International Driver’s Permit – Do Not Leave Home Without It

Continuing our July travel tips series, this week we take a look at the sensibility and particulars of obtaining an international driver’s permit (IDP). Note: It’s a permit, not an international driver’s license.  You must have a valid driver’s license from your state to qualify for the IDP.

When accompanied by your valid US driver’s license (and always have your passport with you when driving overseas), your IDP will allow you to drive legally in many countries that recognize its validity. It may also be required or recommended by many rental car agencies.

Basic IDP information:

Basics of an International Driving Permit (IDP)
  • You must be a permanent US resident at least 18 years of age and have a US driver’s license that will remain valid for the next six months.
  • Your IDP lets you drive legally in foreign countries when accompanied by your valid US driver’s license.
  • It is recognized in 174 countries.
  • Only two organizations in the US issue IDPs: Automobile Association of America (AAA) and American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA).
  • The fee for an IDP is $20. (as of July 2019)
  • An IDP can be issued immediately at an AAA branch or may take 10-15 business days by mail from AAA or AATA.
  • An IDP is valid for one year.
Requirements for Getting an International Driving Permit
From AAA

  • Can apply in person or by mail
  • Completed AAA IDP application
  • Two passport-sized photos
  • Driver’s license (either in person or photocopies by mail)
  • $20 IDP fee
  • Accepts check, money order, or (in person only) major credit cards
From AATA

  • Can apply only by mail
  • Completed AATA IDP application
  • Two passport-sized photos
  • Signed photocopies of front and back of driver’s license
  • $20 IDP fee
  • Shipping and handling fee: domestic ($10 or $35) or international ($85)
  • Accepts check or money order

If you are a foreign driver coming to the U.S. and wish to drive, can you obtain an IDP here? No.  You must have a valid foreign driver’s license and you must obtain an IDP from the same country in which your license was issued.

The U.S. Government does not require you to have an IDP to drive in the US but some individual states may require you to have an IDP to drive on their public roads,. However, many other states do not. California, Massachusetts, and Arizona are among the states that require only a valid foreign driver’s license, not an IDP. Still, it is recommended that you get an IDP because it will be written in English and facilitate communication if you need assistance while driving or are involved in an auto accident.

Countries that recognize IDPshttp://www.drivers.com/article/937/

And again, we recommend that you check with the U.S. State Department to obtain the latest travel advisory for your foreign destination immediately before departure.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.  Head on a swivel when traveling.

Dying To Get Away? You Just Might If You Travel To Certain Countries.

The Dominican Republic has been all over the news these past several months as an unusually high number of American tourists have died there under mysterious circumstances.  (From our perspective, the culprit appears to be tainted alcohol that was consumed from the hotel mini-bars.)  This anomaly aside, the first step in planning any trip abroad should be to check our State Department’s Travel Advisory map.   This color-coded guide to our world is  fluid and continually updated as conditions around the globe change rapidly in any country at any time.

From the U.S. Department of State:

Travel Advisory Levels 1-4

The Travel Advisory appears at the top of each country page, with a color corresponding to each level:  Most Travel Advisories are at Level 1 – Exercise Normal Precautions – or Level 2 – Exercise Increased Caution. Travel Advisories at Levels 2 – 4 provide clear reasons for the advice, use common risk indicators, and state specific actions U.S. citizens should take if they decide to travel to or reside in that country. The new format highlights areas within a country that are of particular concern and provides specific advice for U.S. citizens who decide to travel to those areas.

We consider many factors to determine the Travel Advisory level for each country, including crime, terrorist activity, civil unrest, health, natural disaster/weather, and current events. We clearly explain the reason for the Travel Advisory level and describe the safety and security concerns. The information used to formulate Travel Advisories is collected from a range of sources, such as crime statistics and other information that is publicly available, information gathered from U.S. government sources, as well as assessments by our embassies and consulates. Travel Advisories also take into account decisions made to protect the security of U.S. government personnel overseas and ensure that U.S. citizens receive appropriate security information. This analysis is undertaken without regard to bilateral political or economic considerations. Travel Advisories represent our commitment to protect U.S. citizens traveling and residing abroad by providing them important safety and security information.
We work directly with experts to consider many factors to determine Travel Advisories, including crime, terrorist activity, civil unrest, health, natural disaster/weather, and current events. We clearly explain the reason for the Travel Advisory level and describe the safety and security concerns. We consult closely with personnel in embassies and consulates throughout the world, security and intelligence experts, and with other agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control.
After a careful review of the security situation, we advise U.S. citizens not to travel to a country as U.S. citizens face a greater likelihood of life-threatening risks in that country. In some countries with a Level 4 Travel Advisory, we have no U.S. embassy or have a very limited diplomatic presence, so our ability to help U.S. citizens is limited. We advise U.S. citizens who decide to travel to a country with a Level 4 Travel Advisory to write a will, have custody arrangements for children, prepare security contingency plans, and have plans if taken hostage or detained.

