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International drivers license for France?

Does any one know whether or not I need an international driving permit to drive with in France? I remember several years ago that one seem to be required but then the general wisdom seem to be that no one in France cared anymore. Then I recently read something about needing one. Does anyone have any thoughts on this? I’d really appreciate any advice You might have.

Posted by
4177 posts

Not required, but recommended. If you don’t get one, you should carry a notarized translation of your U.S. license.

Posted by
2059 posts

Personally, I don't think anyone really cares whether you have an IDP or not. However, French law specifies that you may drive in France as a tourist as long as your home license is:

  • otherwise valid
  • in French or is used in conjunction with an official French translation, such as an IDP which is issued in the US by either AAA or the American Automobile Touring Alliance, the only two entities sanctioned by the U.S. Department of State to issue IDPs. By treaty, US issued IDPs are only valid for 1 year and must be reissued after 1 year. Any other translations must be performed by a traducteur agréé.

https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/F1459

Alternatively, if you move to France, your US license is valid for 12 months - no IDP required.

Posted by
2059 posts

American licences with the numbered items eliminate the need for any translation,

Do you have any written reference for this, or is it just that it sounds logical?

Posted by
11448 posts

It's $20. Get it. If you are stopped and get a ticket for not having one, are you going to return to fight it?

Posted by
511 posts

Thanks, everyone. It looks like we will just go ahead and get the IDP from AAA. While I would like to cut back on papers to carry and additional work (granted, not much) at this point in my life and with Covid making everything more difficult I would just as soon avoid any possible problems. So thanks, one and all for your input.

Posted by
8411 posts

We were involved in a very bad car accident in Provence in 2019, a guy came out of a side street and broadsided us totaling our car. Police from 3 jurisdictions came to the scene of the crash and interviewed us. Asked for our passports and US Driver’s License. Not one of them ever asked for an International Driver’s License.

Posted by
676 posts

IMHO, it is a scam, and promoted because it is a profit center for AAA. The AAA IDL is only valid for one year, despite the fact that it references a license that is valid for much longer. This topic is debated on this forum often, and no one—NO ONE—has EVER reported having an issue in France with ANYTHING because they didn't have an Intentional Driver's License. Did I mention "NO ONE? EVER?" In reality, you are much more apt to have a hassle because you were mailed a ticket from a photo radar, long after your return to home, and courtesy of your rental car agency ratting you out. You won't even see or speak with a policeman relative to this. It'll just come in the mail.

I personally have carried a translation of my driver's license following the official order spelled out (easy to search for online). But it has never been an issue for me, never been asked for it, and I've never worried about it. Honestly, I don't know why I even bother, but at least it doesn't cost me $20 a trip.

Posted by
6728 posts

The only time we were ever stopped by police we were asked for the IDP along with our license. It is required (or the cumbersome equivalent of a notarized translation). Car rental agencies usually don't but sometimes do ask for it.

Posted by
8411 posts

I agree wholeheartedly with PharmerPhil.
In addition to the 8+ police officers never asking for it (see above) I’ve been renting cars in France often for 32 yrs (and as recently as 10 days ago) and have never been asked for an IDP.

Posted by
5531 posts

Quite honestly, it doesn't matter if anyone has asked to see it or not. This is the same theory that high school students have that if they aren't caught, they aren't doing something wrong.......

The good news, is that the French government site makes it clear that a US drivers license is all that is necessary. It is what the French government thinks that matters here.

Posted by
11448 posts

I recently took a number of trains in France, I was not asked for a health pass or ticket. Therefore, IN MY EXPERIENCE, you don't need a pass or a train ticket.

Back home, I have been known to drive fast. I can easily do 20 mph over the speed limit. I have never gotten a ticket. Therefore, IN MY EXPERIENCE, you can drive as fast as you want and never get a speeding ticket.

Now, about the IDP........

You see why the phrase..."in my experience" means nothing? It's the law that matters. Somehow telling a police officer.. "the people on the Rick Steves Forum said I didn't need it" is not going to get you out of trouble.

