How to drive in Estonia

Updated 2017-11-27 11:15

Estonia has an extensive road system with a big emphasis on security. This is apparent in the strict regulations that are in place when it comes to driving under the influence, in the rules that make driving in cities as stress-free as possible, and the security precautions during wintertime (you are obliged by law to have your snow tires on from 1 October to 1 March). It’s also reflected in the fact that driver’s licences need to be renewed every ten years, and although the legal driving age is 18 years old, you need to be older to rent a car (sometimes you may need to pay a “young driver’s fee”). To maintain this system, Estonia encourages expats to exchange their non-EU driving licences for Estonian ones and, in some cases, retake the driving test.

Driver's licence converting and registering your car

In Estonia, registering your vehicle is very important, and it's the first thing you need to take care of. It's okay to drive with a foreign licence plate before you've gotten your residence permit but if you stay in Estonia for more than 12 months in a row, you need to register your car. Also, once you obtain your residence permit, you must register your car within five days. If you've already gotten your residence permit before entering Estonia, you still have to register your car within five days of bringing it into the country.

Good to know:
If you don't have the residence permit in Estonia, then to register a car you'll have to add one Estonian resident to the car's documents, them being the authorised user.

To register your car, you have to take it to the pre-registration inspection to check whether your documents are in order and the vehicle meets the standards. Then, you complete the registration and buy Estonian licence plates.

As per your driver's licence, if you're coming from an EU, EEA, or Swiss Confederation country, your licence is valid in Estonia and you are not required to exchange it. However, you will need to renew it in ten years as is the case for Estonian licences as well. If you're coming from a non-EU country, it will only be valid for 12 months after you move to Estonia -- after you'll have to replace it with an Estonian one. If your driver's licence is issued by a member state of the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic (Canada, Argentina, the USA,etc.), it's valid in Estonia only if you also have an International Driving Permit. To replace it with an Estonian driver's licence (which, as we've already seen, you'll have to) you need to take the Estonian driving test.

Other licences and age limits

There are different legal age limits in Estonia, based on the type of vehicle you wish to drive. For mopeds, the age limit is 14 years, and an AM-category driver's licence is needed. You're also required to have completed a traffic safety course in a driving school. For bicycles, the situation can be a bit tricky. Although you are free to ride a bicycle without a licence from 16 years old and onwards, before that (for ages between ten to 15 years old), you need a bicycle driver's licence. Children younger than ten years old are only allowed to drive bicycles under their parent's supervision and in specific areas such as cycle tracks.

Driving tests

There are many driving schools in Estonia to choose from and the cost (anything from 600 euros to 1,100 euros) can vary depending on which you'll choose. The minimum average of driving hours you need to do is 100 (3,000 to 4,000 km of driving practice, both outside and within built-up areas.

For the driving test you must pay a state fee of around 90 euros (or less if you pay it online), you are expected to arrive five to ten minutes early, and if you fail to show up it counts as if you took the test and failed, so you'll have to arrange another test appointment and pay the state fee again.

If you pass, you can drive your car in Estonia right away until your driver's licence is being prepared -- but you cannot do so for more than ten working days. If you fail, you will be given a report with your mistakes and you can retake the test in a week.

Useful links
Estonian road administration

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