International Driving Permit

If you are not moving overseas/ specifically to the US/ specifically to New York, this will not interest you. Do not read further.

One of the really exciting things you need (kind of) if you emigrate is an INTERNATIONAL DRIVING PERMIT.  If you are just travelling, not all countries require an IDP, but it doesn’t hurt to have one, especially if you want to rent a car. However, it is only valid for one year, so if you emigrate you have to apply for a local license eventually. I got an IDP because I do not need or want a driver’s license for New York. I will almost never need to drive and if I do, I can with my South Africa license and IDP. After a year I will have to do all the tests and pay all the money to get a New York State license and surrender my SA license to the DMV monster.

The most important things to know about the IDP:

  • It does not function alone, you have to carry it with you driver’s license from your country of origin
  • You have to apply for it at home, you cannot do it from the USA
  • To apply you need your license, your passport, 2 ID photos and a copy of your ticket and they give it to you on the spot
  • In South Africa: You get an IDP from the AA (Automobile Association) and it costs R250

The New York DMV website is actually very informative and helpful. Here is the specific page about being a driver from another country:

Look how pretty:



Things in Airports

Here’s a budget rule: Do not buy things in airports. Unless it is 100% essential for survival. (Gifts for mother in laws etc do fall under this category). A couple of things:

Duty Free: There is something about a duty free stores that makes normal, rational human beings turn into rabid over consumers, buying everything in site because it is marginally cheaper. I understand the odd gift or perfume or electronic device, but for the love of god, you do not need a giant plastic m&m man filled with 10 000 m&ms. (besides, those m&m men are creepy)

Anything Else: Airports are overpriced and you probably only want things because you are bored and they are yelling BUY ME.

Obviously I broke this rule immediately upon entering Ataturk Airport. What I didn’t realise is that if you pay in dollars, they give you change in Turkish Lira, so I effectively lost $10 like that.

Fly To the United States of America

International flights are just expensive, there is no getting round it, but especially so from South Africa. It really helps if you have parents who are willing to pay for you flight, but it’s probably not as satisfying as having paid for your flight yourself. Either way, at least $1000 will get you: a flight across the world, a chiropractic nightmare, some kind of stewed aubergine dish, and an electrical fire disguised as a blanket. Actually not the blanket, you don’t get to keep the blanket.

If you’re on a budget you’re definitely looking for the cheapest flight option which usually comes at the expense of a comfortable travelling experience. I had the choice between a direct flight on South African airways and, for about $500 less, a flight on Turkish Airlines via Istanbul – a 30 hour trip including 7 hours in the Istanbul airport. Which is where I am at this very moment. I chose Turkish because I believe quite strongly that only with age and wisdom does one earn the right to take the expensive, comfortable option. If you are unemployed, broke and have the vigor of youth, you must rough it.

Turkish Airlines has developed an excellent service: they offer reasonably prices flights to all over the world and all the in-flight movies your heart could ever desire. The Ataturk Airport has become a central travel hub for international travel – it is currently the 15th busiest terminal in the world for international traffic. I was ready to write a glowing review of my experience with the airline until I arrived at the Istanbul Airport. Navigating the transit area of the airport is no simple feat and because no one who works there has any idea what is going on, I’m going to put it down in writing, WITH DIAGRAMS, for anyone who wants a less painful experience than I had:

Correct Procedure at Ataturk Airport for Passengers in Transit:

(A)   Exit Airplane

(B)   If flying to The Americas or Israel, go to the additional security Check to be interrogated and have your passport stamped. Note: Look carefully as there is only one tiny sign indicating that you should go here.

(C)   Join the chaotic mass of people waiting to go through security. One man will check the passports of every one of the thousands of passengers waiting here. Note: look carefully for the tiny sign indicating the Transit line. Go through transit security.

(D)   Take the escalator to Freedom (or your connecting flight, which you may have missed by now)

My Procedure at Ataturk Airport in Transit:

(A)   Exit Airplane

(C)   Join the chaotic mass of people waiting to go through security. Be told to go back to additional security for passengers travelling to the USA.

(B)   Go to the additional security check to be interrogated and have passport stamped.

(C)   Join the massive line disguised as a mob of people waiting to go through security. Be told there are too many people and to go stand ‘over there’ (points vaguely in another direction)

(E) Join line for passport control. Realise this line is not for transit passengers.

(H) Ask Information Desk. Get sent to stand at (C)

(C) Still too many people. Get sent to another security check point 1km away

(F) Join the chaotic mass of people waiting to go through security. Wait for additional airport staff to arrive to help deal with the backlog. Go through security.

(G) Exit to freedom via escalator an hour and half later.


Transit Area in Istanbul Airport, with labels



  • Every individual red dot represents one human
  • Green represents things which are supposed to be helpful but are not
  • Grey labels indicate permanent features of the airport
  • Blue labels indicate my own scientific assessment


Please Note:

  • This diagram is not drawn to scale
  • I spent a good amount of time deciding how to spell ‘airplane’. I still have no idea.
  • I was quite pleased with how my x-ray machines turned out. Aren’t they fancy?