Please sign in to post.

Do I really need an international drivers license in Italy ?

This might help somebody

I’ve been coming to Italy for over 30 years and have been stopped by the police before. This time I got stopped again on a Radom Check and I got a fine for € 280.00 for not having a international drivers licence plus I have a Canadian and Italian passport
If it’s paid in 5 days.

After that it goes to €1400 euros

The fine has to be paid at the post office. So anybody out there asks the question yes you do need a international licence

I think that the rental places should enforce this to clear things up for a lot of people that they do need it because they sure don’t ask for it when you pay for the rental

Posted by
17145 posts

Thank you for posting about this experience. Many people on this forum try to warn others about the need for an IDP, but not everyone takes it seriously. €280 is a lot of money.

Posted by
8889 posts

I think perhaps in many posts on the subject of IDP's, what we are seeing is a philosophical difference between Europe and North America.

  • Some of the North American posters appear to have the mindset that driving is a right, and if someone asks for proof it is an imposition.
  • The European attitude is that driving is a privilege earned, like being a doctor or being allowed to live in a country. And asking for legal written proof of that privilege is reasonable. A doctor wanting to practice in a different country to where he trained has to provide documentation and get his qualifications recognised. Same for driving a car.
Posted by
329 posts

Remember an IDP is a permit that verifies/translates your current drivers license and confirms its validity. We consider the $25 cost each very cheap insurance.

Posted by
8 posts

IDP from CAA OR AAA document in Europe is a piece of paper that cost $25 dollars

IDP from the federal government yes

Posted by
4 posts

I am also a Canadian, and have traveled with and without an International Drivers license, most recently throughout several countries in Eastern Europe, and fortunately have never had the same experience in being stopped and fined. Most reasonable people would agree that 280 Euros is a large fine, and 1400 Euros is a punitive money grab to say the least. Thanks to this shared costly experience, and not any direction that I have ever received from Eurocar or other rental company, I'll definitely be getting an International Drivers License at the local AAA.

Posted by
8889 posts

IDP from CAA OR AAA is a legal document, which they produce as authorised by the national government, and in conformance to international treaties.
What would be your opinion of a person from another country who goes to your country and works as a doctor, with only a certificate from his home country, written in his home country's language?

Posted by
11732 posts

From the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Italy page:

https://it.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/local-resources-of-u-s-citizens/transportation-driving/

First line:
"Americans visiting Italy as tourists and intending to drive should obtain an International Driving Permit before leaving the U.S."

Also;
"Tourists may also use their valid American driver’s license if accompanied by an official translation in Italian."

And them's the rules, folks. Not our country, not our laws, and they can levy whatever size of fine they see fit. There's also this thread from last year where an agency actually did refuse to honor someone's rental reservation because they didn't have an IDP.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/italy/rental-car-without-international-license-we-are-already-in-italy

Posted by
1667 posts

And them's the rules, folks. Not our country, not our laws, and they can levy whatever size of fine they see fit.

Kathy, when I was learning to drive, my momma gave me a piece of advice if I ever got pulled over: "Don't argue with the man with the gun!".

The requirement is clear. It is our responsibility to know the requirements and abide by them. Any discussion of sizes of fines, etc. is deflection and a feeble attempt at rationalization.

Posted by
8 posts

Like I said at the first. I have a Italian passport my name is in English and the police here now all speak English better than me

The lady said today at the post office lots of tourist coming in paying they fines !

Ah !

Posted by
8 posts

The. Italian police here carry UZI ‘s

If it went off it might take out half the street there not very accurate

Posted by
11732 posts

Like I said at the first. I have a Italian passport my name is in
English and the police here now all speak English better than me

Language and passport are irrelevant. What is relevant is that your driver's license (I'm assuming) is Canadian and not Italian.
So, here's the corresponding page from the Canadian Embassy to Italy:

http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/italy-italie/consular_services_consulaires/driver_licence-permis_conduire.aspx?lang=eng

"In Italy, holders of a valid Canadian driver’s licence may drive for up to one year, provided they also have an International Driving Permit (IDP) or an official translation"

"In Italy, an IDP may be substituted by an official translation by a recognized translator (known in Italian as traduttore giurato).".

Posted by
3436 posts

Well, they do have open arms letting us drive with our North American licenses. They could require we take a test and get an actual Italian license before letting us drive there.

The IDP issued by AAA or CAA is a legal document because of the authority granted to them to issue it, like it or not. If you had to visit some official government office to get it, I guarantee the fee would be a lot higher and the paperwork a lot more complicated.

