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International driver's license needed in Italy????

We will be staying in a Villa right outside of Florence and hope to rent a car for a day or two to travel around the Tuscany area- do we need an international driver's license or will our own USA license be sufficient? I have heard some say we need a special license and others say our own licenses are fine- please tell us your own experience and what we do need to do. Thank you- Ciao!!! Melissa

Posted by
10337 posts

It's our understanding, through many discussions of this subject on this forum, that Italian law requires an "international drivers permit" (IDP). You can get them from AAA for about $15.Here's a recent discussion of this subject http://www.ricksteves.com/graffiti/helpline/index.cfm/rurl/topic/29481/international-drivers-license.htmlBe aware that your rental car company will probably not be interested in whether or not you have an IDP; but that doesn't mean it's not required, it just means that, apparently, Italian law does not require the rental company to verify an IDP.Important: You also must have your US driver license, you won't be able to rent the car without that.

Posted by
669 posts

Although it is technically a requirement; in practice, the IDL isn't needed in my experience. Its more of a way for AAA to make money. It isn't a drivers license by the way, or even an ID, so it can't be used if you lost your original license card or your passport. I've never heard of a single person driving in Italy, that ever needed one. Or ever paid a fine by not having one. When I tried to show My IDL to places that rented cars and/or motorcycles, they waved it off like they didn't care and didn't even want to see it. I have an old one that is now out of date and I'm just going to take that one on my next visit. Its all the same translation. A translation is all it is anyway of your endorsements. You can make your own and its just as legal since the AAA isn't recognized as a binding legal entity in Italy and can't issue official documents.

Posted by
492 posts

I'm not sure how much money AAA actually makes off those, not very much I would guess at only $15 and a good 10-20 minutes to do all the processing. Our rental car agreement said we have to have one so we took the time to do it. No big deal and if we are asked for it, we have it.

Posted by
10337 posts

"To drive in Italy, you'll need an International Driver's Permit." Rick Steves, Italy 2008, p. 840

Posted by
1170 posts

Yes, you will need an international driver's license to drive in Italy and your car rental agency will want to see it. It is required.

Posted by
850 posts

The IDP is required in Italy. The rental car company may or may not ask for it but from what I read more of them are beginning to ask. Chances are you will not have to produce it but for $15 or $20 it is not worth the risk. The italian police are getting more strict on this and if you don't have one you are hit with a fine on the spot. If you have an accident you will have to produce it so for peace of mind you should get it.

Here is a link that shows the countries that require an International Drivers Permit.

http://www.aa.co.nz/motoring/licensingandtraining/international/Pages/where.aspx

Posted by
4555 posts

Francis...."AAA isn't recognized as a binding legal entity in Italy and can't issue official documents." I'm not sure where you got that information, but it is incorrect. Under Article 24 of the United Nations Convention on Road Traffic of 1949 (the treaty which sets up International Drivers' permits,) the U.S. Department of State has the power to designate certain organizations to issue IDPs to those who hold valid U.S. driver’s licenses. The Department designated the AAA and the American Automobile Touring Alliance as the only authorized distributors of IDPs. Therefore, the AAA, acting as the official agent of the United States government, can and does issue these official documents.

Posted by
1446 posts

Hi Melissa. My understanding is that it is required and my AAA office only charges $10. Even if no one asks you to see it, it's better to err on the side of caution and have it if you need it than not to have it and need it! For $10, it's cheap peace of mind. Also remember that anyone in your party that plans to share the driving responsibilities needs one too. My husband plans to be the primary driver but I am also going to get one just in case he drinks a little too much vino one night & needs me to drive!! Happy travels.

Posted by
3313 posts

All I can add to counter Francis' creative, but erroneous, advice is that the penalty for not possessing one in Italy is 75 Euros payable on the spot. What increases the chances that you might need to show one is that Italy has frequent random traffic stops.

If the carabinieri decide you should have an IDP, they can fine you. Producing your home-made translation isn't likely to help.

Posted by
10337 posts

Sheron: Re "My husband plans to be the primary driver but I am also going to get one just in case he drinks a little too much vino one night & needs me to drive!"That's a good idea. Although wine is an important part of meals in Italy, I've been told by a resident that the DUI blood alcohol limit in Italy is lower/more strict than in the US--low enough so that it's not unheard of for tourists to get over the line from the wine consumed at a restaurant at dinner, depending on variables like body weight, etc. The difference is that the locals know not to drink and drive. What I've been told is that DUI enforcement in Italy is strict and not to expect to be cut any slack because you're a tourist, in fact, there are stories of tourists spending the night in jail and paying huge fines, which can be collected on the spot.

Posted by
16 posts

Thanks to all the nice people who helped us out- we will contact AAA tomorrow. We can't wait to see our son in London and visit Italy- the trip of a lifetime for all of us. Thank you all- Melissa

Posted by
3313 posts

Not to stray too off-topic, but to Kent's post about DUIs in Italy: I have been stunned to see an array of liquor arrayed behind the counter at Italian gas stations for those who want a quick pop.

Though I am enthusiastic about driving in Italy, it reminds me that I also never drive at night.

Posted by
468 posts

I do not have an IDP. In Italy, I have been stopped by the Polizia, (for going the wrong way down a one-way street, the other street was closed for repair and it was the only way I could figure out to go). I have been stopped at a roadblock manned by the Carabinieri. In neither case was I asked if I have an IDP.

I guess it is probably better to have an IDP, but I guess I just never think about it before I leave.

or I am just a rebel as I don't use a money belt either....

or buy trip insurance.

In ten trips to Europe I have never had a problem.

