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International Driving Pemit

We will be renting a car while in France this June. I drove in France before and had an international driving permit with me and was never asked for it. Do I really need one? Thanks

Posted by
3709 posts

No, you won't be asked for one, and a translation of your own making satisfies legal requirements. Search this forum, discussed super ad naseum.

Posted by
8293 posts

Once in France we were pulled over by the Gendarmes, in the middle of flipping nowhere, I think it was near Gap, and asked for our “papers”. Why? Who knows ..... maybe they were looking for a fugitive, maybe they just felt like stopping a rental car to check for an IDP.

Posted by
6514 posts

No, you won't be asked for one, and a translation of your own making satisfies legal requirements. Search this forum, discussed super ad naseum.

That's a pretty brazen statement. I agree that it has been beaten to death on this forum, but disagree with your first sentence. You may very well be asked for it, so it's definitely a situation where it's better to have it and never get asked for it, than to get asked for it and not have it. It's a small price to pay in relation to overall trip costs. Just my opinion, but I think it's much easier to just get one at AAA than to find someone who speaks French to do a translation of my home license and then get it notarized so it's official.

Posted by
3488 posts

In addition to Nancy's comments , there is another consideration for the IDP - In those countries that require it in addition to your home license , if you have an incident ( say a fender bender or worse ) , your insurance underwriter can refuse a claim based on the fact that you were not properly licensed . If you don't think that they won't do it , you don't really understand how insurance companies think .

Posted by
3709 posts

Based on French law (ref and translated in posts previously) and reputable posts the statement is not brazen. Norma and another poster have (name forgotten by me) speculated that an IDP was required but it isn't clear from what they post that they were being asked for one, just vague comments about "papers" or in the other instance voiceless waves of a hand. Quebec licences (and any license in French) is specifically exempt from a translation or IDP requirement anyway by French law.

Repeat, no one here has ever posted that a police officer OR a car rental agency specifically asked for an IDP.

The other comment about insurance is simply made up, no experience or documentation from posters supporting this frequently posted assertion/guess.

Posted by
2916 posts

The insurance issue is questionable, although not resolved. For an American, an IDP is essentially required, unless you want to waste your time putting together a translation of your license that may or may not suffice.

Posted by
3709 posts

OP is only claiming to drive in France, all my comments refer only to France.

It’s not reasonable to propose that US credit card insurance will be combing foreign language law to get out of covering someone a local agency authorized to drive a car. In any event is there any posting on any website that says this ever happened?

Would like to stick to 3 things:

  1. French law

  2. Language of insurance contract

  3. Posting of actual experiences

Personal experience: it’s less time to make up a translation than get IDP.

Posted by
2576 posts

This from the French embassy’s website:
IF YOU ARE ON A SHORT VISIT OR SHORT BUSINESS TRIP (LESS THAN 90 DAYS)

You may drive with a valid U.S. driver’s license if it is accompanied by a notarized translation in French. It is strongly recommended that you carry an International Driving Permit. You must be 18 years of age or older to drive in France. (More information may be found here).

Tom, it takes two passport photo’s, a trip to AAA and a few bucks to get an IDP. If you can get a notarized translation of your drivers license faster than that, more power too you!

Posted by
8515 posts

FYI--Being pulled over happens a lot on Friday late afternoons after work and Sunday after family lunch time, two times people may be drinking a lot and driving. This happens in towns, at the entry to villages, not on the autoroutes. We've been stopped a few times to blow into a balloon.

We've also been stopped and had to open the trunk, but I don't remember if we were asked for a license, car registration, or ??
Personally, I was stopped and did have to show my US license to an officer near Cassis once, but as a French speaker, it was no problem, so I can't comment on the IDP or even a translation, which we would do ourselves, if we really had to do it.

Posted by
2067 posts

It is strongly recommended that you carry an International Driving Permit.

Are you sure that an International Driver´s Permit referred to in French law is the same as the $20 translation by the AAA?

And I´ll agree that you will be asked for your valid license but no one will ask about a translation unless you have official business or make a formal appearance in a French court.

Posted by
8889 posts

Are you sure that an International Driver´s Permit referred to in French law is the same as the $20 translation by the AAA?

Tocard, Yes. There is only one IDP. It is regulated by international treaty, same way a Passport is.

And I´ll agree that you will be asked for your valid license but no one will ask about a translation unless you have official business or make a formal appearance in a French court.