Is a €1400 fine a money grab? Of course it is. Most traffic fines are money grabs because they are supposed to prevent people from doing the things the fine is punishment for and a €20 fine won't have the desired impact. But it is there because it is the law. Paying the approximately $25 for the IDP saves you from that fine. And just because the average police officer you run into in Italy can converse with you in English does not mean he or she can also read English well enough to understand what restrictions and so on are on your license.

Posted by
4 posts

I think that Rootsweb, who noted that they are a Canadian and Italian citizen, was just expressing frustration with the situation that he/she faced. Law enforcement officers do have some discretion in giving tickets out.

Posted by
1700 posts

Not sure where this thread went off the rails. Maybe some threads were deleted?

If this fine story and fine amounts are real ; then I do second that all of the rental car companies should be asking renters if they have one.
For them to turn a completely blind eye to this is a problem in my eyes.

I have always gotten an IDP from the local AAA office and encourage others to do so as well. Never once been asked to show it though and the rental counters of the car companies could care less if you have one or not.

Many tourists do not know of this law ; I know in some countries in Europe it is clearly the law, other countries in Europe it seems more of a grey area and also some countries in Europe if you have a US drivers license you don't need to have an IDP even though they may be recommended.
So the whole issue is cloudy.

Posted by
635 posts

I just cleaned out this thread. No more discussing side topics or pursuing arguments.

Thanks for keeping this about the experience at what we can learn from it.

Posted by
2901 posts

This thread illustrates a cultural difference between Americans (I guess we have to include Canadians) and Europeans. Europeans tend to accept a lot of rules and regulations that many Americans want to see as oppressive, or unfair, or exploitative. All I can say is that foreign travel will be a lot more enjoyable for people who understand and respect such differences. Specifically with regard to the idp issue, the law is the law. That goes for for speeding, too. The op has done a public service by relating his experience, even though as a complaint. Maybe we’ll now see an end to testimonial about getting away with not having an idp?

Posted by
8 posts

The comment from mreynolds was good

I’n the uk all you need is your home licence of origin

The western culture is all one , good or bad but we all stick together

Posted by
6511 posts

I’n the uk all you need is your home licence of origin

True, as long as it is in English.

I have not done the research, but I suspect if you are from S America, SE Asia, etc, an IDP or its equivalent would be required

The post is a good warning that those who respond to a question about an IDP being necessary, saying "don't bother, I have never been asked" are among the yet to be caught, not among the legal.

Posted by
11983 posts

Art. 135 of the Italian Vehicle Code specifically states that the fine for Driving without an IDP or official translation goes from a minimum of 400€ to a maximum of 1600€.

It is impossible that a fine not paid within 5 days increases fivefold (from 280€ to 1400€). The law is very clear on this point. You have 60 days to pay the fine without any further penalties.

What is true is that you get a 30% discount on the fine amount, if you pay it within 5 days, instead of waiting for the full 60 days.

So, assuming the story from the OP is real, he got a 400€ fine for not having an IDP (the minimum by law) which is reduced by 30%, or 120€ less (400x30%=120) if paid within 5 days.
Hence:
400€ - 120€ discount = 280€ (Reduced amount if paid within 5 days).
If not paid within 5 days, then the discount does not apply and the full amount of 400€ (not 1,400) is due within 60 days.

If not paid or contested within 60days, after the 61st day, the fine increases by 50% of the maximum provided by law. Since the maximum here is 1600€, then the unpaid fine would be 1200€ (400+1600/2=1200).

So, yes, the $25 fee from AAA is cheap in comparison and I don’t know why rental car companies do not make it know when a specific Country or even US State requires it (in the US some states require an IDP for foreign drivers, others do not).

Posted by
31071 posts

root,

Sorry to hear you got "nicked", but this is a good reminder to others on the importance of having an IDP when driving in Italy. Roberto provided an excellent description of Italian law and the fines you were charged.

I'm late getting into the discussion but wanted to address a couple of points.....

  • the nationality of your Passport doesn't have a bearing on driving offenses. In this case, the driver's license is the most important document. If you were driving with a license from any of the E.U. countries, you wouldn't have been fined for not having an IDP. The law should ideally treat everyone equally, so anyone driving with other than an E.U. license and no IDP may be fined.
  • regardless of whether AAA / CAA are private companies, these are the agencies designated by governments to issue IDP's.

I agree that ideally the rental agencies could do a better job at educating their customers on the need for an IDP. I've seen occasional posts from people who reserved rental cars in Italy, and were refused service when they couldn't produce an IDP. That doesn't seem to happen often as the rental companies are more interested in renting cars than enforcing laws. It's the driver's responsibility to have the required documents.

Hopefully you don't receive a surprise in the mail in the near future in the form of ZTL or speeding tickets.

Posted by
3 posts

I just got my IDP at the local AAA for $20. I don't understand why anyone would go to Italy and expect to drive without it.

