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Has anyone paid a fine for no International Driving Permit?

I've joined in thread after thread here about whether or not to buy an IDP before renting a car in Europe. I take the side that there's no need to bother for western Europe (can't speak for farther east). Car rental agencies don't ask for one. Police at checkpoints or at traffic stops have been satisfied with my state's drivers license.

Others here, quite logically, believe that some countries, particularly Italy, require an IDP and advise "better safe than sorry". After all, they're easy to get at AAA and cost only about $15 plus the cost of a photo.

My question is this. Has anyone had first-hand experience of being penalized for not having an IDP in western Europe?

Posted by
4555 posts

You might also ask if anyone's ever been asked to produce one.

Posted by
199 posts

Doug, I produced one when I was involved in a fender-bender in Madrid just a mile short of turning in my rental car, and it was helpful, though probably not necessary. None of the police officers spoke English, and we spoke no Spanish, and the officer writing up the report was very pleased when I produced my IDP, as she could read my info. I think it is probably worth it when traveling in countries where you have no command of the language.

Posted by
3313 posts

I agree it's helpful. My French gendarme had a bit of trouble figuring out my Oregon drivers license as he wrote me up a 45E fine for speeding.

But has anyone actually been fined, penalized, slapped for not having one?

Posted by
850 posts

Doug,
I drove the Mt. Blanc Tunnel from Italy. My wife nor I read the rules they gave to us as we entered from the Italian side. We should have. When we exited the tunnel on the French side there were some French policemen who were pulling cars and trucks to the side to inform them and us that we had violated the speed limit and/or for following the vehicle in front of us too close. In my case I did both.I do not know if they would have fined me had I not had the IDP because when he first pulled me over he asked only for my drivers license and my rental car contract. I voluntarily gave them my IDP and they acutally used that to write the tickets since it was a translation of my license. Since they did not initally ask for my IDP I don't thnk I would have been penalized for not having one. BTW, the fine was 36.00 Euro for each violation in addtion to the toll charge. I was only running about 50 mph and I was not close to tailgating but there are strict rules for that tunnel.

Posted by
3313 posts

Lane - Was this a recent incident? My impression in both France and Italy is that speed limits are being more aggressively enforced with the use of photo radar. I certainly thought average highway speeds were lower.

As another poster mentioned, they're also not going to fool around with speeding in the Mt. Blanc tunnel because of the terrible accident that closed it several years ago.

But, again, has anyone heard of being fined for not having an IDP?

Posted by
71 posts

I got an IDP before leaving for Central Europe on July 2, 07. For 3 weeks I drove (2,971 km) thru the Czech Republic, Germany, Slovika, Hungary, & Austria. I did not have to show the IDP when picking up the car in Prague. Since I never encountered any "authorities," I didn't use the IDP.
The guide books all said to get one.

The first time I drove in Europe (1978), I got an IDP before leaving but that was the only other time. I never used it then either.

I have been stopped at checkpoints in several different countries, but no one ever asked for the IDP.

Posted by
850 posts

Doug, it was in May of this year so very recent. I was aware of the tragic Mt. Blanc tunnel fire years ago having researched it before our trip Under normal driving conditions we were driving slow and allowed plenty of room between us and the truck in front but due to the fire years ago the tolerance level for violations is zero. I understand that and take full responsibility. I offered no complaints about the tikcets and in fact apologized for having broke the rules. We just did not read the rules they gave us upon entry. They have cameras all through the tunnel so they are gonna get'cha if you break the rules. They had a photo of the front and back of our car. Kinda wished they would have given me a copy for a souviner.
Like you I also wonder if anyone has ever been penalized for not having an IDP in western Europe. I have never heard of anyone that has. I will continue to get one for future trips just in case.

Posted by
12040 posts

My state license and passport have always sufficed for rentals. In my one experience with traffic police, my state license, passport and rental contract covered everything.

Posted by
7205 posts

Well, Doug, it appears that the answer to your question is "No".

Posted by
3313 posts

Have we uncovered an "urban myth" of European travel?

Posted by
7205 posts

I really want to know who's making a profit from these IDPs.

Posted by
5462 posts

I don't think that it is really an Urban Myth, nor do I believe that anyone is profiting from them. I like to look at it from the standpoint of you being the officer here in the US, you pull over a car or show up at an accident scene and the car is full of people who speak no English and hand you a tattered piece of paper or a plastic card claiming "license". Some type of internationally recognized document would be useful to 1. Document the vital information needed regarding the violation, and 2. Provide assurance that this driver is indeed possessing a valid license (that would be a much more serious violation if not). If I were a multilingual officer, or at least familiar with licenses of foriegn countries, the document becomes less necessary. Another point to make, is that much of the anecdotal observations made, are by people that have never needed to use the IDP, bit like saying that I don't need car insurance because I never get into accidents.

Posted by
7205 posts

But Paul this whole thread is about finding those "persons" who HAVE suffered penalties from not having IDPs. We've heard plenty of stories about car accidents with poor or no insurance - so we DO know the consequences there.

