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International Driver's Permit

I'll be in mainland Europe when I rent a car, and staying there. Do I need to get an IDP? I was under the impression that it is needed only for those licenses not in the western alphabet ie: Russian, Greek, Chinese, etc.

Posted by
492 posts

hm never heard the alphabet thing. I gather that might come from the IDP helping local police translate license information, but in place it's required it doesn't really matter if your license is also in the Latin alphabet.

A number of European countries technically do require Americans to have an IDP - Austria, Greece, Spain, several others. They're super easy and cheap to get - AAA has em for around $20 or so. So no harm in snagging yourself one before your trip, and having it with you along with your US license. Better safe than sorry!

Posted by
4933 posts

Each country has different laws regarding having an IDP. Some require it in addition to your home driver's license.

When you rent a car, you probably won't need to show it. It's when you are stopped by the police that you may need it.

Posted by
27756 posts

"Mainland Europe" is not completely clear as to where you will actually be. Mainland Europe ranges all the way from Turkey and Russia all the way to Portugal and Spain.

Some require, some request, some don't need it.

Based on your other posts, and as part of your travel looks to be around the Bodensee, if you are doing any driving at all in Austria, Italy, France, Germany you had better have it.

There are many others, and you can find which by seeing which are party to both of the conventions on a search.

For such a small investment in time and money isn't it worth it for the peace of mind and to have to worry about that again for a year?

Don't forget the Vignettes for Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia and to have plenty of cash for tolls in Italy and France and Spain.

For Italy study TUTOR and ZTL.

Become familiar with the National Speed limits in each country and the icons on the street signs. They are different, to one degree or another, in every country. Don't expect numbers on signs governing national speed limits, or on priority to the right signs or yellow diamond signs.

Reduce your speed before the reduction sign, there may be a camera just after it.

Posted by
14919 posts

It's not difficult or expensive to get one. It doesn't take up space or weight in your luggage. Rather than try to second guess whether you'll ever be asked for it, just do it. You never know.

Posted by
11262 posts

Get one. If you are stopped and don't have one it could be a big fine.

I don't drive in Europe but I get one every year in case I change my mind.

Posted by
8293 posts

A trip to Europe costs thousands. Why balk at spending $25 for an IDP? We were pulled over once on a highway in France by a bored motorcycle cop, for no particular reason. Our IDP and other correct documents meant that he waved us on, but he looked a bit grumpy about it.

Posted by
7748 posts

We also have been pulled over by a policeman for no apparent reason. Checked our “papers!”
We always get the IDP, 20 minutes, $25, AAA stores, so easy.
I always print out a copy of European road signs too, keep it in the car.

Posted by
6649 posts

n_smedley, the translation part of it is a minor detail. The main purpose of one is the verification by an authorized official (the AAA rep) that your state-issued drivers license is valid. After all, a cop in a foreign country is unlikely to be able to tell what each state and country's drivers license is supposed to look like and know its not counterfeit. Imagine a traffic cop where you live being presented with a license from some non-English speaking country. Just because it might be in latin alphabet doesn't mean she can read it.

Posted by
720 posts

Agree with DougMac......go to AAA and get easy!

Posted by
11289 posts

" Why balk at spending $25 for an IDP?"

I don't know, but obviously it's a big issue for some people. No offense meant to m_smedly, who just asked politely. But some people act as if they're being told to amputate a limb when they're told they should get an IDP.

For m_smedley, you were misinformed. It's not just about the alphabet. Some countries require it that use the Roman alphabet (Nigel gave you a starter list).

Posted by
2561 posts

I was facing a hefty fine and a required bribe for the judge when I was caught in a speed trap in Montenegro. It would have meant missing our flight home (four people!). When I showed the cop my IDP, he looked it over and let me go. Was it the IDP? Don’t know but I would not drive overseas without one.

Posted by
3621 posts

We look at it as insurance. Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. And the cost, in our opinion, is small compared to the overall cost of the trip. We always use public transportation in Europe, but still have IDPs with us in case the need or desire to rent a car comes up.

Posted by
3663 posts

The important question is which countries are you going to visit? Many commonly visited countries in Europe do not require them, so why buy it if not needed, no matter how "cheap" or how "easy"? For example condoms are cheap and easy to obtain and don't take up much space, yet not required by everyone.

Posted by
21 posts

Tom, I didn't think they were required unless, as I said, they were is a foreign alphabet!

I did my research, and sorry everyone, that I wasn't clear that I know I can get one from AAA. I know that they are required in some eastern European countries. I know that I need special vignettes to drive in Switzerland and Austria.

Rules change, and the most current news I found was that I probably didn't need it, that's why I was checking here.

I am specifically looking at driving in Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Austria. Yes, it's only $20, but I don't want to spend it if I don't NEED to! That's one more excursion I can go on or one more delicious meal I can eat! :D

Posted by
8889 posts

I know that I need special vignettes to drive in Switzerland and Austria.

Smedley, the Vignettes are toll payments for driving on an Autobahn.
You don't need one, the car does, and only if you are going to drive on an Autobahn (though it is difficult to drive distances without going on an Autobahn). Instead of paying tolls per Km, you pay per week, month or year, and you get a sticker (the Vignette) which you attach to the windscreen to prove you have paid.

In some cases the car will already have one, for example if you hire a car in Switzerland it will already have a Swiss Vignette, but is unlikely to have an Austrian one.
No tolls in Belgium or Germany.
France, Italy and others have conventional tolls based on distance with tollbooths.

Posted by
27756 posts

If you will drive in Austria you require an IDP.

I have recently seen on these Forums that an appropriate document is also required for Germany and an IDP will suffice.