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Do I Need An International Driving Permit in Italy?

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When traveling abroad from the US, it’s important to know about local driving laws so that you don’t run afoul of the police. But sometimes, it’s not clear exactly what you’ll need in order to drive in a foreign country. Like a lot of things in Italy, the answer has shades of gray.

At first, the answer seems clear: based on what the government says, you DO need an International Driving Permit in Italy. You can get one at AAA or order one online. And if you are pulled over (which doesn’t feel likely based on my experience but who knows), the police can demand one.

Of course, that’s the rule. What’s the reality?

Realistically, we’ve traveled to Italy multiple times per year for many years now, and we’ve never obtained an international driving permit. Rulebreakers? Sure, I guess. Here’s what we’ve experienced at two common car rental agencies.

Hertz

Nine times out of ten we rent our car from Hertz. Here are a few good reasons:

  • They seem less likely to go on strike than other rental companies. Even when Maggiore etc are closed due to strikes, the Hertz counter is generally open.
  • The Hertz Gold Plus program can save you *hours* in Italy when renting a car. When we last rented in Milan, the wait was listed as 11 hours. That’s not a typo. Skipping that line saved an entire day.
  • They do not require an International Driving Permit in Italy if you use the same western alphabet as Italy does. Says so right in the rental agreement last time I checked (in Italian of course).

Avis

On one trip, we tried to rent from Avis. Heads up, they DO require an International Driving Permit in Italy. I even tried to be very Italian with them and try to find some ways around these rules, but it was a no-go, at least at the location where I tried.

Maggiore, Sixt, Etc.

Honest answer is that we haven’t tried these ourselves. I’ll update the post if anyone comments with some knowledge of their requirements. Personally I’ve found that not only are they more likely to be on strike, but they’re also less likely to have a good supply of automatic transmissions.

It Depends

So, like most things in Italy, the need for an International Driving Permit… depends. Make your own decision, but armed with a bit more knowledge than before!

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