If you are a citizen of the EU-EEA, your can freely drive in Germany with your national driver's licence, while those from other countries can do so for up to six months. After this, third country citizens may be able to get an extension of six months (if your planned stay in the country is no more than a year) or they can apply to exchange their original licence for a national one.
If you're a national from outside the EU-EEA, you can drive in Germany with your national driving licence for a period up to six months, with a possible extension of six additional months if your stay does not exceed one year in total. You may be required to provide an official translation of your driver's licence plus a certification of permission to drive ("Zertifizierung der Fahrerlaubnis"). Check with your national embassy or consulate in Germany to find out more about special requirements to drive in in the country. After a year, and if your country has signed agreements with Germany on driver's licence exchange, you must exchange your national driver's licence for a German driver's license.
Provisional driving licences are not valid and the driver must comply with the minimum required age, for example 18 for driving a car.
Driver's license exchange
To exchange your national driver's license for a German driver's license (Führerschein), you must go to the local administrative department or town hall's driving licence office (Führerscheinstelle) and provide a:
- valid ID or passport, possibly visa and residence permit etc. Photocopies are advisable. Original proof and photocopy of residence in Germany, together with a confirmation from the Office for Foreigners (Landeseinwohneramt) of the duration of residency in Germany (Aufenthaltserlaubnis)
- your original national driver's license plus a photocopy
- official translation of your national license into German may be required
- biometric passport-sized photo (following regulations)
- an eye test is sometimes performed
Fees are applicable for the exchange process and it may take a few weeks to get one's German driver's license
If you are a citizen from outside the EU-EEA and in the case you cannot exchange your national driver's license for a German driver's license, you will have to take driving tests (both practical and theoretical) after a year in Germany
For more information about driving in Germany, please visit the German Ministry of Transport website.
Speed limits in Germany
Regarding driving rules, be aware that using a mobile phone is not allowed except when the car engine is off or with a hands-free kit, and all passengers are required to wear their seatbelts. The speed limit is set at 50 km/h in built-up areas, but there are some sections that are limited to 30 km/h. Outside built-up areas, the speed limit is set at 80 km/h or 100 km/h depending on the roads. German highways are free, however, toll rates (Mautgebühr) apply to trucks depending on: their exhaust emissions; the distance travelled; and infrastructure costs. Note, German motorways are heavily used by drive though lorries from other countries. There are no general speed limits but it is advised not to exceed 130 km/h. Most degraded sections are limited to 100 km/h or 120 km/h.
Good to know:
In Germany, it is compulsory to insure your vehicle. A technical inspection must be performed regularly.