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International drivers license in France to rent car?

We have two rentals in France booked for April. I was reading somewhere that they may require the driver to have an international driver's license or at least a copy of the French translation of their US driver's license. The companies we are renting from are Europcar at the Tours TGV station and Enterprise at the Avignon TGV station.

Posted by
20334 posts

Just go ahead and get one and then you can stop worrying. Easy and cheap at AAA.

Posted by
12172 posts

Best advice is to go ahead and have one with you. They don't take long to get and don't cost much.

I normally rent away from airports because you can get better deals. I never get asked for my IDP (not a license, just a translation of yours) when I rent. If the person didn't speak enough English to read your driver's license, they would probably want it and rental counters at airports may be more likely to check.

You're required to have one to drive in France, however, whether the rental counter asks for it or not. I've never been ticketed (or in an accident) but I'd rather carry one and never use it, than need it and not have one.

You can save a little money and time by bringing extra passport photos to with you to AAA.

Posted by
8173 posts

You are required to have the license. We have never been asked for it by a rental company but when we were stopped by police one time we had to show it. My husband had inadvertently turned on the fog lights on the car and we were stopped for that; the cop looked like he anticipated we would not be able to produce the IDP and seemed surprised when my husband had it and then instructed us on the law regarding fog lights and let us proceed without a ticket. I felt that if we had not had it, we would have had a ticket.

Posted by
2916 posts

I've never been asked for one at the rental counter, nor the one time I was stopped for a random breathalyzer test. However, when an IDP became required a few years ago, I started to get one. The AAA office is just down the road, so it's easy for me. The one thing that's annoying is having to get a new one every year. At least the first year the AAA agent dated the IDP for the day we left for our trip, and that wound up covering next year's trip.

Posted by
4154 posts

An important consideration that is usually left unaddressed , is the insurance implication - if you have an accident , and do not have an IDP , it is very likely that your insurance underwriter ( whomever that may be ) will deny a claim based on the issue that you are an improperly licensed driver . By the way , I spend a protracted period of time in Europe each year , and prior to my trip , my wife and I take IDP's , even if we have no plans to rent a car - one never knows if doing so might be desirable on the spur of the moment

Posted by
4618 posts

There's some misinformation above, you are NOT specifically required to have an IDP in France, here's the reg:

Si vous venez en France pour un court séjour (pour des vacances par exemple), vous pouvez conduire avec votre permis. Il doit être valide et être rédigé en français ou accompagné de sa traduction ou d'un permis international.

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

Using my imperfect French: "If you come to France for a short trip (a vacation, for example), you can drive with your driver's license. It must be valid and be written in French or accompanied by a translation or an international license (or permit)."

Car rental websites may say that an IDP is required (or a "notarized official translation"), but this language is not country specific. The Enterprise website says (or did in 2014) that IDPs are required for the UK and this isn't true. Try the language for the terms of rental for a car in France and one in Egypt. Are the terms the same asking for an IDP and an official notarized translation?

I cannot foresee any insurance implication, what could that possibly be?

Posted by
524 posts

Always have your passport with you when you pick up the car.

Posted by
4154 posts

" I cannot foresee any insurance implication, what could that possibly be? " .. The answer is clearly stated in the sentence that followed , describing the possibility of the invalidation of your insurance .

Posted by
3521 posts

It is probably a completely true statement that no state in the US issues driver licenses in French. Also, getting an official translation into French of the license would probably be costly.

Just get the IDP if you think you might drive when you are in Europe. $15 and a passport picture at AAA. Problem solved (for at least a year).

Posted by
50 posts

I am renting a car next week in France and I will have an international driver's license. We are also driving in Monaco, Italy, and Switzerland. The international driver's license through AAA is so cheap and easy, there is absolutely no reason not to do it. I believe Switzerland required one, but I don't recall that the others did.

I would rather have more than I need versus less than a police officer may want when I am traveling in a foreign country.

If it was a hassle to buy and cost 10x as much perhaps I would think otherwise. Thankfully, it is cheap and easy. About ten minutes and $20.

Posted by
10308 posts

Steven--I'm lost. Where is the sentence about insurance?

Mark--it doesn't say "official" translation--and believe me if the French wanted an official translation, they'd let us know in no uncertain terms. That sucker would be translated by a certified translator, stamped, embossed, and sealed with wax. You name it. But in this case, if you can do it yourself, you're good to go.

In other words, if you're fluent in the language, don't worry about it. If not, the IDP is the way to go.

Posted by
4154 posts

Hi Bets , always good to hear from you - I start my post ( above ) with a comment indicating that that the lack of an IDP can have potential implications from an insurance company , in the form of denying a claim. Hope this helps , but if not , let me know . Sue joins me in sending regards , Steve

Posted by
3774 posts

No rental car company has ever asked me for my IDP but I always get it. I was asked for it once by an officer who asked for it in English near Strasbourg so may if I had not had one, he would have been able to read my license in English. The instruction that I read at http://franceintheus.org/spip.php?article376 about the IDP said that the translation had to be notarized so I got the IDP because I could translate my license myself but I am not a notary and notaries in my area charge $20 per document and the IDP costs $20 and I could use it in multiple countries . As to Steve's argument about insurance, as a former insurance investigator, do not underestimate the ways that an insurance company will find to deny a claim.

