What is an International Driving Permit or License?
What is the difference between an International Driving Permit (IDP) and an International Driving License (IDL)?
An International Driving Permit is a small grey booklet marginally larger than a passport containing a translation of your original driving license in 10 languages, including English, French, Russian, Chinese, Arabic, and Spanish. It is accepted by 141 countries worldwide and is valid for one year.
On the other hand, an International Driving License is not a legal document and cannot replace an IDP.
How does an IDP work in France?
Non-European Union drivers in France need an International Driver’s Permit to drive in France. This ensures they have an official translation of their original license in French. Even if you are from a country within the EU, it is wise to have a French translation of your license provided by an IDP. You can also use your international driver’s permit as an ID when traveling in France.
How do you apply for an IDP in France?
You can apply for an IDP through our website.
How long does it take to get an IDP in France?
You can receive a digital copy of your IDP in as little as 20 minutes if you choose the Express Order option. Alternatively, it will take 2 hours for your IDP to arrive in your inbox.
If you want to receive a printed IDP, this can be delivered to your home in 2 to 30 days, depending on your selected delivery method.
United Nations Agreements on Road Traffic
There have been three international automobile traffic conventions. 1926 in Paris, 1949 in Geneva, and 1968 in Vienna. Most countries have agreed to recognize IDPs as legal documents in each convention.
Benefits of Carrying an IDP in France
Functionality as an ID
An IDP is a handy travel document as it is another form of identification if need be in the case of a misplaced or stolen passport.
Quicker traffic authority stops.
Traffic police may have trouble deciphering driver information on your license during a traffic stop. Having an IDP ensures that policemen can quickly note down your information and send you on your way. This is especially useful during emergencies and motor accidents.
Car rental companies
Car rental companies may hesitate to hire out vehicles to foreigners without an International Drivers Permit. Most companies will recognize an IDP as a valid permit as it is recognized as a legal document by the United Nations.
Laws requiring an IDP
Suppose you do not want to get a French driving license as a non-European. In that case, you need an International Driving Permit. Since France was contracted to the Vienna Motor Traffic Convention in 1968, it accepts an international driving permit for one year subject to your original license remaining valid.
Driving Requirements for Non-Citizens in France
Short-term visitors vs. residents
Short-term visitors will find using their original license and an IDP beneficial. Long-term visitors will find it helpful to get a French driving license.
When should I get a French Driver’s License?
France was contracted to the Vienna Convention on Motor Traffic in 1968. You can use an IDP for a maximum of one year before being required to either renew your IDP or get a domestic French driving license. You may want to get a French driving license when you move to France mid to long-term.
The hassle during routine traffic stops and the extra bureaucracy when renewing your original license might not be worth hanging onto your country’s driving license.
How to get a French driver’s license
You may exchange your license for a French one using the Police headquarters in Paris or a local ‘Préfecture de Police.’ You will have to fill in a document named ‘une demande d’échange de permis de conduire’. Please note that you may face delays if you use sub-prefectures not situated in major cities, as they might not be able to process your application. You will need the following documents when applying for a license:
A photocopy of your valid driver’s license
A recent passport photograph of yourself.
A copy of your visa (if you are a foreigner from a country not in the EU or EEA)
Proof of residence (if you are a Swiss citizen or a citizen of a country in the EU/EEA)
The cost of getting your French license will vary according to where you get it from and depends on the charges of the local prefectures. If you are from a country that does not have a bilateral agreement with France or the EU/EEA, you will have to take the French driving test. You may use a translator for the theoretical part of the French driving test. If you pass the French driving test, you will be issued a license in a few weeks.
Renewing Your IDP or Original Driver’s License While in France
Renewing your International Driver’s Permit
If you wish to renew your IDP, you can do so through our website.
Renewing your Original Driver’s License
If you are an IDP holder, you cannot use it as a standalone document for driving. You must have a valid and unexpired driving license to show if requested. If your driving license expires while you are abroad, you will need to renew it to continue driving in that country. The process of renewing a license varies widely from country to country. Most governments provide an online service for renewing licenses.
Car Rental in France
Requirements for car rental
Most French car rentals will require that you are a minimum of 21 to 25 years of age and have received your license 1 to 3 years before the rental. You must have a credit card in your name, as most rental companies will not accept a debit card. You have to have a driver’s valid license. Most rental companies will require an International Driver’s Permit alongside your license.
Deposit and costs for car rental
You may need to pay a deposit and the full rental charge before getting a rental car in France. The deposit can cost €150 to €300 for an average car but can be as high as €1,000 for luxury vehicles. A week’s rental and deposit will be around €400. You will receive the deposit back after you return the car.
If you are using a car that already has insurance, you can continue to use your insurance coverage. You will need a green card to show you have France’s minimum insurance requirements.
You will need 3rd party liability insurance as a bare minimum for driving in France. This means that the insurance will cover anyone and any property that you damage. This type of insurance will not cover damage to your vehicle or property. You can choose an international insurance company from the many in France.
