wish you wouldn't bring it up on air.

Scott Benjamin: That's from The Jerk. You remember the movie The Jerk?

Ben Bowlin: I saw it years ago.

Scott Benjamin: He's doing through his wallet, and he pulls one thing out. It was like his astronaut application form or something like that.

Ben Bowlin: We need more of those around the office.

Scott Benjamin: I think he missed - what did he say? He missed everything except his name and date of birth or something like that. I forget the exact quote. And you mentioned already that there's no test involved, so it's really just a matter of sending away for this thing like you would for a passport. But do you really need one? The short answer is no.

Ben Bowlin: Okay, I'm gonna go with you part of the way, Scott. I'm gonna say probably not. If you did decide to get one and you weren't traveling anywhere, then really, all it is is something cool to show people.

Scott Benjamin: True.

Ben Bowlin: To say, "Hey, look at my international driver's license book."

Scott Benjamin: Sure. It's like a deputy sheriff badge that you've received somewhere.

Ben Bowlin: Did you see that?

Scott Benjamin: You've got one, do you?

Ben Bowlin: Yeah.

Scott Benjamin: Maybe it's on your coat. I didn't see it.

Ben Bowlin: No, no, we have some, but I don't think they're real. I hope they're not real.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, I hope so.

Ben Bowlin: I certainly nope this is not how I find out that I am a deputy. But yeah, so I'm gonna go ahead and say the average person probably does not need this. Now, Scott, one thing that makes it a little bit different here is that you and I are not super versed in the driving laws of western Europe, so we don't know how that works.

Scott Benjamin: Correct.

Ben Bowlin: If there's an EU listener or something, we're not gonna misspeak, but for our friends driving through Canada, North America, Mexico, hitting Central America and going through South America, it probably is a good investment just because once you get past Mexico, the law for these other countries in Central and South America are not going to be the same in every country.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, sure. It's highly individualized. You're gonna find some places you'll need different documentation than others, like you said. You may find this is one of the small countries that you absolutely have to have it or else they'll make you track all the way around that country.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, which you don't want to do.

Scott Benjamin: No, that would be a bad thing to do. A 2000-mile diversion in your trip that would be bad!

Ben Bowlin: Yeah. That's part of the nature of an adventure, right?

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, I guess so.

Ben Bowlin: A hazard of the adventure business.

Scott Benjamin: I guess.

Ben Bowlin: I think I might get one just so I feel cool, but I know it's not gonna do anything.

Scott Benjamin: So, you're going to pony up the $35.00 or $75.00 even?

Ben Bowlin: Oh, just the year.

Scott Benjamin: Just the 1-year? So $35.00!

Ben Bowlin: I'll do the 1-year. I'll keep the expired one if I'm not using it anyway.

Scott Benjamin: I gotcha. You're gonna have it shipped overnight, though, right?

Ben Bowlin: You'll never know until you see me pull it out, and then we'll see how the tide has turned.

Scott Benjamin: True, true. You'll be the cool guy in the office. You'll probably be the only one here with an international license.

Ben Bowlin: I don't know. We have a lot of interesting people.

Scott Benjamin: There's a lot of travelers here.

Ben Bowlin: There are quite a few.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, you're right. Maybe there is somebody here that has one. We haven't even taken a poll around the office to see if anybody has one.

Ben Bowlin: We should check it out. We should also ask listeners to write in.

Scott Benjamin: Yes, definitely.

Ben Bowlin: If you guys have an idea about this.

Scott Benjamin: Or if you have one. If you have a license, and when has it been useful to you?

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, or has it?

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, or has it been useful? Is it something that just remains in your wallet all the time?

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, because we're not being dismissive. We're just curious.

Scott Benjamin: Exactly.

Ben Bowlin: And just to make a point about us liking listener mail, what do you think, Scott? Should we do some right now?

Scott Benjamin: I think that's a good idea. All right, Ben. We've got a note here from Jerry, and Jerry is from Valdosta, Georgia.

