Can I Drive in Kuwait with American License?

Drive in Kuwait with American License

Yes, you can drive in Kuwait with an American license, but only for a limited period. Visitors holding an American license are allowed to drive in Kuwait for up to three months from the date of their entry into the country. However, to legally operate a vehicle on Kuwaiti roads, you must also obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP).

Requirements to drive in Kuwait with American license

Visit Visa Holders

Visit visa holders in Kuwait typically have certain conditions and limitations when it comes to driving. Here’s a general overview:

  1. Driving with a Foreign License: Visit visa holders can usually drive in Kuwait with American license alongside an International Driving Permit (IDP) for a limited period, often up to the validity of their visit visa or up to 3 months.
  2. International Driving Permit (IDP): If you’re from a country like the U.S., an IDP is recommended to accompany your native driver’s license. It acts as a translation and is recognized in many countries.
  3. Car Rental: Many car rental agencies in Kuwait allow visit visa holders to rent vehicles. However, they might have specific requirements like holding an IDP or having a credit card for security deposits.
  4. Validity: The ability to drive in Kuwait for visit visa holders is usually tied to the duration of their visa. Once the visa expires or if one changes to a different type of visa (like a residency visa), different rules might apply.
  5. Obtaining a Kuwaiti License: Visit visa holders typically cannot apply for a Kuwaiti driving license. Only residents with valid residency visas can go through the process of obtaining a local driving license.
  6. Traffic Rules & Regulations: Regardless of visa status, all drivers must adhere to Kuwaiti traffic laws. It’s a good idea to familiarize oneself with local driving customs and regulations to avoid any penalties or issues.

Short-Term Workers in Kuwait

Short-term workers in Kuwait, often on temporary or project visas, have their own set of rules and considerations when it comes to driving:

  1. Driving with a Foreign License: Generally, short-term workers can drive in Kuwait with American License alongside an International Driving Permit (IDP) for a limited period. The exact duration can vary, but it’s often tied to the length of their work contract or visa.
  2. International Driving Permit (IDP): An IDP is recommended for short-term workers from countries like the U.S. to accompany their native driver’s license. It translates the license into multiple languages and is recognized in many countries, including Kuwait.
  3. Applying for a Kuwaiti License: Unlike visit visa holders, short-term workers might be eligible to apply for a Kuwaiti driving license, depending on the duration of their stay and the nature of their job. However, the process can be bureaucratic and may require various documents, including a letter from the employer, residence proof, and passing a driving test.
  4. Car Rental: Short-term workers can often rent cars in Kuwait. Rental agencies might require an IDP, a credit card for security deposits, and proof of employment or visa status.
  5. Traffic Rules & Regulations: All drivers, regardless of their visa status, must follow Kuwaiti traffic laws. Given that driving habits and rules might differ from one’s home country, it’s essential to acquaint oneself with local customs and regulations.
  6. Insurance: Ensure that the vehicle, whether rented or owned, has valid insurance coverage. Some insurance policies might have specific clauses related to the driver’s visa status.
  7. Residency Status: If a short-term worker’s status changes (e.g., transitioning to a long-term work visa or residency), the rules related to driving might change as well. It’s important to stay updated and make necessary adjustments, such as applying for a local license.
Requirements to drive in Kuwait with American license

Workers with Long-Term Visas in Kuwait

Workers holding long-term visas in Kuwait, often referred to as residency visas, face a different set of rules and guidelines when it comes to driving:

  1. Driving with a Foreign License: Initially, long-term visa holders might be able to drive in Kuwait with American License along with an International Driving Permit (IDP) for a short period after arrival. However, this is temporary, and they’ll eventually need to obtain a Kuwaiti driving license.
  2. Obtaining a Kuwaiti License: Long-term workers are usually eligible to apply for a Kuwaiti driving license or to convert their American license to a Kuwaiti one.
  3. Traffic Rules & Regulations: Adhering to local traffic laws is crucial. Penalties for violations can be stringent, and repeated offenses might lead to deportation in extreme cases.
  4. Vehicle Registration: If you’re planning to purchase a vehicle, it needs to be registered under your name. Ensure that the vehicle undergoes regular inspections and has valid insurance.
  5. Driving Experience Requirement: Some reports suggest that Kuwait has imposed a minimum driving experience requirement for expatriates to obtain a driver’s license. This means that you might need to have a certain number of years of driving experience in your home country before being eligible for a Kuwaiti license.
  6. License Renewal: Like any other license, a Kuwaiti driving license will have an expiry date. Ensure timely renewals to avoid legal issues.
  7. Insurance: Mandatory for all vehicles. Make sure the vehicle you drive, whether owned or rented, has valid and comprehensive insurance coverage in Kuwait.
  8. Changes in Employment: If there’s a change in your employment status or you switch jobs, it might impact your driving license, especially if your new job category is not eligible for a license.