Posted by
154 posts

For those who say the rental car companies do not check, I observed the Hertz agent in Orvieto (in 2016) ask the customer before me if he had an IDP. He said no, and she replied that he would have to have one, or else purchase full insurance coverage, bringing his rental cost from $200 to over $500. He walked out, complaining that he's rented dozens of times in Italy.

I just wish the IDP was good for the length of the license, not needing renewal every year for a 6 year old license.

Posted by
20726 posts

.....she replied that he would have to have one, or else purchase full insurance coverage, bringing his rental cost from $200 to over $500. ....... Now that sounds suspicious and self serving. What is the relationship between full insurance cover and not having an IDP? Plus I think you have full insurance in Italy, anyway. Technically I thought you were required to have a valid driver license to rent a car. Without a translation of your license in Italy, it is not valid, so they should be checking. Someone posted last year or so that he nearly had his rental car in Italy impounded because he did not have a valid driver license to drive the vehicle since he was lacking the the IDP.

Some here what to take this requirement very lightly, but I view the $20 just part of the insurance program to insure no problems.

Posted by
3351 posts

Maybe I'm just dumb, but I simply don't understand why anyone balks at paying $20 or $25 for an IDP when one considers the overall price of the trip. Jeeesh!

Posted by
1700 posts

I think it is usually an "old school" mentality that snubs the IDP.
The type of traveler that says I have been there before or I have traveled all over the world, I don't need to do anything different now or research any new laws.
Laws change, as travelers we need to keep up to date and not rely on past experiences.

It is also the uninformed. So many US tourists don't research the details like most of us forum members do. For many the research would cause them stress defeating the point of their "vacation".
I have told a handful of friends planning on renting a car about the IDP and none of them were aware of it before I mentioned it, they all to my knowledge went to the AAA office and gotten one before their trip.

With laws varying per country in Europe regarding IDP it is confusing ; even the bordering countries to Italy and non-English speaking ones differ ; France for example highly recommends one but there is no fine for not having one for US and Canadians,
In Switzerland if you are from the US or Canada you do not need one.

Spain, Portugal, Austria, Slovenia all require one but although Auto Europe's site mentions in Portugal it is strictly enforced and you are required to show it at the rental counter ; I just rented a car in Portugal a few weeks ago and was never asked to show one.

The every year requirement I agree is a money grab.

Posted by
1106 posts

We recently rented a car in La Spezia. Had to show both of our IDP's in case we both drove. Only cost $20 apiece at AAA. Why would anyone not get one?

Posted by
4 posts

I don't believe that the the OP did not want to get an international drivers license, rather, I think he/she did not realize that is was necessary. After the many postings on this thread, I think it is clear to everyone involved that it is a good idea to get one of those licenses.

Posted by
154 posts

".....she replied that he would have to have one, or else purchase full insurance coverage, bringing his rental cost from $200 to over $500. ....... Now that sounds suspicious and self serving. What is the relationship between full insurance cover and not having an IDP?"

I agree Frank. The customer argued with her, saying the risk was all his for getting a ticket, not the car rental company's. She was unpleasant and unyielding. We were glad we had our IDP and our printout of the agreement as the next in line...

Posted by
11983 posts

When I was living in Italy and visited California to visit my girlfriend’s family I always got one even though California only recommends it but does not require it. The funny thing is that my girlfriend lived in Florence 6 years and never bothered to get an Italian license. She drove my Vespa and car around for years with just her California DL and no IDP. Fortunately the only times we got pulled over, I was the driver. The crazy things we do when we are young and stupid!

Posted by
8 posts

I’ve been driving for 30 years in Italy

So if you punch the numbers I’m way ahead of
You correct on saving money ? This is the first time for a ticket 🙃

Posted by
4 posts

Maybe leinartjwl did not see my previous post: I don't believe that the the OP did not want to get an international drivers license, rather, I think he/she did not realize that is was necessary. After the many postings on this thread, I think it is clear to everyone involved that it is a good idea to get one of those licenses.

Can we put this to bed?

Posted by
8 posts

For you yes !

I’m in the process of getting a Italian licence so the issue will be dropped

My advice for you is to stay in your local area

Posted by
23967 posts

So if you are getting an Italian License, why ask the question in the first place?

Posted by
4510 posts

To those who say the IDP is never required by the rental agencies, that is simply not true. I've been asked for an IDP twice when renting and was denied a car in one case where I did not have it (Greece). I learned my lesson then.

Posted by
1667 posts

Can we put this to bed?

This thread adds nothing positive to the discussion of obtaining an IDP. There are numerous posts that provide the same or better information. I think the forum would be better off if the entire thread was deleted.