Autobahn. A famous German word full of promises. Endless stretches of road with no speed limits or slow drivers. Speeding through the countryside as fast you can go. A dream come true for many people!
If you’re visiting Germany or even moving here, you don’t necessarily need a car to get around, but having a valid German driver’s license can be very useful. Before you buy a car or research car-sharing options, you’ll need to sort out whether you’re allowed to drive here. I’ve put together this brief guide, so you can hit the road as soon as possible!
What’s your situation now?
I don’t have a driver’s license yet.
You will need to start from scratch and join thousands of other Germans through the process, explained in this post here after. Don’t worry, the whole process can be done in English.
I already have a driver’s license.
If it was issued from an EU country, you can keep using it in Germany until it expires. If it’s from a non-EU country, then you’re allowed to use it for up to 6 months. After that you’ll need to exchange it for a German driver’s license. Many countries have reciprocity agreements with Germany, meaning that their driver’s licenses are similar to the German one and you might be able to skip some of the requirements (for US citizens, here is a list state-by-state). So depending on your case, you might need to apply for a conversion, which we also explain here.
What’s the admin process for getting a German driver’s license?
To get a driver’s license in Germany, you need to be at least 18 years old (or 17 with a legal guardian). Germany follows the EU regulations for license categories, such as B for cars (Personenkraftwagen or PKW) and C for small trucks (Lastkraftwagen or LKW). If you get the Category B German driver’s license, you’ll be allowed to drive both automatic and manual standard cars. Unless you can get out of taking the exams, expect to spend €1200-€2000 for your lessons, exams, fees and study materials.
1- Pass the test if you need
Skip this if you already have your license. Signup at a driving school in Berlin – when it comes to selecting a good driving school Berlin has plenty to choose from for both the theoretical and practical tests. More info about that a little lower in this post. Here are a few driving schools in Berlin that offer English instruction:
- Fahrschule am Zoo
- Driving School Berlin Prenzlauer Berg
- English Driving School Berlin
- Success Fahrschul
2- Make an appointment for a conversion or a first-time application
Make an appointment at your local driver’s license office (Führerscheinstelle or Fahrerlaubnis Behörde – link for Berlin) for either a conversion of your license (Umschreibung einer ausländischen Fahrerlaubnis) or first-time driver’s license application (Ersterteilung einer Fahrerlaubnis). You may have to wait 3-6 weeks to have your application processed. Only then can you take the driver’s license test (if applicable).