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International driving permit required in France?

International driving permit required in France?

Old Jul 22nd, 2014, 05:49 PM
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Just a first-hand comment on this topic after returning from France, where we rented a car in Avignon from a company whose website says you need to have the IDP to even rent one of their cars ...

At the rental car counter no one asked for the IDP (we had them) so out of curiosity I asked the manager about it. He said the company didn't care and it wasn't a requirement for renting, but if one were stopped by the police it was something you should have. He did say there were two European countries that definitely required it (Italy and ?).

I think I won't get a new IDP each year but instead will just keep the old one until I renew my USA driver's license several years from now, at least for renting cars in France.
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Old Jul 24th, 2014, 03:32 AM
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What kerouac did in 1974 cannot now be done pursuant to these new requirements. As provided by Pvoyageuse above, the French law clearly states; any document used for any administrative purpose must be translated into French by a certified translator. AAA is not on this list, nor is anything like an IDP mentioned. If you need to make an official appearance at the Prefecture or in court, your IDP is entirely insufficient if not completely worthless. What you will need is a copy of your license and a recent letter from your license issuer stating that your permit is valid. Both of these must be translated into French.

I recently brought this subject up with a friend of mine who is a police captain at a city in Provence. He agreed that for any official inquiry or if someone is asked to present himself at a Prefecture that he might be asked to provide his license officially translated into French. He indicated however that his office had no policy for policemen to ask for on-the-spot license translations. Within the last few months I exchanged a Texas drivers license for a French license. The two licenses are line item identical except that one has Texas at the top and the other has République française at the top. I cannot imagine what value a AAA or any unofficial translation might have.

We have posters drawing conclusions about a law that many have never read and making recommendations to others on little more than supposition. I have seen nothing concrete that indicates an IDP meets any requirement in the French law. However, I may need an IDP the next time I visit Texas.
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Old Jul 24th, 2014, 10:29 AM
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I believe Greece also requires the IDP.
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Old Jul 24th, 2014, 10:52 AM
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Kind of normal because they don't use the Roman alphabet. Then again, is the IDP written in Greek?
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Old Jul 24th, 2014, 11:05 AM
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<b>"Then again, is the IDP written in Greek?"</b>

There are four pages that use different alphabets. Looks like Greek, Farsi, Japanese and Chinese so far as I can tell.

The languages I recognize include French, Spanish, German and Italian for sure, and probably Portuguese and Dutch.
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Old Jul 25th, 2014, 12:43 AM
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Why this controversy? You spend a fortune on an overseas trip and risk not being able to rent a car or getting in trouble with the police for lack of a $15 IDP?
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Old Jul 25th, 2014, 01:37 AM
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Geez - were talking about around $15 in most cases to get a International Drivers Permit. What is the big argument?

Wouldn't it be about that much to pay a notary to verify info translated into French?

People need to be realistic. What is to big controversy about pay $15 or even $20 when you've paid a few thousand to visit a or severl countries in Europe?

Wow. Everyone likes to hear themselves give advice

Getting a darn International Permit for anyone who wants to play it safe should do so, IMO. I wouldn't listen to anyone telling me not to. They are not the ones who 'may
(or not) have a problem when they are sitting safely in front of their computers. Again, we are talking a very SMALL amount of money !!
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Old Jul 25th, 2014, 02:00 AM
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From the U.S. State Department, France's Embassy website:

DRIVING INFORMATION

http://photos.state.gov/libraries/fr...is-driving.pdf

Interesting. The page begins with this declaimer:

<i>DISCLAIMER:
The information below relating to French legal requirements is provided for general information only and may not be totally accurate in a particular case. Questions involving interpretations of specific provisions or application to a specific case should be addressed to the French government officials at your local prefecture or sous-préfecture. The Embassy will not intervene with French Authorities on behalf of American citizens seeking to obtain a French driver’s license or exchange a U.S. driver’s license.

GENERAL INFORMATION

If you are a temporary visitor to France (less than 90 days,) you may drive with a valid U.S. driver's license. In addition to having your U.S. driver's license, visitors are strongly advised to carry an International Driving Permit or attach a French translation to their U.S. driver's license. Also, you must be at least 18 years old to drive in France.</i>

"Strongly advised" is not what lawyers consider law. Jaywalking is illegal in Manhattan, but it's barely enforced. If we were "strongly advised" not to jaywalk, most people would treat that as laughable. Sort of like Bloomberg's attempt at regulating soda (which he tried to make law).

