Tips and Inspiration for your European holiday

If you are planning on driving whilst in Europe, it is recommended that you obtain an international licence, officially called an International Driving Permit (IDP), prior to your departure from Australia (or your home country). 


Do I need an International Driving Permit for Europe?

 

An IDP is an internationally recognised form of identification, and in many cases is a pre-requisite for hiring a car.


It is compulsory in some European countries to present an IDP, as well as your current Driver's Licence from home, when collecting your hire or lease vehicle, or when pulled over by police.

 


So,
do you need an international drivers license?

In my own experience, most times we have rented or leased a car in Europe we haven't been asked to present an international drivers licence - our Australian licence has been sufficient.  This always prompts my husband to ask “why do i need an international driving licence?” before we head off to Europe.

However, for the sake of $40, I would rather be safe than risk a fine for not having one if pulled over by the police for any reason. 

Further reading: A step-by-step guide to the tax free vehicle leasing program in Europe

 

As you'll see from the photos below, your car rental company will most likely confirm what licence/s are required to be presented on collection of your hire car.  Some countries, like Germany and France, require only a regular drivers' licence from home to be presented on collection. 

 

However, the confirmation of our car hire booking for Switzerland shows that you do need an international driver's license in Switzerland as well as a regular licence. 


German can rental requirementsConfirmation of our German car rental indicated that only a regular driver's licence from home was required.


Swiss IDP requirementsIn Switzerland, we needed to present an International Driving Permit as well as a regular licence in order to collect our hire car.

 

It is worth noting that the requirement to hold an International Driver’s License may be a law of a specific country and not necessarily a requirement of a rental car company.  If you are pulled over by police whilst driving in Europe, you may be fined for not holding a valid IDP if that particular country requires foreign drivers to present one. (See the comment by Suzanne below.)


According to the RACV website, failure to hold an International Driving Permit can result in exclusion from your travel insurance policy for a loss caused whilst driving overseas.  If you plan to drive in Europe without an IDP, I strongly recommend you check the conditions of your travel insurance regarding this.

 

Further reading: Are there toll roads in Europe?

 


DriveAway Holidays car hire in Europe

 

How to get an International Drivers Licence

International Driving Permits can be purchased online from your State’s local motoring organisation (in Australia these include RACQ, RACV, NRMA, etc.). You will need to complete an online form and upload a scan of the front and back of your current drivers’ licence and a passport-sized photo.  


IDPs cost less than $40 and are valid for 12 months. The International Driving Permit will be posted to you once it has been issued.

 

Where to get your International Drivers Licence

Getting your IDP is as simple as visiting your local motoring organisation outlet.  In Australia, International Driving Permits can be issued by RACV, NRMA, RAQ and other state motoring organisations.

 


Visit the Australian Government's Smart Traveller website for further details about international drivers licences.




Get all my tips for driving in Europe here
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Europe driving guide ebook

 

 

