Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: Driving in Florida
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Thursday 18 April 2013
Q. I have been renting cars in Florida for the past 15 years, but you recently said to hire a car in Florida we would now need an international permit. I am unable to find any information or clarification on this. Can you please update me on this situation?
A. Relax. British holidaymakers can once again drive legally in Florida without obtaining an International Driving Permit (IDP). A law that took effect at the start of this year demanded that all foreign motorists should carry the IDP, a document that virtually no other mainstream holiday destination requires. While the authorities later conceded that the rule would not be enforced, and most car-rental firms did not demand the international permit, any foreign motorist driving without an IDP was technically breaking the law - with possible consequences in the event of an accident or insurance claim.
But earlier this month the state Governor, Rick Scott, signed a bill repealing the law - which means an ordinary British licence will suffice.
The episode has been an embarrassment for Florida, which has far more reliance on overseas tourism than any other US state. The demand for IDPs was the unintended consequence of a bill aimed at ensuring that licences were in English. The fact that licences issued in Britain - as well as Canada, Ireland and Australia - are already in English was, apparently, overlooked.
Now all you have to worry about is withstanding the pressure that some car-rental staff apply to new arrivals to persuade them to upgrade the booked car or take out expensive and often superfluous insurance.
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