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International Driving Permit

On the RS website section about driving in Europe it says in Germany you may get fined if you don't have an international driving permit. We are planning to be in Germany the last week in June and renting a car to get around. For those of you who have been there and rented a car, did you have an IDP? Thanks for your answer.

Posted by
2779 posts

Sandra, this has come up a couple of times right now and I've always be wondering if that's really true. So I called the Frankfurt police headquarters and asked, if American citizens would get in trouble if caught driving with their US drivers licenses only. The gentleman on the other end of the line explained to me: An international drivers permit is no actual driving license but simply a way to bringing what you are entitled to drive and what not into an internationally standardized form. US drivers licenses, however, aren't that different from European ones (in looks and where to find what kind of information on them) so that it is not necessary for Americans to bring an IDP. You need to obey to German driving laws but that goes without saying anyways (by the way, if you want to go a bit more slowely on an Autobahn make sure you're on the very right lane. You can only pass cars on the left in Germany and if you get caught blocking other cars from driving their chosen speed...

Posted by
638 posts

For my second trip to Europe in 1993 we had decided to rent a car for part of the trip. Like you I was wondering about the ability to drive, not wanting to take any chances I got an international license at AAA (even though I wasn't a member they took care of me). Similar to what Andreas said I don't think it makes or made in my case any difference in the long run, it was another type of ID just in case. It was just a paper form with my personal information on it, my passport and CA license had more info. It doesn't hurt to have it, check with your local AAA to see if they still issue them, my guess they do!

Posted by
2723 posts

Hi Sandra,
We've been to Germany, Austria, etc, and always rent a car. For the $10-$12, I always stop by AAA and get an IDP.


Posted by
7205 posts

The only time I was ever asked to produce a driver's license was at the border crossing of Germany and Switzerland. I pulled out my handy-dandy IDP that I had so diligently taken the time to obtain. When I handed it to the border guard he said "No No, you're real driver's license"...that's the last time I ever bought an IDP.

Posted by
57 posts

I, too, purchased one just in case for my first driving trip to Italy. Car Rental company didn't ask for it. For me, the next time I rent, I will take my chances that I don't get pulled over by the police. If I do, I will present my expired permit and see what happens. Permit only lasts a year, not the length of your driving license. A bit of a scam (for AAA)it seems to me.

Posted by
199 posts

I've posted this information before. While the IDP is not required, it can come in handy. Two years ago in Madrid, a mile short of turning in our rental car, we were hit by another driver. None of the police spoke English, and in filling out their reports they were very relieved that I had an IDP, and relied upon it to understand what my license said.

I've not gotten one since, but now carry my expired one with me when driving in Europe. I still don't understand why they expire! I figure if the translation is what counts, the expiration date is meaningless.

Posted by
12040 posts

I've been ticketed in Austria for speeding, and showing my Pennsylvania driver's license was good enough. I wouldn't waste any time or money on an IDP for European travel.

Posted by
4555 posts

This is one of those "peace of mind" issues. Many countries "require" that you have one (including Austria, Germany, and Spain, by the way) while other countries don't "require" it. That doesn't mean you'll get a ticket for not having one, as others who have posted have experienced. So it really comes down to whether you're confortable with one, or not....will you be the one to get the officer who's had a bad day, or is below his ticket quota, or doesn't understand English enough to understand your U-S driver's license? Trade that off against the few bucks you spend at AAA getting an IDP.

Posted by
934 posts

I know you got a lot of answeres.I have been to Europe 5 times and always got one.My reasoning was if I got a ticket they might take my US DL.That might be a problem the rest of the trip.So far I havnt needed it but I have life insurance also and havnt needed that either>peace of mind.jack in wisc.

Posted by
80 posts

The only place I have been asked for one is Greece. Luckily I had one. We dont bother when we go anywhere else, but they are cheap and easy to get.