Ben Bowlin: Jerry has written to us before.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, I think you're right. As a matter of fact, I remember that name. One thing I should mention here is Jerry gave us a couple of nicknames.

Ben Bowlin: Oh, really?

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, he did.

Ben Bowlin: Oh, okay.

Scott Benjamin: You want yours or mine first?

Ben Bowlin: I want yours first.

Scott Benjamin: Okay, Scott "Bloodhound" Benjamin.

Ben Bowlin: Oh, that's great.

Scott Benjamin: I guess that's for the Bloodhound SSC, the new one, right?

Ben Bowlin: Yeah.

Scott Benjamin: You would be Ben "Road Rally" Bowlin.

Ben Bowlin: I'm good with that.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, that's not bad, huh?

Ben Bowlin: Road Rally.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, yeah. Not bad.

Ben Bowlin: And you're Bloodhound.

Scott Benjamin: Not bad. All right, well, thanks, Jerry.

Ben Bowlin: Thank you.

Scott Benjamin: Not only that, but Jerry wrote in about our antique license plate podcast.

Ben Bowlin: Oh, okay.

Scott Benjamin: He says he actually experienced some excitement over the topic because it's something that he's been thinking about recently, I guess. He sees a lot of antique plates around where he lives and kind of questions the validity of some of them as well.

Ben Bowlin: Right.

Scott Benjamin: He mentioned he was on I-75 and noticed an antique plate on a Datsun pickup that was in front of him, and he said everything that he had heard from us came flooding back to him all in one moment.

Ben Bowlin: Oh, no.

Scott Benjamin: But he did say - here's one interesting thing, and this is the real point of the e-mail here is that he says that it occurred to him that perhaps a new plate is needed, a cultural icon plate, and perhaps it might fit cars like the Yugo a little better, cars that have a certain place in our collective consciousness for sure, but definitely not in a parade. So, he's saying that it's not really classic. It's not something that you'd care to see in a parade necessarily at this point, but it does have a place in history, something that we all are familiar with, and it's to that age. To see one is a rarity at this point, so somebody has in some way likely preserved it in a manner. So, yeah, he's saying a cultural icon plate might be a good idea.

Ben Bowlin: You know what? That's a good point because this is not the first e-mail we've received wherein someone was telling us that maybe there should be further divisions for plates.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Ben Bowlin: I'm with that.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, I think I am too.

Ben Bowlin: The Golden Age was the other one, cultural icon.

Scott Benjamin: See, but - it's a good idea, don't get me wrong, but any time you have a new category like this, then what fits in that category? What fits in a cultural icon category? And you could argue about that all day because, again, that's up to the interpretation of the owner and the interpretation of the agency that's doling out the icon plates.

Ben Bowlin: Fair enough. I've got a quick listener mail for you.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, good. Well, thanks, Jerry. I appreciate this.

Ben Bowlin: Yes, thank you, Jerry. All right, so Jed writes in from Brooklyn, New York, and Jed wanted to also talk about license plates. He said, "In answer to one of the questions Ben brought up about diplomatic license plates, a Google search of UN parking tickets will bring up a host of articles that outline a pretty fun kerfuffle," nice word, "that's been going on here for as long as I've lived here. Diplomats' cars are ticketed," says Jed, "but they aren't required to pay under federal law. However, New York City does keep an account of the money owed, and every once in a while, a mayor with a bee in his bonnet will make a stink about it." Even the Secretary General of the UN has had to make concessions and statements, and agreement s to pay have been made, but no money has ever actually changed hands, as far as Jed knows.

Scott Benjamin: This is funny.

Ben Bowlin: Thanks for writing in, Jed. As soon as we read this -

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, this is funny because why are they keeping track even, if they're just not gonna do anything about it?

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, is it like political leverage?

Scott Benjamin: This goes back to you saying that you wanted a UN plate, right?

Ben Bowlin: Yes, sir, I want a UN plate.

Scott Benjamin: Because you'd be able to park anywhere, do anything you want.

Ben Bowlin: Dude, it's like a doctor's plate times 10.

