Renting a Car in Italy: Don’t Forget Your International Driving Permit

Updated 2018.

If you’re renting a car in Italy, be sure to bring an International Driving Permit (IDP) with you. In 2005, a law went into effect requiring all non-European Union foreigners renting a car in Italy to have an International Driving Permit (IDP). While yours truly has rented a car in Italy at least once or twice a year since then — and never been asked by anyone for the IDP, we’re hearing that folks at the rental counters are actually asking to see the document. When the law first went into effect, it was our understanding that you only needed the IDP to present to police in case you are stopped.

According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), one of two American sources for an IDP, “The International Driving Permit (IDP) is a document that provides important information from your driver’s license in eleven different languages, including English. This document came into existence by virtue of a treaty signed in 1949 by the United States and other foreign countries. As an official document, the IDP is recognized in over 150 countries today. Carried in conjunction with a regular driver’s license, the IDP can help break down language barriers when traveling in non-English speaking countries. In addition, the IDP provides an additional source of identification.”

You can get the permit for $20 by bringing your state-issued license and two passport-sized photographs to any of the AAA offices around the country. You can also mail in an application using a photocopy of your license. The permit is good for one year. The IDP is also available through the National Automobile Club. Remember that you want an IDP and not an IDL (which is an International Driving License), which is widely available on the Internet. You can also get an IDP through the National Automobile Club.

— Kathy McCabe