This post was written by Kaye McDaniel
So, you are heading abroad to teach English. Have any of your interviews included the question, “Do you have an international driver’s license?” They might. There are a lot of schools that will have you commuting to other areas (don’t worry, they provide a company car). An international license can therefore be very helpful for those heading to rural areas or who plan to work at multiple branch schools within a single organization. Not having one will not necessarily hurt you, or maybe they won’t even ask, but it is definitely good to have anyway! If you don’t use it for work, you can always use it for a rental car to go on adventures.
I learned how to drive in Bangkok, personally. This probably explains why everyone who rides in my car clings to my upper door handle (which we call the “oh s#%! bar”) – and why one has actually been ripped off. My point is, while it is easy to get this license, you want to make sure you also know the rules of the road where you are heading. You would think that this would somehow be covered in the process of getting one – but it is not. Luckily. Imagine trying to memorize all the rules of the 175+ countries that accept it! So, as I always say, do your research. When you first drive in your new country, have a local friend play front seat driver with you so you don’t make any catastrophic mistakes and so you know what certain signs indicate.
So, how do you get one? If you are in the United States you will need to meet three grueling, nearly impossible, strenuous requirements that you will most certainly have to bend over backwards for:
1. A valid driver’s license
2. Two passport-sized photos
I know. It’s awfully daunting, isn’t it?
You can submit your paperwork in person or by mail. If you send it in by mail, it will only take about three weeks to get your license. Now, one thing to keep in mind is there are a lot of fakers out there, so I highly recommend (as does the State Department) that you only go through AAA (American Automobile Association) or NAC (National Automobile Club) to get your license.
You have one. What now? You’ll notice it says “Permit” – this is really just a technicality. Don’t worry; you can drive without a supervising adult. It’s usually only valid for one year, but you can reapply for a new one when it is about to expire. Also, you always want to keep your original driver’s license with you when you have an international one – you may be asked to present both should it ever be required.
So what if you don’t plan on driving? It can still be useful to have. Think of how often you use your driver’s license for identification purposes. The international permit you receive will have your photo and all of your important information written in ten languages plus English. It’s recognized as an “official” document of identification by most countries, so it can be a safe extra ID card to have.
I mean, come on. It’s $15.00!