Today I found out the hard way that you do need an IDP WHEN DRIVING IN SPAIN and elsewhere in Europe. We were randomly stopped at a sobriety checkpoint in downtown Barcelona and the policia urbana asked me to produce the IDP after I had already offered my state DL. I did not have an IDP, but I had bought one for 7 years straight (from 2001 to 2007),
never needing it, and then my wife got stopped by gendarmes (for a parking ticket) in France in 2007 and she showed the IDP but they only wanted her State DL and passport. They didn't even have a clue what the IDP was.
At this point, in the face of foreign law enforcement not even understanding what the IDP was, we thought the whole IDP was a scam. So we stopped getting the IDP.
We traveled to France and elsewhere around the world each year from 2008 to 2013 without incident. However in 2014, this year, when my wife rented a car on Rentalcar.com, they indicated an IDP was necessary to pick up the car although we had never been asked for an IDP from rental car agencies anywhere outside of
the US. She got her IDP before traveling to France, but they didn't ask her to produce it at the rental car counter, so I didn't bother getting an IDP when I came one month later, nor did I need one to get my rental car.
Flash forward to Barcelona, today.
So I ended up up getting my 250 EURO souvenir from the POLICIA URBANA, and they were not going to let me drive at all. Fortunately my wife had her IDP and she could drive.
Meanwhile they asked for a credit card or cash and I said "tarjeta credito por favor" because we did not have 250 Euros of smackers in our possession. They came back saying their credit machine was not working (I think this the typical problem with credit cards with magnetic bands, so I offered my chip & pin card, but he indicated his machine was broken).
Sooooo my wife said all we had was 85 Euros and the officer replied, "There was a Banco Populaire right there." How convenient the stakeout was next to a cash machine.
Already this had taken 1.5 hours, because we had each got another fancy souvenir in the form of plastic mouth piece from both our personal breathalyzer tests. Luckily we zeroed out on the breathalyzer) and passed despite the fact that we had had one and only one glass of wine each at lunch, 2 hours earlier. Passing the test made perfect sense in retrospect, but nevertheless it was nerve wracking.
OK, the plot thickens.
They had already taken my state DL license, my passport, my wife's IDP, and her State DL. She goes and gets the money, returns, we pay them, then they only returned my State DL, passport and her IDP, but not her State DL.
So she said, "Excuse me but you still have my State DL." Then we (all of us, police included) were in a full on search for the missing document and they searched their own vehicle, while we searched ours.
They turned up empty in their vehicle so they said we DID give it to you, quote: "I know I gave it to you". My wife replied, "I know you did not" and I replied, "You did not". Then they said, "Have you looked everywhere in your car. "Yes", we replied. We then opened up our car for them to search.
Then they said "you can drive without it, you don't need the State DL to drive in Spain or France." My wife said I know I need my state DL in France.
Then I said to the officers, "We are going to have to make a police report THAT YOU LOST MY WIFE'S ID".
There was an animated point of discussion between the officers about whether "We were going to make a police report that WE lost a license" OR "whether they (the policia urbana) lost it".
They were trying to make us culpable.
At this point I made it clear that I wanted to file a report (una multa) that they lost my wife's license. The five policia urbana now scrambled to find it and miraculously the State DL WAS PULLED OUT OF THE BACK OF THEIR VEHICLE.
What more can I say at this point, get your IDP you will need it if stopped in SPAIN.