This is just a quick note about driving in Europe with a license from the USA…
I’m leaving in a few days for western Europe and just realized that I (technically) need to get an International Driving Permit (IDP).
Why? Because certain countries (Spain included, which is where I’ll be renting a car) require an IDP. Though I could probably get away without one, I’m not interested in creating extra drama while on the road. Thus, I’ll obey the law.
What is an IDP?
An IDP is essentially a translation of your US driver’s license, thereby making it easier for a police officer to write you a ticket. If you’re driving in a country that requires an IDP and you don’t have one, you could be subject to additional fines if you get stopped for a traffic violation.
It’s also possible that the car rental agency will refuse to rent you a car if you don’t have an IDP, though I’ve heard that this is rarely (if ever) a problem. Regardless, they’re easy enough to get, so why not?
How to get an IDP
If you want/need an IDP, you can pick one up at your nearest AAA (or, in Canada, CAA). The cost is $15 for non-members, or free for members (at least for AAA around here). You’ll also need two passport-sized photos — these were likewise free for members, otherwise they would have cost $10.
For me, the biggest hassle is not having realized this requirement sooner. If I had, I could’ve handled it by mail. Instead, I had to make an unplanned trip to AAA during an otherwise busy week of preparations.
Another minor annoyance is that the IDP is only good for a year, even if your driver’s license is good for much longer. Oh well. C’est la vie…
(Yes, I’ll also be visiting France on this trip.)