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International Driving Permit

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ABOVE: If this Italian policeman asks for your IDP, will you be prepared?

The International Driving Permit has been around for decades, but now there's a new wrinkle: For the first time, at least one Western European country (Italy) requires drivers from outside the EU to have the IDP. Foreign drivers may also need the IDP in some Eastern European countries, such as Hungary. And even in countries where it isn't required, the International Driving Permit is worth having just to make sure that your driver's license is accepted by local car-rental agencies and traffic police.

What the IDP is--and isn't.

The International Driving Permit is an official document that certifies the validity of your home driver's license in 10 languages. Your name and other license information are shown in a standard, internationally recognized format, and a passport-size photo completes the identification.

The IDP is not a substitute for a driver's license: You'll still need to carry a valid driver's license from home.

Also, beware of Internet scam artists who sell so-called "International Driver's Licenses" to unlicensed drivers or motorists whose licenses have been suspended for drunk driving and other violations. There's no such thing as an "International Driver's License," and anyone who tries to sell you one is a criminal.

Where to buy the IDP:

The International Driving Permit is available from government-authorized organizations (such as national automobile associations) in 150 countries. To obtain it, you'll need to complete an application and submit it with a photocopy of your driver's license, two passport-size photos, and a small fee. For a list of authorized vendors in more than 20 countries, see the Resources for International Driving Permits page at Drivers.com.

More articles about driving in Europe:

Driving in Europe

Car Rentals: When to Rent, When to Lease

Rental-Car Insurance

Short-Term Car Leasing

Car or Train?

Europe by Van and Motorhome

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