Do you want to commute by car? Maybe take the autobahn for spin? Then you need to make sure your driver's license is valid in Germany.
But how do driving licenses in Germany work? Can you drive using the license from your home country? I’m sure you have questions like these. So, fasten your seatbelt and let’s see how you can leave Germany’s public transport behind by getting behind the wheel yourself!
There’s quite a chance that you’ve already acquired a license in your home country, so: Which driving licenses are valid in Germany? And for how long? Let’s find out.
If you have a foreign driving license, you’re allowed to drive in Germany for as long as 10 years. Your case? Well, it depends. It depends on where your license is issued and on what type of license it is. In general, a full (as in non-provisionary) drivers license for a regular car (as in not a bus or truck, etc) is valid for quite some time. If you have a more advanced license, there might be additional requirements (more on that later). If your license has been issued in any EU or EEA country, you generally get to use it until it would naturally expire. If it’s from any country outside the EU/EEA, you can continue to use your license for up to 6 months after you register. Additionally, it’s also likely that you would have to get your license translated by the ADAC automobile club. Please note that this can take up to three weeks, so if possible, do it before you arrive.
Much like your license, if you’re staying for an extended period of time, more than 12 months, you will need to register your car to German license plates. Your vehicle will then also need to pass the German vehicle safety inspection. When driving in Germany during this period, make sure you also pay your vehicle tax and that you’re covered by suitable car insurance valid in Germany.
If you’re driving in Germany, or, actually, any place where you’re not familiar with the lay of the land and the country’s driving habits, make sure you’re extra careful! In general, Germans behave on the road as they do everywhere else: sticking to the rules. This makes it so that Germans aren’t exactly considered courteous drivers, but luckily it does make them very predictable! A practical example: a German driver won’t give you right of way unless the rules say you are entitled to it. So, stick to the rules and you’ll be just fine!
So, you’re almost in Germany for 6 months, or you’ve decided you’re in for the long haul, and it’s now time to exchange your foreign license for a German one. There are a number of general requirements you need to meet:
To change your EU driving licence to a german license while meeting the general requirements mentioned right above, you need to make an appointment at the local German driving licensing office, where you can directly exchange your license. Lucky you, because European driving licenses are of mostly equivalent quality, there are no additional tests required.
If driving in Germany with a US license, the ease of exchanging your license after 6 months depends on the state you’re from. Some states have an exchange agreement with Germany, but others do not. If you’re from Connecticut, you’re out of luck! So, make sure to check the requirements per American state here. The ‘worst’ case scenario is that you’ll have to take some theoretical classes and pass a test, as well as a number of classes with an instructor. If your driving is by the books, they’ll let you pass and exchange your license without any additional hassle, wonderful!
Other countries also have exchange agreements with Germany, such as Japan, Switzerland, Canada and South Korea. Once again, you can check if your country is eligible with the German Government. So, if you’re on the list, you’ll be able to exchange your license with minimal effort.
If you have a non-standard driving license, for example, to drive a heavier vehicle like a truck or bus, there are additional restrictions on top of those mentioned above. For example, a license in the German categories C or D, for large commercial vehicles and buses, you need to be able to provide proof that your health and eyesight are in order, as well as the requirement to complete a first-aid course. Additionally, the validity of these licenses is different than a regular license. For example, a license to operate a bus is only valid for 5 years until it has to be renewed.
If you’re ready to exchange your license, bring the following information to your appointment:
If you’ve only just turned 18, or simply never got to getting your license, you can get your driving license as a foreigner in Germany. Time for lessons! But first, you’ll need to save up some cash! A full driving course in Germany could cost you up to €2000, down to around 500 if you’ve had a license before.
Here’s a quick overview of the process to get you driving license in germany as a new driver
So, now that you know how to get the wheels turning to exhange or get your license in Germany, we hope to see you on the famous Autobahn soon!