How to drive in Germany


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.

Non-EU-EEA nationals

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. 

 Useful links: 

Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Affairs
Find your local driving licence office (Führerscheinstelle)

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.
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Member since 01 June 2008
Small earth, Mauritius
3 years ago

Hi Ivana...hmmmm, not too sure about the actual transfer laws for driving licenses these days...I believe it has a little to do with your actual driving record but more to do with how soon you actually go through with it after arriving in the country and the conditions of which you are in this country, if you are military or have diplomatic status you might even be exempt altogether...please check on this though. If you haven't already, check right away with your local Fahrerblaubnisbehörde, depending on how long you've been here it may very well be that you can just transfer. When I went through this process almost 20 years ago I had made the mistake and gone past the deadline to transfer and was required to take both the written and driving tests, in addition to completing a first aid course and passing an easy German proficiency test, given at the same offices. You can get the sample written tests and review them when the kids have gone to be honest, I don't think it is irrational at all taking the written driving test in a new country...especially if you are driving young children around. Though driving anywhere in the world is pretty basic: it's really just common sense and most rules of the road seem pretty much universal, they do differ from country to country, so you'd definitely be a safer driver becoming acquainted with the rules of the country in which you reside. I learnt a lot and felt much more confident after passing my test. Just think of it as if you would a four year renewal test in Florida (it's offered in English). If you pass, it is good for life, no more renewals, well unless you move again of course...if you fail, well maybe that is why you might be learning more about the German/EU driving rules. Remember european roads are centuries old and not always the nice orderly four way stop grid roads we have back in the states. Good luck.

Ivana in germany
Ivana in germany
3 years ago

is there a way to not do the written test for the driver license ????? I have drive 20 years and never had a n accident my driver license is from florida , I am a mother of 3 I have no time to study all this material with a house to run and 3 kids to take care ..this is just crazy and irrational !!!!!!! are there specialist in this matter ..lawyers …or some way around where to go an exchange the driver license without all this crazy !!!! thanks

4 years ago

I just posted about the compulsory law requiring all weather M S tires on vehicles during winters conditions. The post is dated: 21 Nov 2013

6 years ago

The exchange provision for drivers licenses with America depends on the individual States depending on if they reciprocate. I had over 20 years accident free driving on an Ohio license but had to do the German test within a year of having married here. One has to go through a drivers school, which costs a lot of money although they demanded less hours of in-car instruction than for a beginner.

3 years ago

Too bad you had to do "Fahrschule" I was able to transfer my Ohio License in 2002 for only a small fee. I was a bit surprised, considering that there are enough differences in rules compared to USA, that I think a short written test would be in order. Maybe the rules have changed. I also don't remember any questions about my safety record. Biggest thing: Don't drive on your foreign license after six months. If you get caught, it will cost you. Yes, you must run snow or all weather tires in winter.


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