How to get IDP in America

In the U.S., there are two organizations authorized by the U.S. Department of State to issue IDPs: the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA). Here’s how to obtain an IDP in America:

  1. Eligibility:
    • You must be at least 18 years old.
    • You must have a valid U.S. driver’s license.
  2. Application Form:
    • Download and fill out the IDP application form. Both AAA and AATA have their respective forms available on their websites.
  3. Passport Photos:
    • Provide two original passport-sized photos. Some AAA locations offer photo services for an additional fee.
  4. Copy of Your Driver’s License:
    • Provide a photocopy (both front and back) of your U.S. driver’s license.
  5. Fees:
    • The fee for an IDP is $20. However, this could change, so it’s a good idea to check the current fee on the respective organization’s website or call ahead.
  6. Submission:
    • In-Person: You can apply in person at a local AAA branch. Some locations might provide on-the-spot IDP issuance.
    • By Mail: If you’re applying through the mail, send your completed application, photos, a photocopy of your driver’s license, and the required fee (usually by check or money order) to the address provided by either AAA or AATA. It’s recommended to use a trackable mailing method.
  7. Duration:
    • An IDP is valid for one year from its issue date. However, it’s essential to remember that an IDP is not a replacement for your U.S. driver’s license. You must carry both your IDP and your U.S. driver’s license when driving abroad.
  8. Avoid Scams:
    • Only AAA and AATA are authorized to issue IDPs in the U.S. Beware of scams or unauthorized providers that claim to offer IDPs. An IDP obtained from an unauthorized source may not be valid or recognized abroad.
How to get IDP in America

Converting American license to a Kuwaiti License

Converting an American driver’s license to a Kuwaiti license involves certain steps and documentation. Here’s a general guide on how to go about it:

  1. Eligibility: Before starting the conversion process, you need to ensure that you’re eligible. Typically, individuals holding a valid Kuwaiti residency visa and possessing a valid American driver’s license can apply.
  2. Documentation: You’ll need to gather the necessary documents. Commonly required documents include:
    • Your original American driver’s license.
    • A translated copy of the American driver’s license (usually in Arabic).
    • Passport with valid Kuwaiti residency visa.
    • Civil ID (Kuwaiti identification card).
    • Recent passport-sized photographs.
    • A letter from your employer (often referred to as a ‘no objection’ letter or simply a letter confirming your employment).
    • Blood type certificate (some offices may require it).
  3. Medical Examination: You may need to undergo a medical examination, which typically includes an eye test. Some medical centers designated by the traffic department offer these services.
  4. Driving Test: Depending on the discretion of the traffic department, you may be required to take a driving test. However, in some cases, American license holders might be exempted from the practical driving test.
  5. Fees: There will be associated fees for the conversion process, which can vary. Ensure you have the means to pay, usually in the local currency.
  6. Visit the Traffic Department: Once you have all the required documents and have completed any necessary tests, visit the local traffic department or the designated licensing office in Kuwait. Submit your documents, pay the necessary fees, and follow the procedures outlined by the officials.
  7. License Issuance: If all requirements are met and your application is approved, you will be issued a Kuwaiti driving license. This license will be valid for the duration of your residency or as indicated on the license.

Renting a car in Kuwait using an American License

Renting a car in Kuwait with an American license is feasible, but there are certain points you should keep in mind:

  1. International Driving Permit (IDP): While your American driver’s license is essential, it’s highly recommended to also have an International Driving Permit (IDP) when renting a car in Kuwait. The IDP can facilitate the rental process.
  2. Rental Requirements:
    • Age Restrictions: Typically, renters must be at least 21 years old, but some rental agencies may have a higher age requirement or charge a higher fee for younger drivers.
    • Valid License: Ensure your American driver’s license is valid and not expired. Most rental companies require that you have held your license for at least a year.
    • Passport: Rental agencies will often require your passport to confirm your identity and visa status.
    • Credit Card: A credit card is usually required for security deposits. Some agencies might accept a debit card, but it’s less common.
  3. Insurance: Car rental agencies will offer various insurance options, such as collision damage waiver (CDW) and third-party liability. It’s essential to understand what’s covered and consider purchasing additional insurance if necessary. Also, check with your credit card company; some offer international rental car insurance as a benefit.
  4. Local Traffic Laws: Familiarize yourself with Kuwaiti traffic regulations and customs. For instance, Kuwait drives on the right-hand side of the road, and seat belts are mandatory for all passengers.
  5. Rental Agreement: Thoroughly read the rental agreement. Pay attention to terms related to mileage limits, fuel policy, and any potential fees.
  6. Inspect the Vehicle: Before leaving the rental lot, inspect the vehicle for any existing damages and ensure they are documented to avoid any disputes upon return.
  7. GPS and Maps: Consider renting a GPS device or using a mobile app with offline maps to navigate around Kuwait.
  8. Driving in Sand: If you plan to venture into desert areas, ensure you’re driving a suitable vehicle and are aware of the basics of driving in sandy conditions.
  9. Return Policy: Be clear on the return policy, especially regarding the fuel level and the exact return location.
  10. Emergency Numbers: Familiarize yourself with local emergency numbers or assistance services provided by the rental agency.
Renting a car in Kuwait using an American License



To drive in Kuwait with an American license, it’s advisable to also have an International Driving Permit (IDP) alongside the U.S. license. While the American license is recognized for a short duration, typically up to 3 months, having an IDP can simplify interactions with rental agencies and authorities. If planning a longer stay, obtaining a Kuwaiti driving license is recommended.

Faisal Nazir
Faisal Nazir shares his insights and experiences to help readers discover the hidden gems and vibrant culture of Kuwait.


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