international driving permit
Many countries require of you, the foreign driver, no license apart from
your domestic drivers license. However, certain countries require of certain non-resident drivers
an International Driving Permit (IDP) in addition.
You should contact the relevant tourist office, consulate or embassy to determine whether
a country requires you to carry an IDP while driving.
A good secondary indicator in this respect is the
posted by the UK's Automobile Association.
Basically an IDP is a means by which police in a foreign
country can know in terms of translations in nearly a dozen
that your domestic driver's license is indeed recognized as being valid by
the proper authorities in your country. (See the
excellent article at
Is it really necessary that you obtain an IDP
if you plan to drive in the aforementioned countries? In practice of course it
depends on the particular police officer who might happen to pull you over.
The vehicle leasing company (e.g. Renault Eurodrive) doesn't care whether or not you have an IDP; it's up to you whether
you cover yourself in this regard.
The local office of your auto club (AAA, CAA, etc.) sells IDPs for
about US$20. If you need an IDP, take
your license, two passport-sized photos and the requisite cash to the club office. (Though for about US$10 the
club may snap Polaroid photos for you.) Ten minutes later you'll be able to
legally drive on any European roadassuming you're at least 18 years of age. If you
plan to operate a motorcycle in Europe, be sure to have the auto club certify your
qualification to do so. The USA's AAA now has a Webpage whereby drivers
licensed in the USA can obtain an IDP:
AAA's application for IDP.
Web searches will bring up a host of Websites selling documents that conform
to the model delineated in annex 10 of the United Nations Convention on Road
Traffic (1949); but according to Article 24 of that convention,
a truly valid IDP is one which is "issued .. by the competent authority of
another Contracting State or subdivision thereof, or by an association duly
empowered by such authority ...." The US State Department says it has
empowered only the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American
Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA) to issue IDPs. (The AATA offers IDPs
through the National Automobile Club.)
Many cell phones (i.e. mobile phones, handies) now work overseas. Check with your
service provider (i.e. your carrier, the phone service company) in this regard;
it might be a good occasion for you to
upgrade to a phone (and plan) that works well overseas.
If indeed you want to be able to use your phone on another continent, you'll need to call your service provider customer support to get
international roaming turned on.
But beware: such roaming in and of itself is very expensive. Every missed or rejected call will use a minute of
roaming charges; every notification of a voicemail that's been left will cost a minute too. More charges will come
if you use data, even unknowingly -- and the new smart phones are constantly using data that you're unaware of.
Data roaming costs about $15/MB, which means a dollar fifty or so for every single web page that you view.
If someone sends you a nice 2 megapixel photo from home, that'll be $30! If you want to avoid data roaming charges
completely, you should disable data roaming and data synchronization before you go abroad.
International roaming is not a good value unless you have tri-band GSM phone. Such phones can be “SIM subsidy unlocked”
via your service provider to accept a foreign SIM card. Calls received through such card will be charged to you as if you are
using a local phone. To initiate such unlocking of your tri-band GSM phone, call your service provider at least a week or two
before you go abroad. Your service provider will then request an unlock code from the phone manufacturer, but the service provider will
not officially guarantee the manufacturer’s response time (it’s usually 24-48 hours) nor even that a unlock code will be
provided. Moreover, you’ll need to obtain a prepaid SIM card or cards for the country or countries you plan to travel to.
Those cards cost roughly 30 euros and can be bought in mobile phone shops in Europe (the primary companies in France, for
instance, are Orange, Bouygues Telecom and SFR). Alternatively you can buy or rent them before you go abroad, from various
internet-based companies. You would replace your current SIM card with the European one. (Typically they go under the
battery.) Do save your current SIM card, however; you’ll need it when you return home.
See the following excellent New York Times articles:
For SIM card or special phone rental or purchase online, see the following:
printed maps and GPS maps
Everyone wants a free map, but in addition to death and taxes at least
one further fact will always be generally true: free maps are
not good maps. And no matter what map you have, remember the words
of Thomas Ottavi: "There are lies, damned lies, and then there are maps."
online driving directions & route planners
tax-free, short-term auto leasing
motorhome & campervan rental
motorhome propane, water, waste, electrics, etc
independent auto insurance and registration