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International Driving Permit (IDP)

Contrary to popular belief, the IDP isn't a substitute for a conventional driver's license--it's an official document that certifies the validity of an existing license from your home country. (It's a useful thing to have, but don't get taken by phony "International Driver's License" scams.)


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 European country (Italy) requires drivers from outside the EU to have the IDP.

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.  It's a valid form of identification in 150 countries on six continents.

  • 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 committing fraud.

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 more information, including how to obtain an IDP in your country, click here.

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About the author:

Durant Imboden photo.Durant Imboden is a professional travel writer, book author, and editor who focuses on European cities and transportation.

After 4-1/2 years of covering European travel topics for, Durant and Cheryl Imboden co-founded Europe for Visitors in 2001. The site has earned "Best of the Web" honors from Forbes and The Washington Post.

For more information, see About Europe for Visitors, press clippings, and reader testimonials.