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International driving license

Is it necessary to have an international driving license in France ?
We did years ago but are questioning whether we need one now ?
Thank you for your help .

Posted by
4363 posts

kerouac is spot on, but it doesn't look like Virginia is one of the states (most states do now, BTW) that uses the Vienna numbering format.

Nonetheless the practical advice is to just skip it, France really doesn't care. It falls is the "carry a portable lightening rod just in case" category, it really could happen that you are the first American asked to show one by someone, but it is extremely unlikely.

Note that West Virginia does use the Vienna format, time to catch up!

Posted by
4077 posts

I was reading somewhere about this last night, apparently there are 3 agreements dating back to the 1920s. They were going to be driving in Saudi Arabia, I believe.

Posted by
1029 posts

"carry a portable lightening rod just in case"

This is brilliant. But if AAA could find a way to soak you for a new lightening rod every year (cause they'd put an expiration date on them), I'm sure there would be people on this forum lining up to get them and chastising those who don't.

Posted by
20 posts

I have driven n UK, Spain and France in the last year and was never asked for an International Driver License by the rental agencies. That’s my biggest concern, someone at a rental counter will suddenly demand that to rent the car.

Posted by
7727 posts

We have been stopped by cops only once in the many years we drove in Europe; the first thing they asked for was our international driving permit and the cop actually seemed a little disappointed that we had it as it looked like he was winding up to be a jerk about it. You only need it when you need it. Since it is required by law, I would not want to be in an accident or stopped for an infraction without it. And yeah it is stupid that you have to renew it and pay for it so often.

Posted by
694 posts

The problem is that going by the strict letter of the law, unless your licence conforms to international standard you must have an IDP. Car hire places are supposed not to let you have a car unless your licence conforms or you have the permit. Most don't bother checking.

I'm not sure if I would run thd risk of spoiling a holiday worth a couple fo thousand dollars because I didn't spend $40

Posted by
2516 posts

But they're just in it for the money.

Maybe it seems that way, but this is the current requirement for those from outside the EU to drive in France:

Si vous venez en France pour un court séjour: (pour des vacances par exemple), vous pouvez conduire avec votre permis non européen: .

Le permis de conduire étranger doit remplir les 2 conditions suivantes :

What this states is that your license must be otherwise valid, and it must be accompanied by either an official translation, from a listed translator, or by an IDP (International Drivers Permit).

If you chose the former, your translation will be valid, as long as your license remains unchanged.

If you chose the latter, it must be obtained by an agency specified by the US State Department and issued pursuant to the 1949 Geneva Convention governing the acceptance of driver licenses in foreign countries. Signatures to this convention agree that IDPs are valid for one year only. There were later conventions, extending the period to 3 years, but the US State Department never signed any of these further agreements.

The State Department designates two agencies sanctioned to officially issue IDPs for those with US licenses: AAA and AATA.

Should you decide upon an official translation, a list of authorized translators is available here.

The above is only to help you make an informed decision, some have IDPs, others do not.

Posted by
37 posts

Thank you for the replies … wonder if that portable lightening rod can get thru TSA?
Guess it depends on who’s working that day.

Once again thanks .

Posted by
4363 posts

stopped by cops only once in the many years we drove in Europe

Continent-wide advice isn’t really terribly useful, advice for El Salvador doesn’t automatically translate to Canada for example.

OP needs to know that traffic enforcement in France is remotely done by cameras and not by speed trap or live enforcement, getting “pulled over” isn’t something you will experience or see happen there.

Travel is about managing reasonable risk. As someone who every so often rents in France I follow the IDP issue over the years and an instance of an American even being asked for an IDP when renting in France has never come up. It’s unreasonable to say an IDP has potential value in France, since it has yet to provide value to an American there.

Posted by
3561 posts

This question comes up repeatedly; and it never fails to generate loads of responses, 13, as of this moment, in 2 days. As usual there are the paranoid blatherings about how the AAA is scamming us.
Get real folks! We are talking about an expenditure of less than $30. And, fwiw, I was once asked for it at a car rental agency in Athens. Additionally, we were once stopped at one of those random road checks the Carabinieri conduct. The officer didn’t speak English, so I have no idea what they were looking for. However, I whipped out my idp; and, after he examined it, he waved us on. Glad I had it.

Posted by
6411 posts

Hey, I've spent years driving around foreign countries, visiting some very sketchy areas in every city, having unprotected sex countless times with complete strangers, and I've NEVER used a condom, and nothing bad has ever happened to me. Don't listen to anyone who tells you that you need to use "protection", they are just spreading fear and promoting useless spending and a general lack of intimacy. Go have your fun, you will be just fine without it -- really!!



Note: I'm just kidding. I do not recommend that at all -- that's just crazy!

Posted by
694 posts

I had my first IDP in 1977, and regularly renewed it for about 20 years after that. I've never used it.

All of my cars have hi-vis jackets. I have never used them either.

Just because I have never used either doesn't mean it could be a PITA if someone decided I should have one and I didn't. Especially as I would be dealing in a language I struggle with under stress.