Posted by
4154 posts

JHK , Thanks , I appreciate your understanding , Steve

Posted by
10308 posts

Typique--the Embassy website says notorized, but the French government website just says translation. I'd go with the Government website, which is publishing official code, over the Embassy, but as I said, if you aren't fluent and can't translate your own....

Posted by
32245 posts

The bottom line for driving in France is that you must have either a notarized / certified translation in French of the terms of your home D.L. OR an International Driver's Permit. The IDP is by far the easier choice of the two, as you can pick one up at any AAA office for a small fee. The IDP is valid for one year, and must be used in conjunction with your home D.L. so you'll have to take both.

Posted by
287 posts

Before I got my French driver's license, which was an interesting exercise in itself, I leased a car for an extended period and rented cars dozens of times in France but never was asked for an IDP. Not once. The law requires either an IDP or a translation of your license, which you could prepare with Google Translate and a computer printer if you wished.

I've always viewed the IDP as a bit of a scam. Why should it expire after one year, necessitating yet another payment to get another, when the underlying license -- the document that actually provides the right to drive -- doesn't expire for another 3, 5 or 10 years? It makes no sense.

And, of course, le code de la route (French driving laws) says many other things about driving and parking that are routinely ignored as well, which you will no doubt observe as you tool around the countryside and cities.

If I didn't have a French license and I was visiting France for a short time, I'd probably just photocopy my American license onto a blank sheet of paper, number the various fields (name address, height, weight, expiration date, issuing state, and so on) and then on the lower part of the sheet prepare a numbered list, in French, that defines what the terms mean, such as:
1. Name = nom
2. Address = adresse
3. Expires on = date d'expiration
4. Height = taille (convert to cm)
6. Weight = poids (convert to kg)
5. Eye color = couleur des yeux (translate the color)
...and so on.

I think if you had that along with your license you would be OK if stopped.

Posted by
2916 posts

I've always viewed the IDP as a bit of a scam. Why should it expire after one year, necessitating yet another payment to get another, when the underlying license -- the document that actually provides the right to drive -- doesn't expire for another 3, 5 or 10 years? It makes no sense.

I've always felt that way, but since there's an AAA office down the road, I've started to get an IDP the last few years. And when I look at my IDP, I wonder why it's necessary in a country like France. It provides so little info, which info would be pretty obvious to even a non-English speaker. It might be different in a country that has a different alphabet, like Cyrillic.

Posted by
8293 posts

So please enlighten me. If the IDP is a scam, who is running the scam? Is it the AAA in America? Perhaps the CAA in Canada? Or could it be the governments of France or Italy? Whichever or whoever it is, they must be getting richer by the minute as travellers pay the handsome sum of $15 for an IDP. The $15 is over and above the many thousands of dollars a trip to Europe costs, not to mention the rental car cost plus fuel, tolls, etc.

The objection to the necessity of needing an IPD for EVERY trip to France, a $15 IDP, is too funny. If one can afford multiple trips to France ....... well, you can guess the rest.

Posted by
196 posts

Sam, I'll go ahead this time and say it for you - "Back to Sam's first response"!
Norma, you are good too.

Posted by
3521 posts

Norma,

Maybe they can afford multiple trips to France because they don't buy an IDP every year? That $15 adds up! ;-)

Posted by
4154 posts

I , for one , find Norma's posts consistently uplifting . Rare to encounter a poster with such a great capability for critical thought .

Posted by
1379 posts

You're supposed to have one to rent but they may not request it; however, why take the chance of not being able to rent and blow your itinerary. If the cops pull you over (like they did me) they'll want to see it. So get the IDL. BTW - the cops wanted to charge me 90 euro for speeding in Cancale. I got out my Rick Steves France Guide and went to the language section to try to apologize in French (my effort was laughable). They got frustrated with me for taking so long and let me go!

Posted by
4618 posts

As I have already stated (and proven with link!), requirement for a notarized translation does not come from the French govt. This wording is on rental car website terms and conditions, but these do not appear to be tailored for each country's specific requirements, just generic terms and conditions for any international rental.

Cost for IDP isn't $15 anymore, it's $20 + $11 for photos + 1 hour of time, hardly the nothing some people say getting it is. Added to the other trip related running around: stopping mail and setting up pet sitter and stopping newspapers and watering plants and arranging airport transport and notifying banks and credit cards and all the setting things up at work for your absence, for a piece of paper no one (in France) ever asks for....

So I'm with K, just doing that translation thing. Note that things like corrective lenses, donor status, eye color, weight, height, are not even on European licenses, so for me that leaves 8 words to translate: expires, issued, sex, date of birth, driver's license, and the bold words are already (more or less) in French.

If I were renting anything but an ordinary passenger car (like a motorcycle or a truck) I would get the IDP.

Posted by
10308 posts

2 points: 1, you had better be fluent enough to answer questions if you do your own translation, or the officer may not be a happy camper. 2, don't forget the month and day are reversed, so 11/2/17 is Feb. 11th, not Nov. 2nd.