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Question is pretty much in the title. I have a French drivers' license, and will be driving in the USA in a couple weeks. Is it accepted as-is, or must I get a translation? What preparation do I need to do?

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From USA.gov, it appears it's very much dependent on which states you plan on driving in:

If you are a visitor from outside the United States and Canada who plans to drive in the U.S., check with the motor vehicle department of each state you will drive in for its requirements. Some of the states will require an International Driving Permit (IDP) in addition to a valid license from your own country.

That's a bit vague though, and doesn't clarify the language thing. Fortunately, justlanded.com covers this:

Tourists may drive in the US for up to a year with a foreign driving licence, provided the issuing country is party to the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic (see art. 1 and art. 25 para. 1) or to the Convention on the Regulation of Inter-American Automotive Traffic (Washington, 1943); most countries are contracting parties.

(Good news, France is party to the 1949 convention!)

They go on to say:

If your foreign licence doesn’t contain a photograph or is written in a language other than English, it’s wise (but not mandatory) to obtain an International Driver’s Permit (IDP). Always carry your foreign licence as well as your IDP. Without an IDP it may be necessary to obtain a certified English translation of your foreign driving licence, usually obtainable from your country’s embassy in the US.

Hope that helps clarify things.

  • My experience in California with Budget was that they were fine with my German licence and did not want the IDP I had with me. – simbabque Jul 25 '16 at 14:46

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