Posted by
806 posts

I hate to be the doomsayer on this topic, and I have no personal experience. However, the Washington Post travel section for Sept 2 has a story about a man pulled over in Spain for going the wrong way on a one-way street ... but the traffic officer who pulled him over said the IDP was required, and the car was impounded and towed. Search washingtonpost.com for International driver's permit and you'll get the story. I have always figured it was worth paying the $10 to AAA, and I usually pick up a few other travel items while I'm there.

Posted by
850 posts

Some of the countries do require an IDP. Whether they will acutally fine you for not having one I don't know but it seems if countries require one they could impose a fine on you. I agree with Kathleen and would not take the chance of going without one. The following is from an article by Rick Steves:
"People who rent cars say you need them almost nowhere. People who drive rental cars say the permit is overrated (but it comes in handy as a substitute for a passport at places such as campgrounds and bike-rental shops that require some kind of photo ID as a security deposit until you pay). Police can get mad — their concern is in finding the expiration date — and fine you if you don't have an international permit. Those driving in Portugal, Spain, Italy, Austria, Germany, Greece, and Eastern Europe are likely to be fined if found without an international driving permit, and should probably get one (at your local AAA office — $15 plus the cost of two passport-type photos, www.aaa.com)."

Posted by
3313 posts

I found the story. It's in the nature of "a reader told us that.." getting to the airport in Spain, he turned down the wrong way on a one way street into a construction zone. He was stopped and the car impounded for lack of an IDP. Not for driving the wrong way in a construction zone, apparently (which might not be so bad) but for the lack of an IDP.

It sounds credible. It's a little more than hearing of a sighting of the Loch Ness monster. After all, it was printed in the Washington Post - although as hearsay.

I'm still waiting for someone who reads this board to say,

"Yes! I took the chance, foolish me! Alas, I rented a car in Europe without an IDP! I was stopped by the police and they punished me for not having one! If only I had spent an hour at my AAA office getting one!"

And then tell us what the penalty was.

Posted by
4555 posts

IDPs are required by certain countries and not by others, period. If you choose to get one, fine...if you choose not to get one, fine. Your out and out rejection of the Washington Post story makes me wonder if you'd believe someone if they did post a story saying they had been fined.

Posted by
3313 posts

In my last post I was trying, perhaps unsuccessfully, to be humorous. I meant that the WaPo reader's comment was in the nature of "someone told us" and wasn't quite the firsthand confirmation I asked for here.

Countless thousands of Americans rent cars in Europe every year. Dozens come to this website asking if they need IDPs. Surely someone could confirm that the requirement is enforced.

Yes, they are "required" by some countries. But, is it a big deal? IDPs were established by an international treaty shortly after WWII. Are they just a vestige of yesteryear's travel regulations like the law that requires you to register your camera with US Customs?

In the discussion I've seen here, all that's been established is that - technically - a requirement exists in some countries. I just want to know if anyone has personal experience with enforcement and what the penalties are. Maybe the squib in the WaPo is all we have to go on.

Posted by
29 posts

Really? You're supposed to register your camera with U.S. Customs? Is that coming or going? ;-)

I knew you were just trying to be humorous with the thing about the Washington Post article. I think it's an interesting question, but I have no personal experience either.

Posted by
3313 posts

Karen - Yes! If you read the US Customs regulations, you are supposed to register any foreign made cameras, laptops, etc. before you take them with you on your trip. Otherwise, you can be charged duty taxes when you bring them back into the States.

Of course that never happens to anyone.

Which is why I'm asking if IDPs are similarly "on the book" requirements but not enforced in modern times.

Posted by
12040 posts

"Those driving in Portugal, Spain, Italy, Austria, Germany, Greece, and Eastern Europe are likely to be fined if found without an international driving permit, and should probably get one."

Mine is just one experience, but when the traffic police stopped me in Austria, my state license and rental contract sufficed.

Posted by
4555 posts

Doug...I routinely travel 120 K/ph on 100 k/ph and haven't had a speeding ticket yet. But that doesn't make it's acceptable. One day, I'm sure I'll run thru a trap monitored by an officer who hasn't yet made his quota, or is having a bad day, and I'll be nailed. I don't think I'd want to be the one to recommend to a poster that they shouldn't bother to get one, only for them to be fined for not having one.

Posted by
3313 posts

Norm - I've been persuaded after some more digging.

According to articles in the IHT, Italy recently toughened its requirement for IDPs.

On another travel forum, an Italian participant was specific that the fine is 75E, payable on the spot.

Hertz' information for its Italy renters says:

"While Hertz does not always insist on renters having an International Driving Permit (IDP), subject to their national licence being acceptable, local laws in many countries require drivers to have an IDP if their national licence was issued outside the EU. Failure to produce an IDP when asked by the police may result in the imposition of an on-the-spot fine for non-EU licence holders and could also result in the seizure of the vehicle."

Other than our friend in the Washington Post story, I still haven't heard from anyone with personal experience of being penalized. But I've seen enough police checkpoints in Italy that I will now recommend carrying one...

Thanks, everybody!

Posted by
5462 posts

I have also seen on another board (Thorntree) some discussion that Greece has become much more insistent on the IDP, enforced at the rental car counter.