Scott Benjamin: You would be jumping the draw bridge as it's opening, right?

Ben Bowlin: I probably would. You know what? Even if made such a bad decision, I would have immunity.

Scott Benjamin: That's true.

Ben Bowlin: They would keep track of it.

Scott Benjamin: Diplomatic immunity is what you're saying, right?

Ben Bowlin: Oh, man, I've got to -

Scott Benjamin: But apparently, that's not true. They actually are responsible for that fine, but they're just not paying it.

Ben Bowlin: They're keeping track, though.

Scott Benjamin: You know what this reminds me of?

Ben Bowlin: What's that?

Scott Benjamin: Just sort of a little bit?

Ben Bowlin: What?

Scott Benjamin: Here in Georgia, we have a toll road just outside of our building, and the toll is 50 cents.

Ben Bowlin: 400, yeah.

Scott Benjamin: Now, there are people that go through that continually without paying. You know the pass lanes?

Ben Bowlin: Um-hum.

Scott Benjamin: And the fine, the paperwork fee that goes along with that 50 cent toll that you didn't pay, if you go through without having the right card, is like $25.00.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, it takes it up to $30.00.

Scott Benjamin: So, if you drive through without paying the toll, it's $30.00 or $25.50, and then they charge interest on that as time goes along. There was someone here, I believe - they just recently had an amnesty program where if you paid the fees that you owe -

Ben Bowlin: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I remember.

Scott Benjamin: I think there was a woman that had gone through - I forget the number of times. It was in the thousands. I can't remember the dollar amount that she owed, but it was outlandish. It was like the cost of a big home. I don't know if that person ever came forward and paid the fee. I would think not, but they know who the person is. That's my point is that they know who the person is. They know the fees owed, they're just not collecting them. They're saying, "Hey, why don't you come on and turn yourself in?"

Ben Bowlin: Well, it costs so much more to pursue someone.

Scott Benjamin: And it wasn't just that one person.

Ben Bowlin: Sure, there's hundreds.

Scott Benjamin: There are companies that do it. There are individuals that do it, of course. People just passing through the state do it. But yeah, this kind of reminds me of that. There's a tally rolling here, and someone's just not coming forward and saying, "Yeah, here's what I owe."

Ben Bowlin: Put it on my tab, Department of Transportation.

Scott Benjamin: Exactly. So that kind of shoots down the whole UN parking plate thing, huh?

Ben Bowlin: Well, I don't - Georgia and New York City are very different. Atlanta is a very different place. They've got toll roads everywhere up there, too.

Scott Benjamin: True, true. Yeah, true.

Ben Bowlin: So, I guess a big thank to Jed from Brooklyn, Jerry from Valdosta. You guys have broken down some pretty interesting things for us. We hope our listeners enjoyed the e-mails as much as we did. Do you have - do you remember, guys, earlier when we asked about the international driver's license story? If you've got one, let us know. If you want to keep in touch with us, you can talk to us on Facebook. You can talk to us on Twitter. That's Car Stuff on both of those.

Scott Benjamin: That's right, Ben. And on our Twitter account, I believe there was someone asking to see your Monte Carlo, so you may want to get on uploading a photo of that thing. I think a lot of people want to see it.

Ben Bowlin: I need to wash it, man. If I do the Monte Carlo, you need to put the Civic up there too.

Scott Benjamin: Okay, we'll see. We'll see.

Ben Bowlin: Ah, now, it changes.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, we'll see.

Ben Bowlin: All right, guys. Well, that pretty much does it for Mr. Benjamin and myself today. I think we're gonna mosey out of here.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, it's time. We'll have to leave these comfy chairs.

Ben Bowlin: Yes, and we're also gonna have to leave you with one last thing, which is our e-mail address.

Scott Benjamin: Yep, that's right, and it's carstuff@howstuffworks.com.

Announcer: For more on this and thousands of other topics, visit HowStuffWorks.com. Let us know what you think. Send an e-mail to podcast@howstuffworks.com.