I was refused an Avis rental in Germany by the same guy I rented 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 license or license translation
For years I rented cars from a local Avis branch in Lörrach, Germany. Just across the border from Basel, Switzerland, car rentals are generally much more convenient and reasonably priced.
For our road trip through southern Germany, we thought this trip would be no different. I reserved the car and arrived on time to pick it up. Only this time the clerk (the same clerk I have dealt with for years who had never spoken to before) demanded my international driving permit.
Ummm, my what?
He claimed it was German law. Absurdly, he also claimed that he had warned me the last time I rented a car there. It certainly wasn’t and there was nothing lost in translation.
Heidi, my wife, stood next to me and also in disbelief at what the man was saying. But he was adamant about it, warning us that he could lose his business license if he didn’t check that I had an international driving permit.
At this point I was already on my phone researching how to get one fast, but my wife just couldn’t believe it and was going back and forth with it. 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 spoke to the officer on duty about this and he said that in practice an international driving permit would never be requested from a foreign driver. So Heidi asked her to call Avis’s office and tell the clerk.
And the policeman agreed!
But the Avis employee didn’t care.
And you know something? He was right. I looked up the regulation and it seems to be an international driving license Where a translation of my US license from English to German is required. Not that I had already been requested for one or another of my dozens of rentals in Germany over the years.
Our next stop was 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 driver’s license into German.
She nodded and said it would be €50. Well well.
I handed over my license and she said the translation would be ready…in two weeks. I quickly retrieved my ID card.
So, with no IDP or translation, the clock struck twelve and the Avis office closed for the rest of the weekend.
How we solved the problem
My mother in law ended up driving us to Stuttgart where I had booked a car at Stuttgart airport. To make sure there would be no problems, I got a digital international driving license from e-ita.org and had it ready for presentation.
Of course, we weren’t asked…
And in two subsequent rentals since then, including one from the same Avis branch in Lörrach for Christmas last year, we were not asked for an IDP.
I’m not mad at Agent Avis for enforcing rules that seem to be in the book. But I’m disappointed that Avis makes no mention of the need for translation or IDP on their website or booking confirmation. I’m also a bit disturbed by the fact that in my many years of renting cars from the same Avis office, this was the first time this request was made.
So a word of warning: you might need an international driving permit. in Germany. Maybe…
This is part of my Germany summer trip report.