Please sign in to post.

Renting a Car

I plan on renting a car for my trip to France. Is it necessary to get the International Drivers Permit? I have read in many places that in France you just need a passport and your home countries drivers license.

Posted by
2590 posts

Technically, an IDP is required to accompany your usual license. Whether anyone will ask to see it is another matter.

Posted by
1025 posts

It's cheap insurance that you won't be denied a rental car, or that you won't receive a massive fine from an enthusiastic policeman for not having the IDP.

It's $25 from any AAA office.

Posted by
2590 posts

that you won't receive a massive fine

What fine? How much is this massive fine? What specific references are you using to make such a statement?

Many items are technically required to enter France, such as proof of health insurance, proof of accommodation for your entire stay, and proof of your financial resources to be in France. Does anyone have the documentation ready to prove these things at the French border?

If you are prepared to prove the above, then you probably have an IDP as well, but it is unlikely that anyone will ever ask for it, just as no one asks you to prove that you have health insurance for your stay in France.

Posted by
33317 posts

Ask this question and the extremes will pile in. Some will say, yes it is the law (unless you provide an authorized translation from a special list) and that it is cheap; others will come in saying why bother and its is a ripoff and not necessary.

I used to answer this question but now knowing the fire and brimstone that will likely arrive I stay clear.

Search previous threads using the search area here and searching on France IDP and you will see the hundreds of previous threads....

Posted by
1170 posts

What Nigel Said. I will only offer that no one here has ever stated they had a problem or issue because they didn't have an IDL. Not a single post! (Did I mention not one?) Sure, some have had a traffic incident, possessed an IDL, had no issue, and then surmised that that was why—but that is just theory and conjecture. The truth is, you are most likely to have a traffic citation mailed to you long after you have left France because of a traffic camera. Beware of those and posted (and not) speed limits. As far as I can tell, there is no "grace" limit to the legal speed limits.

Posted by
11493 posts

I will only offer that no one here has ever stated they had a problem or issue because they didn't have an IDL. Not a single post! (Did I mention not one?

Well that is not a surprise. Who would willing come forth to admit having done something so stupid?

Posted by
1170 posts

Who would willing come forth to admit having done something so stupid?

Well plenty of people have come forth and posted that they bought one of these rip-off IDLs year after year.

Posted by
2590 posts

The IDP accompanies your otherwise valid license. To my knowledge, there is no such thing as an international driver's license (IDL).

Paying AAA or AATA $25 is not a ripoff, it is a choice. As those issued in the US are only valid for 1 year, someone visiting France often would be better serviced to have his license officially translated, around 50€, the translation being valid as long as the license is valid. France has never been overly insistent about IDPs, which is different from Spain and Italy. If I were driving in either of these countries, I would go to the trouble of obtaining an IDP.

Here is a copy of the law requiring visitors to have either an IDP or a translated DL.

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

I am not suggesting that anyone must have an IDP to drive as a tourist in France. The Irish can use their English language drivers licenses in France without an IDP. Anyone moving to France can use his original English language license for 12 months without a translation or IDP. Many of the US state issued drivers licenses are line item identical to French licenses. There will very unlikely be a policeman who is totally confused by your US driver's license.

I just think that the subject should be kept in perspective.

At some attractions, they offer an audio guide. They often ask for one's passport as security that you'll return the guide.
I always use my IDP for that. No way I'm handing anyone my passport!

Posted by
788 posts

It's like not wearing a seatbelt because you don't intend crashing in to anything.

Many people drive without an IDP with no problems. You licence may even not require an IDP, but that depends what state your license is from. If your licence is in the form recognised by European Governments, then theoretically you don't need one (and you could, if you move to France, just exchange your licence). If your licence is not in the form recognised by European Governments, then you need one (and you would, if you move to France, have to do the full course of driving lessons and getting your licence).

I do know people who have been stopped , and had to do some rapid talking in order to avoid a fine for not having an IDP. Luckily they speak good colloquial French and got away with it. If they hadn't had that level of French - and had the policeman been less obliging - they could have spent quite some time roadside.

Having an IDP avoids all the potential issues of not having one, from someone at the hire company following the letter of the law denying you a car, to some policeman who has just had an argument with his wife not having an excuse to be a PITA.

It's $25. You'll probably spend more than that on souvenirs you'll never look at again.

Posted by
1170 posts

No way I'm handing anyone my passport!

I got one of those passport ID cards from the State Department (I forget what they are called) when I renewed my passport for exactly that reason. It seems many people around the world are much more comfortable handing over their passport than am I.

Posted by
80 posts

Officially, it is required to have either an official translation of your drivers license into French or to have an international drivers permit. In practice, neither is required as long as the driver's license is from a country with a Latin alphabet.

Here is the relevant official guidance on the matter confirming a translation is technically required (it's machine translated to english so there are some errors - no European means non-European for example):
https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/F1459?lang=en

I think when deciding whether to carry an IDP when it's not generally required in practice it's worth considering when the IDP would be most valuable to you. In France, that would be a formal interaction with the police/bureaucracy or your insurance/rental car insurance/another person's insurance due to a crash. Since the IDP or an official translation is technically required not having one could possibly cause problems in certain circumstances. I would be most concerned about the insurance angle since French insurers like to ask for everything that is technically required and more when accepting claims.

I used to only periodically have an active IDP but have started to have them more regularly after some unexpected trips to a country that requires the IDP for rentals. I had to have an IDP shipped to me so I could rent a car. Other countries that were previously lax can become more strict quickly, such as Greece (on paper anyway).

Posted by
889 posts

When we rented our car in Tours a week ago we were told by the rental agent that an international driver’s permit is only necessary if you are in a country that cannot read your home country’s liscense………like Mandarin Chinese…….