The fact of the matter is that you probably will never be asked to show an International Driving Permit (IDP) when picking up a rental car in Europe. All that's needed is a valid driver's license issued by the proper agency in your home country.

So, you're off the hook for the IDP, right? Maybe not. In Austria and Poland rental companies require (but sometimes don't ask for) the IDP and, even if you're renting a car in a country other than Poland or Austria, visiting drivers are required by law to carry an IDP in most countries. If you come in contact with the police, and can't show an IDP, you may be fined. We know drivers who have been.

The IDP is not a separate license but a translation and verification of your regular driver’s license. It supplements but does not replace your valid home driver’s license which you must have to rent a car anywhere in Europe. All rental companies in continental Europe recommend North Americans carry the IDP. It is available for about $10-$20 at AAA, the only issuer authorized by the U.S. State Department. In Canada, go to the Canadian Automobile Association, and in the U.K. to the Automobile Association. The IDP is not required in countries where English is the main language. Unfortunately, it is valid only for one year.

Tip

Beware online scammers who sell IDPs for from $35 to $100; only AAA and NAC are authorized by the U.S. State Department to issue the IDP.

For the Internet's best advice on European car rental, see our FREE special report “What You Should Know About Renting a Car in Europe.”

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If you have questions about rentals in Europe, or simply prefer to deal in-person, phone us at 800-521-6722.