Carrying an international drivers license in France is the key to experiencing the country like a local. Foreign drivers are required to obtain certain documents in order to drive legally in the country. Fortunately, an international driving permit is a valuable tool that can get you behind the wheel in France as well as many other countries throughout the world. When you carry this document with your valid driver’s license, you can travel abroad with ease.

Also known as an IDP, this driving permit is easy to obtain. Authorized providers can issue your permit either in person or through the mail, depending on your needs. Keep in mind that once you have your permit, you must abide by certain restrictions and follow each country’s traffic laws. With the following guide, you can find everything you need to know about this versatile driving permit.

What is a French International Driving Permit?

An IDP is a document that translates your current driver’s license into several other languages, including French. It contains information such as your name, photo and other important information. Overall, the purpose of this permit is to aid foreign law enforcement authorities in verifying your identity and driving privileges.

Although often called an international drivers license, this document does not grant driving privileges on its own. However, carrying this permit with your valid driver’s license allows you to drive in France as well as several other countries during your trip. Over 150 countries currently accept this driving permit, which makes it a valuable tool for your travels.

When is an International Driving Permit necessary in France?

In addition to “What is an IDP?” it is also important to ask “When do I need one?” In order to drive while visiting France, there are certain requirements you must meet. For trips of less than 90 days, you are permitted to drive in the country as long as you are at least 18 years of age and carry a valid driver’s license. However, you must also carry a notarized French translation of your license.

While the international permit is not mandatory in France, the French authorities highly encourage you to obtain one for your trip. It automatically provides the necessary French translation as well as translations for several other countries. Therefore, submitting one international drivers license application can save you the time of hiring a translator for each country you plan to visit.

How to Get an International Driver’s License for France

There are two ways to submit your application: in person at an official international drivers license office and by mail. Regardless of which method you choose, you must first assemble the necessary documents. When you are ready to apply, submit the following items to an official agency:

  • A photo of the front and back of your driver’s license
  • Two photos with your signature written on the back (passport size only)
  • A completed permit application
  • The $20 fee payment (You must provide a check or money order for mail-in applications.)

Unfortunately, you cannot apply for your international drivers license online at this time. Keep in mind that you must be a licensed driver in order to apply, and follow all other permit restrictions.  

How long do international driving permits last in France?

Whether you get an AAA international drivers license or the AATA version, the permit is valid for one full year. However, you are only permitted to drive with this document in France for up to 90 days. After that, you are required to obtain a carte de séjour, or residence permit in order to continue driving in the country.

In addition, these permits do not grant driving privileges alone and are only accepted when presented with a valid driver’s license. Therefore, it is important to ask “When do I need an international driver’s license?” before you submit the application. With your travel dates in mind, make sure to complete the preparations for your travels in a timely manner. This includes renewing your regular driver’s license if it is set to expire before or during your trip.

Where to Get an International Driver’s License for France

To get an international drivers license, USA residents must apply at one of the authorized agencies. Currently, only two private entities are approved by the U.S. Department of State to distribute these permits. These agencies are the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA).

You can choose to apply for your permit through either agency. In general, the AAA international drivers license fee and application is the same for AATA. However, AAA allows you to submit your application in person at a local office, for extra convenience. If you apply in person, you are able to receive your documents right away, instead of waiting the 10 to 15 days for mail-in processing.

Tips for Avoiding International Drivers License Fraud

Make sure to watch out for scams when applying for your driving permit. Certain companies claim to offer permits and make promises that are simply not true. When not obtained through an official international drivers license office, the permit you receive is not considered valid.

If you are caught driving abroad with a fake permit, you may face serious consequences. This often includes fines, delays to your travel and even charges for driving without a license. To protect yourself from fraud, make sure to get an official AATA or AAA international driving permit and keep the following in mind:

  • International permits obtained in the U.S. are not valid for driving in the U.S.
  • International permits do not grant driving privileges or serve as valid photo ID without an accompanying driver’s license.

Driving Rules in France

Just like other international drivers license countries, France has its own regulations you must follow while driving. While many are similar to traffic laws in the U.S., there are some differences to keep in mind. In addition to using an IDP in France, you must also adhere to laws such as the following:

  • You must yield to drivers approaching on the right, unless otherwise instructed.
  • Use of the car horn is restricted to cases of necessity or immediate danger.
  • At night, you must use your passing lights as a warning instead of the horn.
  • Flashing red traffic lights mean no entry is permitted.
  • Handheld cellphone use is only permitted when you are parked with the car engine off.

It is important to follow these and all other driving rules while traveling in France. Otherwise, the French police are authorized to ticket you up to 750 euros on the spot for traffic violations.

Last updated on Friday, March 6 2020.