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International Driver's License

Do I need to get an international driver's license to rent a car in France? Thanks!

Posted by
12040 posts

No. As far as I know, no member of the EU requires an international driver's license for renting or driving a car. As to the question "Should I get one?", this topic has been debated frequently. In my opinion, the answer is "You don't need one", but there's probably a 50/50 split on this decision. I can say from experience, however, that I have been stopped twice in Europe (once in Austria, once in Belgium), and my Pennsylvania state license worked fine.

Posted by
8700 posts

First, be aware of the correct terminology. An International Driver PERMIT is required by law in Italy and a few other EU countries. It is NOT required in France. IDPs are sold at AAA offices in the US so I imagine you can get one at your local CAA office.

Posted by
191 posts

Yes, I meant permit--I got one when I went to Greece a couple of years ago at the CAA (and in hindsight, driving in Greece is not anything that I would recommend to anyone) and didn't need it...looks like I can save myself the $20.

Posted by
100 posts

AKF, I'm not for sure if you would need it to rent a car, but I think it would be a good $15 investment in case you are pulled over. My husband's boss' wife was pulled over on her way back from Paris. She didn't have an IDP and was fined 500 Euro. So even though the car rental place will more than likely not ask for one, its always smart to have it

Posted by
8293 posts

Amanda Your boss' wife must have incurred the fine in Germany not in France, because an IDP is not mandatory in France. Are you saying that the 500 euro fine was for not having an IDP or was there another infraction s well? 500 euro is one heavy fine !

Posted by
875 posts

I just managed to get my DL translated into French and took a copy of that and tucked it in with my driver's license in case I got stopped.

Posted by
191 posts

I'm pretty fluent in French, so I'm not that worried about being able to talk to them (and we're also not planning on getting stopped if my husband wants to come home alive!), I was just wondering if it was necessary to be allowed to rent the car in the first place, it appears not. Thanks.

Posted by
1190 posts

Rumor ( and I do mean rumor, since I have not experienced it) is that when a police officer asks to see your license, an international permit is easier for him to use. The rumor is that the police don't like to be handed an American license and are more likely to find a reason to fine you. Is this true? I don't know, but we always get an international permit just to make it easier if we are pulled over for some reason. I just know the first time we don't get it- we will need it. Having said that, your original question was do you need one to rent a car. We have never been asked to show our International permit, even when we have been in countries that required them by law.

Posted by
8293 posts

Connie: Maybe the police officer prefers the IDP because he can understand the language in which it is written ! An American driver's license is in English and an Italian (or Greek or whatever) cop is not going understand the English or all the abbreviations, and why should he be expected to? It really doesn't have anything to do with the license being "American", it has to do with LANGUAGE.

Posted by
186 posts

An IDL is a waste of money and is only good for one year. My wife each got one a couple years ago and drove throughout Europe, using nothing but our American license. Dorsey

Posted by
3313 posts

Connie - I have experience being stopped in France. No IDP needed, but the gendarme who pulled me over did struggle to understand which numbers were which on my state drivers license. And, at that point, I really, really wanted him to have no problems in case he had some discretion in the fine. I did not have an IDP, because at the time I was among those who had numerous driving experiences without needing an IDP. Now I will always get one - first, to make a cop's job a bit easier and, second, they are required in Italy. You can be fined 75 Euro on the spot in Italy for not having one.

Posted by
1190 posts

Doug- I agree
Norma- sorry you took offense. That actually was what I meant. I am a fairly new poster and forgot how quickly some people get their back up over this American vs. Europe stuff. I will word my posts more carefully. My intended thought was that a police officer will get less frustrated with you if he can easily read your license or permit. In my job, I have to ID people and I sympathize with the officer. There are so many different id's with the information all over the place. The International Permit makes it very easy and is less likely to cause problems. In my opinion that makes it worth the few dollars you spend. Having said that, we have never been stopped or asked for our permit in all our travels and that continues to be our ultimate goal. Having said that, I do think people take offense so quickly on these boards and it is important to focus on helping people with questions, not criticize and attack each other. (Ok I am hunkered down for the outrage that is going to cause.)

Posted by
34 posts

This Sept will be my 8th driving trip to Europe. I purchased a permit or what have you the first time from the Auto Club. After that I just took my CA drivers license and passport with me. I mean, all the Auto Club does is take info from your drivers license.

Posted by
3313 posts

Orrin - That's right. And then they translate it into the languages used by the police in the country you'll be driving in. They don't always read Californian...

Posted by
8293 posts

For Connie: I actually did not take offense at all and I can see from your second post that we are both on the same page, so to speak. Considering how relatively little an IDP costs, ($15) and how much we spend to travel to Europe and rent cars, the refusal to acquire one is mildly eccentric, at best, and foolhardy at worst.

Posted by
34 posts

"the permit contains your name, photo and driver information translated into ten languages.". It is valid in 150 countries and interpreted in 10 languages. Do the math. Besides, how do you translate your name into German? How do you translate 2324 Kathe St. into Italian? I think numbers are pretty much (not totally) universal How do you translate your picture? What if you go to 11 countries and get stopped by police that speak language number 12. All this info is on your drivers license and passport. I wonder if the Auto Club introduced the idea of the international permit.

Posted by
4555 posts

Orrin...the critical information police need isn't your name and address, although if you've ever used overseas mail, you'll see how confusing it is to list some addresses, and in some societies, the family name comes before the first name. The critical part is knowing whether or not you're qualified to drive in their country. The translations list what class of license you have (what kind of vehicle you're qualified to drive) and any restrictions (glasses, medical conditions, etc.). The issue here isn't whether you personally think one is useful or not. The issue is whether France requires one...answer no...but other countries do. And we do try to respect other countries' laws, don't we? And, no, the International Drivers' permit was established by international treaty first signed in 1949 and amended twice since then.

Posted by
34 posts

I guess I am trying to say I agree with Tom at the top of the thread. All you need is your passport and a drivers license from wherever you live. It is not as if the international permit requires you to pass a test, all it does is repeat the information on your passport and/or drivers license. I would rather save the $20 and spend it on a room (<: or at least a pizza and some wine.

Posted by
4555 posts

As far as France is concerned, you and Tom are correct...an IDP is not needed. However, in Spain and Italy, for example, it is. If you are stopped by police, or involved in an accident, it could be an expensive pizza! ;)