Posted by
1204 posts

I've bitten the bullet and purchased the IDP for piece of mind just in case I need it. For example, what if I planned a driving trip and after arrival couldn't rent the car because the rental agency demanded the IDP and I didn't have one? Or the cops grab me and haul me in and torture me because I don't have one? At least I can say I have an IDP collection gathering dust with my passport collection.

Once outside of Cancale, France I got caught up in a big speed trap and talked my way out of the ticket even though I don't speak the language. I grabbed my trusty Rick Steves' France Guidebook and tried to use the translation section. My attempt to speak and understand French was purposely laughable. The machine gun toting officers got so frustrated they waved me on because too many other cars were flying by and they were losing business. I don't remember if they asked for my IDP.

Posted by
8411 posts

IDPs are not required by law. I believe Kerouac’s response is the correct one.

Posted by
2059 posts

IDPs are not required by law.

While this is technically true, if you do not have an IDP, you must have either a license issued in French as are Canadian licenses or have your license officially translated into French by a government approved translator. This government website clearly explains the requirement under Conduire en France avec un permis étranger.

As to what consequences one may expose himself for not having an IDP or official translation - I have never heard of any.

Posted by
2059 posts

Easy to understand if you have a specific reference, so stating.

Posted by
4177 posts

@kerouac2 - yep. One spends a fortune on airfare alone nowadays and don’t want to spend $20 to possibly make life easier. Makes no sense to me.

Posted by
3331 posts

@Kerouac2
You reveal yourself as not being American. Not only does each state have its own driving license format - - - though that may be changing with the advent of the “real i.d.” The same is true of marriage laws, voting qualifications, education policies, gun laws, abortion laws, etc., etc. Some like that just fine; others think it’s a form of insanity. But back on driving . . . It probably drives foreign visitors a bit mad to try to keep in mind what’s permitted when driving in the U.S.
To those who whine about “speed traps”
It is absolutely true that in most of the U.S. you will not be ticketed unless you exceed the speed limit by more than 10 mph, or unless you are passing through a small town that needs a revenue boost. However, European countries are quite different. Many employ cameras to clock speed, and they have a very low margin of tolerance. There have been reports here of drivers being ticketed on the causeway to Venice, who claim that they were going only 2 kph over the limit. To return to the topic, however, the possession of an idp is not relevant to speeding.

Posted by
8849 posts

Why the need for 15 additional comments after OP said they were going to get the IDP

Just wondering........

Posted by
1191 posts

I have driven in Italy and Germany, spent the $20 for the license. Will do it for my France trip, too. No big deal compared to the thousands the trip will cost me!

Posted by
676 posts

For example, what if I planned a driving trip and after arrival
couldn't rent the car because the rental agency demanded the IDP and I
didn't have one?

The rental car agencies will never ask for this.

Posted by
3493 posts

I was asked for my IDP. The rental agency was extremely insistent that I had it. This was in 2009. Glad I had it (Agency was Hertz.)

Will you ever be stopped and asked for this? Don't know. I have been driving since 1978. Only been asked once for any type of license (other than when renewing my actual driver license when I had to show a couple times through the years, and for other things unrelated to driving).

Why not have it? Sure is a lot easier if you do run into the one cop an all of Europe who is having a bad day and wants to make your life miserable over one piece of irrelevant documentation.

Posted by
676 posts

I was asked for my IDP. The rental agency was extremely insistent that
I had it. This was in 2009. Glad I had it (Agency was Hertz.)

I've been to France eight times since 2008 (and once in 1996). Every time I rented from Hertz, and never once did they ask for a IDL. Once I tried to offer it and was waived off. That, and the fact that no one else here has ever said they were asked for one in France by a rental car agency makes your story suspect to me. Why not get one? $20 (every year), wasted time and unneeded worry all argue against getting one for me. Your time and money may not be as important to you. Or at least more important than adhering to some useless, unenforced recommendation from worry-warts, idk. The bigger question is why bother? If you want to get one, go for it. But don't try to scare others into bothering.