The Misunderstood International Drivers Permit.

After having seen yet another Facebook discussion go flying off the rails regarding driving in Italy, I thought it would be a fine fine idea to explain what the International Drivers Permit (IDP) is . It is Often incorrectly referred to as an International Drivers License, which seems to be the source of most of the confusion. First, the simple rules…

  1. A U.S. drivers license is perfectly valid to drive in Italy.
  2. If you are a Resident, you must acquire an Italian Drivers license with a year of having received residency. (See our separate post on Italian Drivers License.)
  3. Anyone driving in Italy on their U.S. License (And all other non EU countries) must AlSO have an IDP in their possession.
  4. It should like more or less like the examples below. (And see! Even some countries documents say ‘license’ on them. Anyway, the inside has the items from your actual license translated into a whole bunch of languages. The final page has your photo, name, country of birth.

What Is The IDP??

First it is not a drivers license in any way. It is….From the International Drivers Permit Web Page for Italy.

“Italy signed 2 United Nations conventions (Geneva 1949; Vienna 1968), and it is a legal requirement for visitors from non-EU and non-EEA countries to have a valid International Driving Permit (IDP) in order to rent a car and legally drive in Italy.

All visitors from non-EU countries and non-EEA countries who plan to drive in Italy must make sure they obtain an IDP in their home country or country of residence before they travel.

The IDP, which is valid for 1 or 3 year(s) – Geneva 1949 or Vienna 1968 model respectively -, proves that you hold a valid driver’s license in your country of residence. It will also help protect you and your family in the event of an accidental and/or vehicle damage while driving abroad, or the loss of legal identification such as a passport. The IDP is recognized all over the world and is available in 10 different languages in order to help overcome language barriers.

Similarly, Italian nationals and residents who wish to drive abroad, need to apply for an IDP via the offices of the Ministry of Transport – Traffic Dept. (“Motorizzazione”) – see above.”

How Do I Get An IDP?

It is very very easy. Americans, when in the US, typically go to the nearest AAA office and pay about $20. You can also get them online. I used E-Ita. (ITA does not mean Italy, it means International Transportation Authority.) You upload a copy of your License and a passport sized photo. You can get back a PDF document in about 30 minutes. When you rent a car in Italy, they may or may not ask for the IDP. Thats just the way it is.

By the way, EU nationals wanting to drive in the US do exactly the same things. For some reason, not every US State requires an IDP. Don’t know why.