I disagree. The law says you have to have your licence plus an IDP (or a notarized translation, NOT a home made one). There are plenty of cases on this forum and elsewhere of people being stopped by the police and having to provide both.
When was the last time you were stopped by the police in your home town and asked to show your licence? Probably a long time ago. But, would you conclude from that that you don't need to have a licence - NO.

Posted by
5269 posts

IDP seems like cheap insurance against trouble if one is ever stopped or in an accident. I wouldn't drive overseas without one. I've never been pulled over but I still carry one along with my US license.

It's easy and cheap to get, so why not?

Posted by
8515 posts

notarized translation in French.

What qualifies? Does this mean notarized at the Consulate--lol--getting an appointment and traveling for hours round trip? Or, does it mean we can translate it and take it to our local bank to be notarized by someone who knows no French?
And what if we still have our French licenses from decades ago--they are issued for life, even if the address is forty years out of date.
I wonder what other dual nationals do? --Roberto, anyone else?

Posted by
2576 posts

Getting the IDP is so easy I don’t know why anyone would fuss with trying to get a notarized translation. Short of finding a notary who is fluent in French I have no clue how one would even go about getting this.

Posted by
2067 posts

Tocard, Yes. There is only one IDP. It is regulated by international treaty, same way a Passport is.

Interesting. I have yet to find this definition written in any government documentation.

What qualifies? Does this mean notarized at the Consulate

No. Each préfecture keeps a list of approved translators. The translation of any non-French document will only be formally accepted by the préfecture or a court if the translation is completed by an approved translator.

Posted by
6514 posts

Interesting. I have yet to find this definition written in any government documentation.

Maybe not 'government documentation' but this website does answer a lot of the questions about the IDP and, while I haven't examined it in detail, it may give you some ideas about where to find the government documentation. It does explain why AAA is the official issuing agency in the US.

Posted by
8515 posts

I don’t think this sentence in English on the Embassy website, according to the poster, is referring to the lists at the prefectures’ offices. I think it means any US notary. The Bureaucracy likes stamps, signatures, embossing, as long as it looks like it’s been officially overseen by an authority. It’s not intended for tourists to get in those long lines at the Prefecture for something like this. The employees wouldn’t have a clue what the tourist is asking for.

Do you really need one—yes, probably. Yes, AAA is the easiest.
Why a notarized translation for us—my husband bristles at the idea of an IDP to drive in his own native country, so it’s easier for me to make a quick stop at the bank. C’est la vie.

Posted by
335 posts

Thanks for all your “interesting” input. I’ll be returning to AAA and getting another IDP.

Posted by
2067 posts

Nancy - Thank you for the link to the Travel World Heritage website.

Information contained within this website points out that a 2011 amendment to the 1968 Vienna Convention agreement, which outlines IDP rules & usage, provides that those in possession of a driver´s license issued in the new number format are exempt from needing an IDP, logically because there literally is nothing to translate. This format has been adopted by the EU countries and interestingly, by a number of states in the USA.

If you were to compare a French driver´s license with the Washington State license from the above link, you will see that they are line item identical because they both are issued within the provisions of Annex 6 to the 2011 amendment to the 1968 Convention Agreement on Road Traffic.

Posted by
3376 posts

Would like to stick to 3 things:

French law

Language of insurance contract

Posting of actual experiences

Personal experience: it’s less time to make up a translation than get
IDP

Since you seem to want to persist with this matter: We lived in Germany for 3 years, and travelled extensively by car through western Europe in that time. And have driven rental cars in France as recently as 5 months ago. We always had an IDP. A few years ago we were stopped outside a small town in Northern France by a road block. Don't know what or who the police were looking for, but there was a long line of cars. DH was asked for his DL and then his permit. Last fall he was asked to show both the DL and IDP at the rental agency when we were picking up.. Your previous statement on here that no one has ever posted actual experience is hogwash.

As has been pointed out multiple times, you can't just "make up" a translation. It has to be done correctly and notarized. I seriously doubt you could do that more cheaply than getting an IDP.

Posted by
676 posts

Here's what I use:

Permis de Conduire États-Unis

“1. (LAST NAME)

“2. (MR./MS. FIRST MIDDLE)

“3. (DOB:) DD.MM.YYYY (BIRTH TOWN/CITY)

“4a. (ISSUE DATE:) DD.MM.YYYY

“4b. (EXP. DATE:) DD.MM.YYYY

“5. (LIC. #)

“7. (SIGNATURE)

“9. (CODE, Usually B for passenger cars, mine includes Motorcycles, easy to look up)

This is the proper format. I print this and put it next to my license in my wallet—if requested, I'd hand them both over. I've never had it notarized, but this lets them know who you are, where you are from, your age, if your license is still valid, etc. Only a cop who wants to give you a hard time for some other reason would have a problem with this.
I've never been asked for it at a rental counter, and once when I offered it, I was told it wasn't necessary. Rental companies know how to read other countries' licenses.

