Drivers Licenses

Each country has its own ideas about what qualifies you to drive on their home turf. If you'll be living in or visiting a country for anywhere near a year, you'll need to figure out what they want you to do.

Start with a colleague or friend in the host country if you can. Failing that, check with that country's Embassy, and/or the American Embassy in the host country for details. You can locate various foreign embassies' home pages here.

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For the web sites of American Embassies around the world, start here. Requirements can differ greatly from one country to another, and in my experience Embassies rarely have this information handy. Sorry.

For a short term stay or visit however, an International Drivers License might be just the ticket.

An “international” license is not much more than a document from some trusted source, such as the AAA in the U.S., attesting to the fact that you have permission to drive in Ohio and thus should be allowed to drive in Mali.

Not every country in the world honors these “licenses” and even if say Japan does (it does), that does not mean the clerk at the car rental counter in the airport has seen one, or that she'll allow to drive off in a late model car with absolutely no knowledge of the host country's laws or road system. Call me silly, but under those circumstances maybe you don't want to just hop in and hope to learn to read kanji road signs on the drive in to town.

That said, obtaining a license is fairly easy. Check with your auto insurance company to start.

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