So you want to try out the fabled Autobahn for yourself? Fair enough. However getting a German driver’s licence can be an expensive and long procedure, so you’d better ready to go back to school and fill out some forms.
Changing your US driver’s licence for a German driver’s licence
If you’ve moved from the US, and had your driver’s licence for half a year or more in one of 27 states, you are in luck! Your previous home has what’s called reciprocity when it comes to driver’s licences. You can fill out a form, hand over your US licence, and in about a month receive a German one – no test. You absolutely must do this within six months of moving to Germany, though, otherwise you are out of luck and have to go the long route. It’s possible you will need a certified German translation of all the information on your licence, and an eye test, particularly if you had any eye conditions listed on your licence. These tests are cheap and quick, and you can often get one as a walk-in at any high-street optometrist.
If you’re Canadian, luck you! You get full reciprocity, and just need to fill in the forms and take an eye test to get your German driver’s licence. Do check if you need to get your licence translated. Check if your country has reciprocity before you sign up for Fahrschule.
Where to get your German driver’s licence
This is not straightforward as you might imagine. Google where you live in Germany and ‘Führerscheinstelle’. In some cases you will have to go to a local Bürgeramt, or your local Rathaus. It is best to clarify with them before you arrive which papers you will need, as some places will want German translations and others don’t require it. Also find out what the fee is, as you will need to bring this in cash.
The German driving test
Don’t panic, you can do this. Look for a local Fahrschule that is experienced helping new residents of Germany, some schools specialise in sorting out the paperwork for you. In a move that must bring so much more familial harmony, parents in Germany don’t teach their children to drive – kids go to the local certified driving school, so you’re not alone in this. It’s worth noting that if you have to apply for a provisional licence, you will need to provide the name of the driving school. Do you drive a stick shift? Most driving schools only use these types of vehicles so if you don’t know how, sign up for more lessons.
Surviving the German driving licence written test
You are not going to be able to wing it, so start by buying the official book called Fahren Lernen Lehrbuch, which you can get in English. If you’re signed up with a Fahrschule, they should provide you with a copy. Don’t panic, you can take the test in English, but there is a high failure rate, so this is no simple test. Study study study. If you fail, you get two more chances to pass, or it’s back to Fahrschule you go.
Taking the German driver’s licence road test
Even if you are an experienced driver, you might want to take a few lessons from a Fahrschule to get the hang of driving in Germany, and get some tips on the test. You will be asked a few questions about the functions of the car before you get going, and then your test giver will take you out on the road. Usually, you will drive around a few different kinds of streets, including the Autobahn. You will have to complete a few different maneuvers, like parallel parking. If you do anything illegal or dangerous, you will fail! Not all cities will offer these tests in English, so it’s best to find out before you start the whole process.
Get ready to get out there on the famous Autobahns, but just keep an eye out for a bright flash on roads with speed limits. That means you’re going to receive a nice letter in the post in about a month with a speeding ticket!