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Comments   

# Swiss Mr 2018-06-14 00:46
I have been an Aus Expat for a number of years now and haven't had an IDP since '98.
Rented cars all across Europe with out an issue.
Now living in Switzerland, we cross into France and Germany many times a week to do our tax free shopping.
Even taking out a silly street sign in Germany the Police officer didn't ask for it. BUT - a 'random' stop [suspect it was the swiss plates] by Italian police on the last day of this years Giro, and I spent 1/2 hour talking my way out of a 400 euro fine. Just submitted my paper work for an IDP - it's cheap compared to their fines.
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# Hank 2018-03-14 05:37
Can I get the license if I'm not in Europe still?
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# Carolyn 2018-03-14 12:29
Hi Hank, this link provides details on how to obtain an international drivers licence if you are outside of your home country: https://www.racv.com.au/travel-leisure/holiday-planning/international-driving-licence.html Hope that helps.
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# Suzanne 2017-08-24 21:10
We travelled in France and Italy in May this year. Pulled over in Siena (our GPS took us through the walled city) and fined twice. 50 euro for being in the wrong place and 400 euro for not having an international licence (that hurt!)
We have been told that the Italian law changed in January and you need an international one!
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# Steven 2018-05-18 21:03
We were warned in 2016 to get an IDP for Italy, even though we were told it was not required in France. The rental car company had no interest in the IDP.
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# Carolyn 2018-05-25 11:56
I'm not surprised your rental car company had no interest in the IDP, Steven. Despite renting cars on many occasions in Europe we have never been asked to present one. However, in some countries it is a legal requirement and if you were to get pulled over by the police and couldn't present one, you are likely to be fined. That's why I always insist we get one before our European travels.
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# Carolyn 2017-08-28 17:37
Ouch, Suzanne. A 400 euro fine must have really hurt! Thanks for letting me know me about the Italian law change.
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# John McLean 2018-03-12 21:03
Yeah , I’ve been driving my RV in Europe for 9 years and had my first bingle in Poland last year . Police came & biggest fone was for no international licence. Not happy.
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# Carolyn 2018-03-13 16:48
Oh, I'm sorry to hear that John. My husband takes a lot of arm twisting to buy an international licence before we travel each year but your experience, and Suzanne's, should convince him it is a necessity.
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# Nicky 2017-05-25 15:41
Hi Carolyn
Have had clarification that most hire car companies do not need you to have the permit, but it may be a legal requirement in the country in which you are driving. If you are stopped by police and they ask to see the permit, they can fine you if it is a legal requirement in that country. I also haven't been asked for a permit on the occasions I have driven overseas, but I'd rather be safe than sorry.
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# Carolyn 2017-05-25 16:15
Thanks for the clarification, Nicky. My understanding is the same as yours in that the IDP may be a government requirement rather than a hire car company requirement. Like you, I'd rather be safe than sorry. Trying to explain to a foreign speaking policeman why I don't have an IDP isn't something I'd want to have to do!
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# Carolyn 2016-02-01 15:11
Quoting Warner Dakin:
Last September, the RACQ charged us $39 each to stick a photo we supplied onto a bit of paper and stamp it. We did not use them in Italy and have not needed them over our last few trips. It serves no purpose that our driver's license would not cover, and might be worth it at say $10. It might have made sense back in 1949 when it started. I understand that the money from this ripoff goes to the Australian Automobile Association presumably for supplying the blank permits.

Thanks for your comments, Warner. I can understand your annoyance at paying for an IDP and then not having to show it. I must admit we haven't been asked to show ours the last few times we have collected a rental car but I prefer to have one just in case we come across an officious employee who insists on seeing one.
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# Warner Dakin 2016-02-01 10:53
Last September, the RACQ charged us $39 each to stick a photo we supplied onto a bit of paper and stamp it. We did not use them in Italy and have not needed them over our last few trips. It serves no purpose that our driver's license would not cover, and might be worth it at say $10. It might have made sense back in 1949 when it started. I understand that the money from this ripoff goes to the Australian Automobile Association presumably for supplying the blank permits.
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# mick 2017-08-20 11:03
I am having the same issues. Drove in France for a month recently. no worries and no need of an IDP to rent the vehicle.
Now wanting to do the same thing in Italy. It appears to be more difficult and I wonder if I will need this totally useless piece of paper. Quite clearly little more value than making an obscene amount of money for the automobile clubs rather than serving any useful purpose.
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# Carolyn 2015-06-01 10:09
Quoting Daniel:
Can i get an IDP while overseas?
I am in Europe and want to travel around by car...

Hi Daniel,
As far as I'm aware the IDP must be issued in your country of residence. It might be worth a quick email to your State's motoring association to ask them. However, you may find a car rental company that is willing to rent you a car on presentation of your standard driver's license.
Safe travels.
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# Daniel 2015-05-30 02:55
Can i get an IDP while overseas?
I am in Europe and want to travel around by car...
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# Carolyn 2013-11-01 19:45
Hi PKC54,

That's good to hear that your Queensland drivers license was sufficient. On some of the occasions I've hired cars in Europe I haven't been asked for an IDP either, but I like to be a 'boy scout' and always be prepared just in case I need to show it!
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# PKC54 2013-11-01 18:51
Have hired cars in Republic of Ireland, France and Crete and just shown my Qld Drivers License.
Having said that I did get the IDP before I left but haven't needed to use it.
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# Carolyn 2012-12-20 17:58
Hi Nidhi,
Not all European countries require the renter to show an International Driving Permit when hiring a car, however it is always a good idea to have one anyway.

The rental agreement and/or voucher you receive for your car rental should state whether an IDP is compulsory or not, however, for the minimal cost involved in obtaining one, I always think it is better to be safe than sorry.

Regards,
Carolyn - Holidays to Europe.
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# Nidhi Shrivastava 2012-12-20 16:50
Yes you need it.
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