I was denied an Avis rental in Germany by the same guy I’ve been renting cars from for the better part of a decade when he suddenly decided I needed an international driving permit.
Denied Avis Car Rental In Germany Without An International Driving Permit Or Translation Of License
For years, I’ve rented cars from a local Avis branch in Lörrach, Germany. Just over the border from Basel, Switzerland, the car rentals are generally much more convenient and reasonably-priced.
For our road trip through Southern Germany, we figured this trip would be no different. I reserved the car and showed up on time to pick it up. Only this time the clerk (the same clerk I’ve been dealing with for years and who has never previously brought it up) demanded my international driving permit.
Ummm, my what?
He claimed it was German law. Absurdly, he also claimed he had warned me last time I rented a car there. This was certainly not the case and there was nothing lost in translation.
Heidi, my wife, was standing next to me and also incredulous at what the man was saying. But he was adamant about it, warning us that he could lose his business license if he did not verify I had an International driving permit.
At this point, I was already on my phone looking into how to get one quickly but my wife just could not believe it and went back and forth with him. In fact, my wife was so upset that this seemingly-arbitrary decision would delay our plans that our next stop was the police station.
She conferred with the officer on duty about the matter and he said as a matter of practice an international driving permit would never be requested from a foreign driver. So Heidi asked him to call the Avis office and tell the clerk that.
And the police officer agreed!
But the Avis clerk did not care.
And you know something? He had a point. I looked up the regulation and it does appear that either an international driving permit or a translation of my U.S. license from English to German is required. Not that I had ever been asked for either one in my dozens of rentals in Germany over the years.
Our next stop was the Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club (ADAC) in town, the German equivalent of the AAA in the USA. I asked the agent if she could officially translate my drivers’ license to German.
She nodded and said it would be 50€. Fine, fine.
I handed over my license and she said the translation would be ready…in two weeks. I quickly got my ID back.
So without an IDP or translation, the clock struck noon and the Avis office closed for the remainder of the weekend.
How We Resolved The Issue
My mother-in-law ended up driving us to Stuttgart where I had reserved a car at Stuttgart Airport. To ensure there would be no issues, I obtained a digital international driving permit from e-ita.org and had it ready for presentation.
Of course we were not asked for it…
And in two subsequent rentals since then, including one from the same Avis branch in Lörrach for Christmas last year, we have not been asked for an IDP.
I’m not angry at the Avis agent for enforcing rules which do appear to be on the book. But I am disappointed that Avis makes no mention of the need for a translation or IDP on its website or reservation confirmation. I’m also a bit perturbed that in my many years of renting cars from the same Avis office, this marked the first time this request has ever been made.
So a warning: you might need an international driving permit. in Germany. Maybe…
This is part of my summer in Germany trip report.