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International Driving Permit AAA- Waste of Money for Us

We just got back from 3 week European Vacation to France, Italy and Germany. We like to give valuable true information.

We rented cars in all 3 countries. The international Driving Permit by AAA is totally unneeded and waste of money, sold to Americans for those countries..
We were told by all 3 rental car agencies that it was worthless and unnecessary. They didn't look at it or even want to look at it.

We were told if licence is in standard Latin alphabet, then unnecessary. If you are from a Asian or Arabic country were they use different alphabet then it would be need to translate driving licence.

We feel mislead by AAA and comments on forum we assumed were true. We were told by our local AAA office that we would not be able to rent a car in France, Italy or Germany without it. Liars

Posted by
4688 posts

I take it you weren't stopped the police in any of these countries? That's when you would want the IDP, not at the rental car office. I did show my IDP to a Czech policeman once a few years ago when stopped. But, the laws do seem to vary by country and also can change over time, so what may have been true a few years ago may not be true any longer.

Posted by
255 posts

The renting companies don't care about it, but the police does.
If you are stopped or get in an accident, you have to have it by law, otherwise it's like you're driving without a license.

Posted by
6045 posts

In my opinion and in my own personal experience this is a very misleading post, and may even be seen as encouraging some readers to break local laws in some foreign countries (see Community Guidelines #8)

While it is true that many, not all but many, rental car companies do not require or even ask for an IDP when renting a car - it is not required of them by local laws as far as I can see - that is not the reason for needing an IDP. The IDP is required in some countries if you are involved in an accident (my experience) or if you are stopped by local traffic authorities for driving infractions. It's the local authorities that require it, not the rental car companies - they don't care one way or the other.

Posted by
4075 posts

Please educate yourself and stop spreading false information. An IDP is not required to rent a car. An IDP is required to legally drive and the police will ask for it. If you have an accident or are stopped for an infraction, then the police will not accept your US driver's license.

Posted by
68 posts

Per Rick Steve's own website- "You may hear contradictory information on exactly where you need an IDP. People who sell them say you should have them almost everywhere. People who rent cars say you need them almost nowhere. People who drive rental cars say the IDP is overrated, but can come in handy as a complement to your passport and driver's license."

I'm giving actually true recent experience, in hope to enlighten people. NO FAKE NEWS here,

Posted by
6172 posts
Posted by
16827 posts

jmjbrtw, if you haven't been stopped by the police in each of the countries you visited, your experience is "true", but it is howlingly incomplete. Someone reported on this forum that in one country (I think Italy but might be misremembering) you can be fined hundreds of euros if you don't have the IDP. I think it is a very poor idea to risk that.

Posted by
2518 posts

Amazing that OP complains about spending $20 to get an IDP on a trip that costs thousands of dollars. Yes, in Italy you can receive a hefty fine if you do not have one and are asked for it by the police. I have rented cars in Italy numerous times and will again later this year. Though I have never been asked to produce one, $20 is cheap insurance to avoid possible delays, fines and inconvenience. It makes me chuckle to read "scam complaints" by folks who were fined for speed camera violations or ZTL infractions - oops, you broke the law.

Posted by
68 posts

We were stopped near Florence for random road stop by police. They asked for my licence and rental car credentials, they reviewed and said thanks, and we were back on our way in less then 5 minutes. Never asked for IDP.

We bought them from AAA for our trip, but not needed anywhere.

Posted by
16769 posts

Your quote from Rick's material is incomplete. Text before and after the quoted section includes:

However, some countries also require an International Driving Permit (IDP). An IDP is an official translation of your US license (making it easier for the cop to write out a ticket).

It's a good idea to get one if you'll be driving in Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, or Spain — countries where you're technically required to carry a permit, since you could be fined if found without one.

Since Italy was one of your destinations, it made sense to spend the $20. I did, too, last month, even though I've never been stopped.

Posted by
396 posts

We had to show our International Driving Permit to rent a Hertz Rental Car at the Edinburgh Airport in Scotland.

Posted by
1343 posts

Rental cars places in Europe usually don't ask. Some police ask some don't. Guess I would treat your post more seriously if you weren't out $20.

Also, you edited the Rick Steves quote to change the context. here is the full quote:

You may hear contradictory information on exactly where you need an
IDP. People who sell them say you should have them almost everywhere.
People who rent cars say you need them almost nowhere. People who
drive rental cars say the IDP is overrated, but can come in handy as a
complement to your passport and driver's license. It's a good idea to
get one if you'll be driving in Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia,
Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, or Spain —
countries where you're technically required to carry a permit, since
you could be fined if found without one. If all goes well, you'll
likely never be asked to show this permit — but it's a must if you end
up dealing with the police.

Posted by
68 posts

I am giving our experience from France, Italy and Germany were we actually drove October 2017. No experience with anywhere else, except Ireland which we rented a car for 2 weeks a couple years ago and IDP was not needed there either.

Posted by
264 posts

I was asked for my IDP when I rented a car in Italy (although that was about 7 years ago), but also most recently in Croatia this past summer. I wouldn't want to take my chances just to save $20.

Posted by
6045 posts

It is the travelers' responsibility to know the laws in the countries they visit - ignorance of the law is no excuse for misbehavior.

When driving in France it is required to have either an IDP or an official French translation of your local driver's license in addition to your actual license. Maybe you'll need it, maybe you won't - maybe the police will ask for it, maybe they won't (probably depends on whether or not they speak English in our case). Whether or not you actually need it or use it, it is still better to have it than not since it is required. Laws change over time and relying on 2nd (or 3rd) hand, or outdated information is not always wise.

