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An international driver's license is a good thing to have when driving through Europe because a military license isn't always accepted by local authorities. It has information in several languages, including English, with the driver's particulars and what class of vehicle he/she is allowed to drive at the end.

An international driver's license is a good thing to have when driving through Europe because a military license isn't always accepted by local authorities. It has information in several languages, including English, with the driver's particulars and what class of vehicle he/she is allowed to drive at the end. (Michael Abrams / S&S)

An international driver’s license, though not always necessary, can save travelers both headaches and time.

In April, Lt. Col. John Kizler wrote a letter to Stars and Stripes about an experience his wife had on a day trip from Stuttgart, Germany, to Colmar, France.

“She was detained by the French Border Police at the Roppenheim/Baden-Baden border crossing during a random credential check. She was asked to produce her passport and international driving license, whereupon she declared neither was in her possession.”

So, Kizler continued, she was escorted 19 kilometers to another border crossing and sent back to Germany.

Americans can drive anywhere in Europe if they have a passport and an international driving license. They might not be asked for the documents very often, but it is still a good idea to carry them.

While the 26 NATO countries typically recognize U.S. military driving licenses — they vary between countries — they don’t have to. Last year, U.S. Army Europe issued a recommendation that, to avoid problems, motorists should get the international license.

The permit is essentially proof that you hold a valid driver’s license in your own country. It translates your personal information into several languages, mainly so that authorities in other countries can read it in their own language.

The license is not valid in the country in which it was issued, but is elsewhere.

In Germany, the licenses are issued by individual states. For example, those who live in Hessen fill out a different form from those in Bavaria.

Applications are available through local post authorities. The application is required along with a Department of Defense ID card or U.S. passport (take both to be safe), the military driving license, an expired international license (if there is one), two passport-size photos, and a fee of between 12 and 20 euros. No test is required.

The licenses are also available through the American Automobile Association in the States, or the European equivalent, ADAC. Both groups issue licenses that are more expensive and expire faster.

Good for one to three years — the Hessen permits are for three — or until the U.S. forces license expires, the international license is valid only with a U.S. military license.

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