<i><font color=#555555>"You spend a fortune on an overseas trip and risk not being able to rent a car or getting in trouble with the police for lack of a $15 IDP?"</font></i>

It's not the money. It never was the money. It's the wasted time. Judging by the way many people meticulously plan their travel, I would say a lot people don't enjoy wasting their time.

I don't do lines. EVER. I have no idea what the inside of an AAA office looks like. I don't want to know. I'd rather do laundry than stand on some stupid line for an hour, waiting for a piece of translation that I don't really need. And I haven't done my own laundry in about 30 years.

Until I read the words "mandatory law" from an official French source, this for me is a no-brainer.

This from Europcar's website:

http://www.europcar.com/EBE/module/r...riving-permits

<i>"International Driving Permits

Your driving licence will be honoured in most countries, however there are countries where non-local Driving Licences (in different languages or particularly in languages using different alphabet structures) are not accepted.

Europcar recommends you carry an International Driving Permit.

1. An IDP is written in 10 languages and serves as an officially recognised translation of your local driving licence in over 150 participating members of the United Nations.

2. Your IDP should always be accompanied by your valid local driving licence.

3. The UN itself does not issue driving permits, but uses authorised travel

4. International Driving Licence is mandatory in the following countries:

Argentina, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Ethiopia, Greece, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, Senegal, South Africa."</i>

There is a reason why no policeman in France or Italy has ever asked me for an IDP in over 30+ years of travel. Of course, I've never been in an accident.
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Old Jul 25th, 2014, 02:53 AM
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"There is a reason why no policeman in France or Italy has ever asked me for an IDP in over 30+ years of travel. Of course, I've never been in an accident"

No need - so to speak - to be in an accident to be asked for your driving licence. Roadside checks are not unusual.
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Old Jul 25th, 2014, 03:30 PM
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I was recently asked if I had an IDP when picking up the car in Barcelona. Europcar does that every now an then, but has never actually asked to see the document. I do have one, but from the early 90s. It hasn't changed.
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Old May 26th, 2015, 07:11 AM
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I have been reading threads about drivers' license requirements for France. I thought I would update this one with a recent French government website update.

Since during working hours I need to be at my desk and after that I go home and take care of my kids (I don't mind the small payment; time is what matters to me), and the nearest AAA office is a 30 minutes drive each way plus a potential wait in line), I have been doing a little research on whether we need IDPs for our short upcoming visit to France.

Due to my work, I'm not bad at understanding beaurocrat-ese, even though I'm not French.

The official French civil service web page contains this update from April 2015 (http://vosdroits.service-public.fr/p.../F1459.xhtml):

Court séjour en France

Si vous venez en France pour un court séjour (pour des vacances par exemple), vous pouvez conduire avec votre permis. Il doit être valide et être rédigé en français ou accompagné de sa traduction ou d'un permis international.

Per Google Translate, this means:

Short stay in France

If you come to France for a short stay (for vacation, for example), you can drive with your driving permit. It must be valid and be written in French or accompanied by a translation or an international permit.

It does not say the translation or any notarization must be official. Contrast this with the section that immediately follows, for people who want to drive on their foreign licenses during an "installation" in France, which says they must get an official translation (this section, for people staying longer periods of time - which I think is what "installation" means - has a link to the text cited above by Pvoyageuse, about official translation). I have to assume the contrast between short stays and installations means that if you ARE there for a short stay, you DON'T need an official translation and can bring an unofficial translation. If you are there for a long "installation", you need the official translation.

Please feel free to point me to any section of the French regulations that say otherwise (I couldn't find one here http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affich...XT00000607422; but I think this site just has laws; I'm not sure where to find the regulations).

If I am required by French law or regulations to get official French translation and notarization, I will. However, my guess is that the discrepancy between the two sections mean tourism is important to the country, and the government would like tourists on short visits to enjoy and be able to spend their time sightseeing, visiting French shops and restaurants, and learning more about French culture and history. After all, most gendarmes should know "name" means nom and "address" means addresse, for example. But again, if I overlooked something, please feel free to point me to a page with the applicable regulation. Thank you.
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Old May 26th, 2015, 07:21 AM
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" a man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest"

-- Simon & Garfunkel
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Old May 26th, 2015, 08:12 AM
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It took me about 15 minutes to get an IDP at AAA. Really no big deal. I rented a car in France last week - didn't need it, but was still glad that I had it.
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Old May 26th, 2015, 08:21 AM
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<i>most gendarmes should know "name" means nom and "address" means addresse, for example.</i>

They most certainly do. I might add that the format of the licenses used in most states is line item identical to the format used in France. Further, any UK license is perfectly acceptable in English as is.