As others here have said over and over regarding the IDP "t's a tiny drop in the bucket of the total cost of your trip". And, like insurance, even if you end up not using it, it's a good investment.

Posted by
1343 posts

I wouldn't want to take my chances just to save $20.

And that's really what this boils down to. You are spending $20 to not worry about it. You don't have to worry if the rental car place does or does not require it, you don't have to worry if the police do or do not require it. You don't even have to do any research.

I always get an IDP. Last year at this time I set off on a six month trip. Rented or drove cars in Bulgaria, Turkey, Italy, Qatar and Thailand on the trip. No police asked for my IDP and I never handed it to them, just passport and license. I was stopped multiple times in Bulgaria and Turkey. No rental car place asked for my IDP until Thailand, where I handed her my license as per usual, and she slid it back to me and said "drivers permit?" Which I handed to her and she xeroxed (but not the license - bizarre). So again, I think many people including myself would agree that an IDP is an anachronism and you probably won't need it, but one that you will be very happy you had if you do end up needing it. I also think that you are thinking too hard if you think this is some big conspiracy and people are "liars" because they don't know the exact details of whether it is or isn't required in each of 150 signatory countries.

Posted by
253 posts

We were asked for it when we rented in Italy and told by the rental car agent to make sure we kept it in the car while driving in case we were stopped. Glad I had it.

Posted by
23550 posts

I like the last word in the rant.

Everything I post is truth. Just because you didn't feel that the legal requirements applied to you is no reason to call me a liar.

That's not likely to get you much help with future questions you may have.

Posted by
3282 posts

All this for $20.

You got stopped in Italy and didn't have to show your IDP. Great. You either got a police officer who reads English or just wanted to be sure you had a license. You didn't get stopped anywhere else. How much would the fine have been if you didn't have the IDP and were asked for it? The rental car companies didn't ask for it. No problem. But what would you have done if the rental car company had asked for it (which they can do) and you didn't have it?

Since both Rick and the US State department (and many foreign country web sites) all say you need an IDP, what's the harm in having one?

Why the rant against the IDP anyway?

Posted by
5308 posts

Ripoff! I have also paid for life insurance for 50 years and never needed to use it. ;-)
We always get IDP's (2, although I seldom drive the rental car) as a precautionary measure. Just like we put my name on the contract as an authorized driver ... just in case of emergency.

So getting the IDP is like buying travel insurance -- you never need it until you do.

Posted by
1654 posts

Ripoff! I have also paid for life insurance for 50 years and never needed to use it. ;-)

You beat me to it! I was going to respond that I didn't have an accident in Italy so I guess my insurance was a total waste.

IDP took me 15 minutes and $20. I would never drive in Europe without one. I sure hope the uninitiated doesn't listen to this inaccurate information.

Posted by
68 posts

This is not a rant, just our actual recent experience. Hopefully this helps someone decide on their future Europe vacation to get a IDP or not. We cant speak for anyone else except us and the countries we drove in without any issues.
We feel we were mislead to get one, which in our case was not needed. With fees and photos it cost us $68 for 2 at AAA.

Posted by
68 posts

You don't have to agree with it! Its a free world and forum is meant as a means for getting information.
You don't have to agree, its our actual experience, not anyone else.

I was hoping its was more like a actual drivers licence that I could use for an secondary ID.

We will research better next time to see if countries we are visiting actually require one before purchasing, for example Austria is
100% required and I would get one before driving there.

Posted by
2546 posts

That $68 was insurance. Yes, you were never asked for the IDP but you could have been and if you were, would you have been able to explain in the language of the country you were in why you did not have one. We have driven in all the countries that you mention many times and was asked for an IDP twice in France by the police and never by a rental car company in France. Once the officer did not speak English well and checked the French language part of the IDP and once the officer was apparently one of those stickler types. He asked for the IDP in English and then did not even look at it when my husband handed it to him. I think saying that the advice to get an IDP is a lie is a bit harsh. It like saying someone lied because they told you the speed limit on a US highway is 65 and you drove past a trooper going 70 MPH but did not get stopped so the advice to travel 65 MPH is a lie.

FWIW, from my experience, make sure you have the IDP in Greece. After never being asked for it in France, our rental car company in Greece would not let us have the car until we showed the IDP. Luckily they had brought the car to the hotel so all we had to do was go to the room to get IDP.

Posted by
2546 posts

Maybe the extra $28 was for the passport pictures and maybe even the cost of parking while getting the IDP.

Posted by
4075 posts

But it was needed by law. Why are you under the impression that it was not needed? To me this is very clear. Just because you got lucky doesn't mean it was the right thing to do.

Posted by
2525 posts

The local AAA branch charges $20 for the IDP and $9 for the related passport style photo.

Posted by
6045 posts

Bruce, I think all AAA offices charge $20 for the IDP, but different local AAA offices do sometimes charge different amounts for passport photos. So it's possible the OP is not exaggerating the total cost.

I don't really think this is a matter of the cost anyway. I think the OP just doesn't like paying for something that they may not need. I'm going to assume he/she does not buy any kind of travel insurance for that reason either.

Posted by
1304 posts

I bought travel insurance once. I had a great trip and didn't need to file a claim. So I suppose I should have come back to this forum and told everyone that travel insurance is totally unneeded and a waste of money.

I bought a money belt and carried my money in it. I wasn't pickpocketed a single time the entire trip. So I suppose I should have come back to this forum and told everyone that a money belt is totally unneeded and a waste of money.

I bought Immodium and took it on the trip with me. I didn't get diarrhea at all. So I suppose I should have come back to this forum and told everyone that Immodium is totally unneeded and a waste of money.