During your time abroad, you may encounter an emergency or crime. Consequently, it is wise to get travel insurance. Some points to look out for when getting your travel insurance are given below:
Medical expenses coverage
Coverage for damaged and lost baggage while abroad
Funeral costs in case of an extreme situation
Driving and Safety in France
Where can you get a driving handbook with the road rules?
You may get a driving handbook in English from almost any of the driving schools in France. Many will allow you to download one from their website for a fee, and you may have to pay around €25.00 to get your hands on a physical copy.
Overtaking on French roads
When driving on French roads, you can only overtake from the left-hand side. However, if there is excessive congestion on the street, overtaking on the right-hand side is permitted if there is space. However, you should have sufficient room in front of the vehicle you are overtaking before maneuvering. Overtaking on the right for lane-hopping will result in punitive measures by the French traffic authorities.
Turning and right of way on French roads
In France, you must drive on the right side of the road. If you are on the main road, you have the right of way irrespective of where the other traffic is coming from. There can also be indicators that nullify the standard right-of-way system. When merging into traffic on a roundabout, you should give way to vehicles on your left and any vehicles already on the roundabout.
Speed limits on French roads
Speed limits vary depending on the weather and visibility. In dry weather, the speed limits are:
50 km/h in urban areas
90 km/h in non-urban areas
110 km/h in dual carriageways and non-toll motorways
130 km/h on toll motorways
In wet weather, the speed limits are:
50 km/h in urban areas
80 km/h in non-urban areas
100 km/h in dual carriageways and non-toll motorways
110 km/h on toll motorways
These speed limits are for light vehicles (i.e., cars).
Tips for driving in France
Vehicles are driven on the right-hand side on French roads
You should always keep your driving license, IDP, vehicle registration, and insurance documents when driving in France.
Children below ten years need to be in a suitable booster seat and not in the front passenger seat unless the back seat is filled with children below the age of 10.
You should carry a breathalyzer test to present to the police if you are stopped (though there is no fine if you don’t have one).
You should have a reflective triangle and a spare bulb pack. You can get the required items for as little as €20.00.
You cannot use any device against your head for audio.
You may not eat or drink while driving in France.
You may not carry devices that detect speed traps or GPS location devices for speed traps.
Drinking and driving
You can only have 50 mg of alcohol per liter of blood when driving in France, which translates to 25 mg per liter of exhaled air. If you exceed these limits, you can be fined €135.00 and up to 6 points on your driving license. If your blood alcohol is 40 mg or above, you can be imprisoned for up to 2 years, fined up to €4,500.00, and have your license suspended or revoked. French actions against driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs are harsh. You should avoid such activities at all costs.
Top 3 Destinations to Visit in France
Probably considered the top must-visit city in your lifetime, romantic Paris has it all. The iconic Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, and the famed Notre Dame de Paris are world-renowned. You can also visit lesser-known marvels such as Musée d’Orsay, the Luxembourg Gardens, and Le Marais. If you like exploring eerie historical sites, you may enjoy the Catacombes de Paris, which has human skeletal remains on full display!
Paris also has Europe’s only Disneyland, a thrill that all families must enjoy at least once. Some streets are dedicated to high fashion and chic styles that you won’t get anywhere else in the world.
This city is known by several different names worldwide. Some call it the ‘Capital of Lights’ for its nightlife and scenic architecture, and others may call it the world capital of Gastronomy for its superb French cuisine. The city is filled with fine dining restaurants that citizens of Lyon love to dine in. Savory Lyonnaise specialties can be bought in specialty shops or its savvy outdoor markets. This city has been home to many Michelin star restaurants and is paradise if you enjoy food. Make sure you visit Vieux Lyon, Fourvière Hill, La Croix-Rousse, and Halles Paul Bocuse during your visit.
Bordeaux is famous for being a production powerhouse for fine French wine and having shopping districts. Your palate will be presented with the exciting flavors of Bordeaux wine and specialty foods such as canelés, a small custard cake with a thick caramel crust flavored with vanilla, and a dash of rum. This city is also filled with neo-classical opera houses, theatres, and art temples that would replenish your soul. Make sure you stop by Place de la Bourse, Head to La Cité du Vin, Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux, Parc de Majolan, Marché des Quais and Cathedral of Saint Andrew of Bordeaux during your visit.
Am I required to have an International Driving Permit in France?
Many countries require you to have an IDP, and you can order one through our website.
Can I use my EU driver’s license in France?
Yes, you may use your EU license indefinitely in France.
How long will my International Driving Permit be valid for in France?
Since France was contracted to the Vienna Motor Traffic Convention in 1968, you may use your IDP for one year.
How long will transferring my license to a French license take?
There is significant variance in the performance of French prefectures. You can expect to wait from a few weeks to a few months to receive your French license.
What side of the road do you drive on in France?
Motorists drive on the right side of the road in France.