Posted by
8293 posts

So, Mr. Phil, have you ever had to show this so-called permit to a Gendarme?. If not, your post is of no worth.

Posted by
676 posts

Wow, a little snippy aren't you Norma? I'm just stating what I do and what I am comfortable with. It's an opinion and has as much worth (or more, IMHO) than your little jab. Have a nice day!

Posted by
8293 posts

Well, OK, but I stlll want to know, have you ever had to show it to a French cop?

Posted by
2576 posts

Well Phil she has a point. It’s a very nice thing you have but it’s not notarized and it’s not an IDP. An earlier poster pointed out the possibility of an insurance company denying a claim in case of accident as technically, you are driving illegally. Pure speculation, but for $15 (the price of an IDP) and a bit of time, why take a chance?

Posted by
676 posts

I may as well claim that unless Norma has been pulled over without an IDL, her post is of no worth (but I didn't). All of this is pure speculation. But in the end you do what you are comfortable with.

Posted by
3376 posts

Not sure why you wouldnt answer Norma's question. But, FWIW (Happened in Italy, not France), there was a post a few months ago by an American who was driving around and got stopped by the cops. No IDP. Not only did get get a ticket for the driving infraction, he got a hefty fine for not having the IDP. Sor now will you answer her question?

Posted by
676 posts

Wow! What an aggressive forum. No, I have not been pulled over in France at all. Has Norma been pulled over without an IDL? What does either of these things prove? I still am comfortable carrying what I carry and not getting an IDL as are many others. Of course, you can do what ever you want.

Posted by
8515 posts

Need another example because Italy does require the IDP, for sure, set in stone. Hmmm. Any other example? I've been pulled w/o, but I speak French, so again invalid example. We still don't know.

Someone wrote that Hertz in France required it and I'm picking up from Hertz this month, so I called AutoEurope. Person told me "nope", not required. So again???

Posted by
4535 posts

With apologies to the OP Richard, who has gotten more in his thread than he bargained for, I'll add my snippy response. In some 30 years of driving in the US, I've only been pulled over once and that was some 30 years ago. So logic clearly indicates that the chance of me getting pulled over and needing to show my drivers license is so remote, there is no need for me to have one. I'll just let it lapse next time...

In all seriousness, there is NO reason not to go to AAA and get an IDP whenever you will be driving internationally. Period!

Posted by
2576 posts

OK so I guess I need to choose my source: PharmerPhil, Tom from Minnesota or the French Embassy. Tough one. I will check with AAA about getting a kickback. I’m sure the locals could use a good laugh!

Posted by
2067 posts

quotes from sources NOT French law would appear, since yes, embassies and other government agencies don't fact check properly before posting stuff on their websites.

I agree. We need a quote from French law. Luckily, I found it:
Conduire en France avec un permis non européen


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 d'une traduction officielle en français ou d'un permis international.

Si vous souhaitez obtenir la traduction en France, vous devez vous adresser à un traducteur agréé.


In other words, If you are in France on vacation, you may drive with your normal driver´s license. It must be otherwise valid and either issued in French or accompanied with an official French translation, or accompanied with an International Permit (IDP or IDL).

Only translations performed by an approved translator are accepted.

Posted by
6514 posts

Only translations performed by an approved translator are accepted

Well, that's interesting and good to know because, looking at that link, it sounds like even a translation notarized here in the US may not be accepted.

Personally, I wish this would settle the matter. However, I can guarantee you there are some here that will continue to argue about whether an IDP is required or necessary, simply because they have never needed one and don't happen to want get one.

Posted by
3709 posts

Vérifié le 28 décembre 2017 - Direction de l'information légale et administrative (Premier ministre)

Well the law has changed since I last visited that same website. The word “officielle” has been added although that’s not defined if obtained outside of France. The link is for translations performed inside France.

Just to show I am not dreaming this, here is a link to the pre-2017 language: https://www.permisapoints.fr/permis-a-points/conduire-france-permis-etranger

"Un étranger hors Union Européenne, peut conduire en France avec son permis de conduire si celui-ci est valide et accompagné d’un permis de conduire international ou d’une traduction."

I’ll have to go up and modify my previous posts. Wonder if in practice there will be any implications. Unless people start posting about car agencies checking or fines being imposed I’m likely not changing, I do the Pharmer Phil thing.