Travel Advisory Sample (currently in effect)

Advisory

Level

Date Updated

North Macedonia Travel Advisory Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions December 26, 2018
Nauru Travel Advisory Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions April 2, 2019
Palau Travel Advisory Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions December 17, 2018
Burma (Myanmar) Travel Advisory Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution June 18, 2019
Worldwide Caution Caution January 15, 2019
Afghanistan Travel Advisory Level 4: Do Not Travel April 9, 2019
Albania Travel Advisory Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions July 10, 2019
Algeria Travel Advisory Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution April 9, 2019
Andorra Travel Advisory Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions August 28, 2018
Angola Travel Advisory Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions April 9, 2019

Also, if you would like to receive alerts, choose the method that works best for you here:  travel.state.gov/stayingconnected

So, enjoy your travels abroad but stay informed.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Top 5 Reasons Why Cell Phone Signals Suddenly Go Bad

1. Heavier than usual cellular traffic. There’s really nothing you can do about a saturated cell tower but wait out the phone traffic.  It’s a numbers game- the more phone traffic that fights for that same spot, the weaker your signal becomes.

2. Building material.  The primary reason for a weak cell signal is the materials that surround you.  Whether you are home, at work, in a shopping center, your cell phone is struggling for signal access.  Metal and tinted, low-E glass are the two main materials most responsible for a degraded cell phone signal.  You’ll notice when waling around that if your signal improves, you are usually by a door or window rather than metal construction materials that blocks your phone’s signal.

3. Low Battery.  Your phone needs actual energy to maintain a connection.  The higher the charge, the better the connection.  Keep your phones battery at optimal charge.

4. Bad weather, geography, cosmic events.  Cell phones operate via electromagnetic waves which can easily be affected by weather (thunder, lightening, wind, rain, snow, etc.), natural obstructions (hills and mountains commonly impact cell phone reception) and cosmic occurrences (such as sunflares).

5. Blocking your own antenna.  The bulky, shoebox-sized cell phones of the early days of mobile communication were surprisingly better at connectivity than today’s sleeker models. The early phones had exterior antennas- making the reception fairly consistent.  Today’s cell phone antennas are embedded inside the phone.  You can effortlessly and unknowingly block the antenna and lose your signal.  You can easily search online for the exact location of your phone’s antenna and once known, inadvertent blocking should be significantly reduced.

The best solution for all of the above is a good mobile phone booster: https://www.lifewire.com/best-cell-phone-signal-boosters-4154516

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

 

RING – The New Law Enforcement Surveillance Tool

remote access

For years now, privacy rights activists have been calling for the restriction of government security cameras in residential neighborhoods.

That scenario has been overtaken by the proliferation of private surveillance cameras in the form of smart doorbells, like Amazon’s Ring.  Given Ring’s explosive popularity, their usage in so many homes has now essentially created a private surveillance network across the country.

According to cnet:

Aware of this network, police departments across the country have offered free or discounted Ring doorbells to citizens, sometimes using taxpayer funds to pay for Amazon’s products. While Ring owners are supposed to have a choice on providing police footage, in some giveaways, police require recipients to turn over footage when requested.

Ring said that it would start cracking down on those strings attached.

“Ring customers are in control of their videos, when they decide to share them and whether or not they want to purchase a recording plan. Ring has donated devices to Neighbor’s Law Enforcement partners for them to provide to members of their communities,” Ring said in a statement. “Ring does not support programs that require recipients to subscribe to a recording plan or that footage from Ring devices be shared as a condition for receiving a donated device. We are actively working with partners to ensure this is reflected in their programs.”

While more surveillance footage in neighborhoods could help police investigate crimes, the sheer number of cameras run by Amazon’s Ring business raises questions about privacy involving both law enforcement and tech giants.

Police can gather more video footage, while Amazon can charge new Ring owners up to $3 a month for subscription fees on the smart doorbells. Residents, meanwhile, get some peace of mind, particularly with the Neighbors app, essentially a social network sharing camera feeds.

More than 50 local police departments across the US have partnered with Ring over the last two years, lauding how the Amazon-owned product allows them to access security footage in areas that typically don’t have cameras — on suburban doorsteps.

We ask, security at what price?

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.