Please, no lectures. I am not advocating driving without an IDP or not using a money belt. (I have several friends who have been pickpocketed in Rome and actually recommend that friends consider money belts) I know my experiences are merely anecdotal, that I have been very lucky, and who knows what is going to happen to me in Madrid when I arrive there next week (not driving on this trip). I just think some of the warnings unduly scare first time travelers and I thought I would share my experiences.

Posted by
495 posts

I'm not really sure why the warning would scare people. To me it's just like an American driving at home without a valid licence - you may not get caught but if you do you'll get punished (unless you get a sympathetic cop who turns a blind eye.)

To be honest I never understand why these threads turn in arguments - the position is quite simple. Italian law requires an IDP if you have a US driving licence. IDPs are easily obtained and not expensive. Therefore it seems a "no brainer" to me for Americans to get an IDP before driving in Italy.

The amount of energy and worry posters go through to try and avoid getting one astounds me. If you are spending $1000s to fly half way around the world and rent a car why risk not getting the car or having to deal with knowingly breaking the law in a foreign country? All for the sake of $15?

Posted by
20732 posts

Peter, you are absolutely correct. I am always amazed with these discussion. The posters with "no dog in the fight" are always willing to recommend that you assume a risk. Maybe you only have one chance in a hundred or less of having a problem, but they are not going to be standing there to pay your fine if you are that one. Why take the risk??? If is silly to post, "I never had problem" so you should not either. I have never had a pickpocket problem. So it is reasonable for me to suggest you will not have a problem either?

Posted by
468 posts

Melissa: I was merely replying to your request that we tell you our experiences.

It appears very simple to get an IDP, so there is no reason for you not to do so. I just never think about it until I see posts about it. Maybe I'll get one.

by the way, for all I know, pickpockets avoid lawyers as a professional courtesy. :)

Posted by
365 posts

Similar to Sherry's experience, I would in the future get an IDP but have successfully driven all over Italy without one. Car rental agencies don't ask to see it. I was stopped by the caribinieri randomly in a small town but the second they discovered I was a tourist with a family they directed me to pull back onto the road and keep driving. This is not to say this was a typical experience but merely to point out that it's possible the police are not big on hassling tourists where a language barrier is a problem.

But, yeah...IDP is a good idea I suppose.

Posted by
10337 posts

Here's the most meticulous and detailed advice I've seen on the web on the question of whether you should get an IDP for Italy: http://www.roninrome.com/(Hint: His answer is yes.)Peter and Frank give the same answer and present what I think is the better of the two positions when advising others--because it errs (if at all) on the side of caution, which is what you probably want to do on your big European trip--(what you as an individual decide to do for yourself on your own trip is a matter of personal preference, your risk and your consequences).As Frank says, people without a dog in the fight seem often willing to recommend that others take a risk and go for it. Some people not only think they will continue to be lucky, merely because they have been in the past, but also think, apparently, that their luck will rub off on others. Maybe. But it doesn't always work out that way. And when it doesn't, sometimes the consequences are significant: Don't bother to put your debit card/credit card/passport in a money belt worn under your clothes, do that often enough, and you're likely to end up with a severe disruption of your trip and all that enjoyment you went all that way to have--and why, when the negative consequences are so easy to avoid? Some risks have bigger consequences than others.

Posted by
108 posts

It's $15 bucks and 15 minutes at the AAA, my husband does all the driving and I still get one--because you never know and we do both drink, and because it's just one more thing we don't have to worry about. I say just get it and then forget about it!

Posted by
16 posts

Thank you- we went to Peoria today and both my husband and I got an IDP from AAA- so we are set. Anyone have suggestions about the best way to rent a car for a day or two? We'd like to drive around Tuscany- isn't driving really the only way we can see and experience the hill towns? We'll be staying at Villa Lunetta but I think I understand that there are no trains or buses to take us to the Tuscany villages. If I'm wrong, let me know, And thanks a bunch for all your suggestions- we are sooo excited. Melissa

Posted by
10337 posts

Kathleen: Re your "...because you never know and we do both drink."I'm sure you'll be careful, but just a heads up: Italy is not the place to have a few glasses of wine at dinner and then drive. The DUI blood alcohol limit in Italy is significantly lower/more strict than in the US, and their enforcement of DUI is strict, tourists are not cut any slack re DUI and have ended up in jail. Italians drink a lot of wine but they use public transportation or walk home.

Posted by
10337 posts

Peter: You're preaching to the choir! If you read the entire thread, you'll see that I posted three times, on this one thread, in favor of getting an IDP to comply with Italian law! I even favorably mentioned you and Frank for taking the same position I did in the first post, in favor of getting an IDP. I also imbedded a link to another website that favored getting an IDP. Nevertheless, I have gone back and edited out the offending sentence in question (which I was using in another post to make an unrelated point) to prevent misinterpretation.

Posted by
365 posts

Peter, not being in possession of an IDP is not the same as not having a valid driver's license. But in any event your caution is well-advised as contrasted to Evel Kent-nievel whose cavalier attitude toward life is a recipe for disaster. In fact I have evidence that Kent windmills his arms wildly when relating a particularly eventful story. Totally unsafe socially, that one.

Posted by
934 posts

The argument about Moneybelts and IDL is a lot like having life insurance.I really dont think I need it yet but I have it anyway and when I need it Ill be happy(or my wife will)I do.

Posted by
66 posts

We rented a car there last week and the IDPs were the first thing they asked for.

Posted by
10337 posts

I'm glad to see some indication that the Italy rental car companies are starting to ask for an IDP. They should.