Do you want to commute by car? Maybe go on the Autobahn for a 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 and get behind the wheel yourself!
There’s quite a chance that you’ve already acquired a license in your home country. But which driving licenses are valid in Germany? 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. In your case? Well, it depends on its origin and type.
In general, a drivers license for a regular car (B) is valid for quite some time. If you have a more advanced license (e.g. for a bus or a truck) , there might be additional requirements.
If your license has been issued in any EU/EEA country, you generally get to use it until its expiration date. If it’s from a 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 3 weeks, so if possible, do it before you arrive.
Much like your license, if you’re staying for a period of more than 12 months, you'll need to register your car in Germany. Your vehicle will also need to pass the German vehicle safety inspection. Make sure you also pay your vehicle tax and that you’re covered by suitable car insurance valid in Germany.
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! For example: a German driver won’t give you right-of-way unless the rules say you are entitled to it.
Before going to exchange your foreign driving license, there are a number of general requirements you need to meet:
To change your EU driving licence to a German license, you need to make an appointment at the local German driving licensing office. You can directly exchange your license there. As most European driving requirements are the same, you won't need to do any additional tests before getting you German license.
If driving in Germany with a US license, the requirements vary depending on the state you're from. Only some states have an exchange agreement with Germany. So, make sure to check the requirements per American state here. In the ‘worst’ case scenario, you’ll have to take some theoretical and driving classes, and pass the tests.
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, (e.g. for a truck or a bus), there are additional requirements. For example, to exchange a license in the German categories C or D (large commercial vehicles and buses) you need to provide proof that your health and eyesight are in order, as well as proof of completing a first-aid course. Keep in mind that 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 documents to your appointment:
If everything is in order, your German license will be ready to be picked up in 2-4 weeks.
If you're an expat who wants to get their driving license in Germany, you can! You’ll have to save up some cash, though. A full driving course in Germany could cost you up to €2,000, 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 exchange or get your license in Germany, we hope to see you on the famous Autobahn soon!
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