I have read the same official French requirements many times and wondered about the <i>translation into French</i> portion. There is no question that if you were required to present yourself and your license formally at the Préfecture that you should have an IDP or official translation. The going price for an official translation in Paris from one of the approved translators is 50€.

For those who have an IDP, the French requirement says nothing how recent the IDP must be. IDPs typically state that they are valid for 1 year but as long as your license has not fundamentally changed, I see no need at all for a yearly update.
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Old May 26th, 2015, 09:05 AM
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I will say again as I have said in the past that this blanket regulation is only to make sure that action can be taken against some of the newer visitors who have licences in Chinese, Arabic or other languages which are not necessarily decipherable to the average policeman.

(An aside since a lot of people do not seem to know the difference between the police and the gendarmerie. The police are urban units, and the gendarmes are a military unit that handles rural policing jobs and also serve as the highway patrol. You will rarely see a gendarme in Paris, for example, except when they are called in for enhanced security for demonstrations and things like that.)

Meanwhile, I have been asking for about 10 years now whenever this subject comes up whether anybody has ever been asked to show their IDP by the police or the gendarmes. Nobody has ever reported having to do it. However, so people feel better if they pay the scam fee to get an IDP for France. If it helps them to sleep at night, I have no problem with it.
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Old May 26th, 2015, 03:03 PM
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Hi, OP here. Kerouac, that is helpful. Now I know the difference between the police and the gendarmes. Thank you.

Sarastro, my license is from the USA, so if we are stopped on our trip this summer, I will report back. Although I am a careful driver, I cannot guarantee I will be perfect with signs to which I'm not accustomed (although I have been studying these) and rights-of-way, so perhaps a stop will occur.

Due to the hour roundtrip drive, plus parking (urban area), plus wait time, going to the AAA would be quite a trip for me. If not necessary, I would prefer to remain at my workplace (daytime) and home with my children (at night).

Others have not pointed me to page showing a law or regulation requiring official French translation, IDP or French notarization for *short-term* visitors. I remain willing to review those if they exist. So far all I have seen are a link to a page requiring notarization for long-term visitors, and references to recommendations or non-binding guidance (by definition these are not legally binding).

In doing a little more research, I found this U.S. Embassy advice to travelers to Rennes (http://photos.state.gov/libraries/fr...-driving.pdf):

"The following information for U.S. citizens driving in France was provided to the Embassy by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"'French regulations distinguish between persons in France on short tourist or business trips (less than 90 days) and those who are here as longer-term residents (more than 90 days).
'If you are a temporary visitor in France, you may drive with a valid U.S. (State) driver's license.
'In addition to having your U.S. driver's license, visitors are advised (but not required) to carry an International Driving permit, or attach a French translation to their U.S. driver's license.'"

A nonofficial site of AutoEurope (http://travelcenter.discoverfrance.n...n_france.shtml) says: "Visitors staying less than 90 days and carrying a valid EU, international, or U.S. (state) license may drive in France. Although it is not a requirement of either our leasing or car rental contracts, an International Driving Permit (IDP) – valid in 150+ countries – is recommended, as it can help to expedite encounters with authorities in the event of an accident or traffic infraction."

I think these last two quotes are the facts. It's not legally required, as we saw from my quotes from the French government page, but could be helpful in expediting matters if you get stopped or have an accident. I'll try to remember to bring a written translation. We'll see how it goes.
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Old May 26th, 2015, 05:37 PM
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"I remain willing to review those if they exist."

Awfully decent of you.
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Old May 27th, 2015, 08:53 AM
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Believe me, the French police are completely familiar with the U.S. licences of all 50 states.
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Old May 28th, 2015, 04:41 AM
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Again, just spend the the $15 and sleep better.
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Old May 28th, 2015, 08:30 AM
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The AAA will certainly sleep better, counting the sheep walking up cash in hand.
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