Warning about the sarcasm about embassy websites, they really can post unreliable information.

Posted by
2067 posts

The word “officielle” has been added although that’s not defined if obtained outside of France.

All of the government approved translators are in France. I really do not see any provision of acceptance for translations performed elsewhere.

Traditionally, Spain and Italy were insistent upon visitors having official translations or an IDP, but this was never a requirement in France. As the EU made efforts to unify regulations, the IDP or translation rule came to France and has been officially required since 2016.

Posted by
676 posts

IMHO, people certainly seem to get emotional about this issue far beyond its importance. At the risk of getting flamed (again), I'll just add that aside from conjecture, I have yet to see a single post from someone who had a problem in France because they didn't have an IDL. Just sayin'...

I'll also add that I have rented a car and driven in France seven times in the last ten years (several times using Hertz). Not once was I asked for an IDL.

Do what you want to do, and don't blame others for doing the same. Flame on...

Posted by
3709 posts

It's of no direct consequence, but it always surprises me that almost no US states require IDPs, licenses in Arabic and Chinese and Greek are valid alone.

Quibbling, but the law fragment does not say the official translation must be performed in France, only that if you do it in France you must follow that procedure. Unless you’re taking the position that the only official translations are those done in France.

Just to stir the pot, terrorism actually happens in France and posters roundly poo-poo anyone posting safety concerns, but the lack of an IDP in France seems to have never caused anyone a bother or fine, yet it's "common sense" and the "obviously the right thing" to get one. Looks more like needless worry to me.

Posted by
2067 posts

Quibbling, but the law fragment does not say the official translation must be performed in France, only that if you do it in France you must follow that procedure.

Perhaps your French is a better than mine Tom_MN but the French government website provides a link to approved translators as part of its requirement that translations be completed by approved individuals. When you click on the government approved list of translators, all reside in France. Where do your read that you have the option of either making your own translation or selecting your own translator, one not found on the approved list?

The only other option given to you is to obtain an IDP and the U.S. State Department says it has authorized only two organizations to issue them: the American Automobile Association and the American Automobile Touring Alliance, which offers IDPs through the National Automobile Club.

I don´t think that any of this is really that important. What we should be discussing is what you should do in the event you are in an accident and talking about what insurance coverage one actually has if he is in an accident.

Posted by
3709 posts

I doubt my French is better, but this

Si vous souhaitez obtenir la traduction en France, vous devez vous adresser à un traducteur agréé.

Means to me: "If you wish to obtain a translation in France, you must contact an approved translator (technically "an agreed to translator" but that doesn't quite work)."

So that leaves undefined what is official if obtained outside of France.

[I've never seen a double éé before, does that mean agréée is a word?]

As to insurance, as long as you are following the rental contract (and in addition to that the credit card insurance terms if using that-- it will also have a clause that says the rental contract must be followed so that part is super important), then you have coverage. Often there are clear terms when insurance coverage is revoked: unauthorized driver, reckless driving, intoxicated driving, etc. Not having an IDP or official translation is never listed, nor really could be since the rental car agency authorized you to drive so approved you for coverage.

Posted by
8515 posts

Actually to clarify the meaning: agréé means certified, licensed or authorized as in having passed rigorous exams given by a certified authority representing the national French government. It doesn’t mean agreed upon in this case. In other words, not any Thomas, nor Richard nor Henri Is allowed to do it, but only a person who has passed the exam above a certain score.

Posted by
2067 posts

So that leaves undefined what is official if obtained outside of France.

I see your point Tom_MN but there literally is no stated provision to obtain the translation outside of France. You are only assuming one.

I've never seen a double éé before, does that mean agréée is a word?

Agréé is the past participle of the verb agréer. In the context of the sentence found on the French government website, it is used as an adjective in the groupe nominale un traducteur agréé. It would also be possible to use agréée, as you have written, as a feminine adjective in the groupe nominale une traductrice agréée.

As to insurance, as long as you are following the rental contract (and in addition to that the credit card insurance terms if using that-- it will also have a clause that says the rental contract must be followed so that part is super important), then you have coverage.

Just a guess on my part but would I be correct in stating that you have never actually made a claim using credit card insurance? Apologies Tom_MN because I am not directing my statements to you uniquely. There is a lot more to an insurance claim than simply being covered. How many of our fellow posters know what a constat is and where to find it? How about a déclaration de main courante, when do you need one?

These items are a lot more important to understand than is having an IDP, something that is really not critical at all, at least not in France.

People absolutely obsess over the IDPs, and that is unfortunate.