Driving conditions and driving licences
When you reach the age 18 years you will be eligible to drive a car in Germany. You don’t have to exchange it for a German licence, if your driving licence has been achieved in an EU or an EEA country. You will have to either change it or apply for a new licence resident from other states.
There are almost 650,000 km (404,000 mi) of roads in Germany. The motorway network amounts to ca. 13,000 kilometres (8,000 mi), established between the solid and longest systems in Europe. It is also widely used with a per 100 capita rate of 66 cars. The German road system ranked 11th in the world with respect to the quality and efficiency of road systems if you look at the statistic from 2012/2013.
On country roads speed limits are 50 km/h (30 mph) in built-up areas and 100 km/h (62 mph). The recommended speed limit on motorways (Autobahn) is 130 km/h (81 mph), however it can be exceeded unless otherwise indicated.
You should note that the following items always have to be in your car, if you want to drive on German roads:
- warning triangle
- first aid kit
- spare tyre
- high-visibility vest/s (one for each passenger)
Road signs in Germany are very abundant. Almost all of them are clear pictographs, but sometimes people complain they are a little confusing. It is almost impossible to get lost in Germany if you pay attention, especially on the Autobahn.
The famous Autobahnen are entitled by an “A”, followed by a one-digit or two-digit number (e.g. A7, A34, etc.). The one-digit-numbered Autobahnen run through the whole country. They even connect German cities to cities in neighbouring countries. The two-digit-numbered Autobahnen run through certain regions only.
If you hold a valid driving licence from a EU or EEA country, you can use it in Germany as long as it is lawful in the country where it was achieved. However you may exchange it for a German licence.
Your licence is valid for six months after registering for residence, if you are not a national of the countries noticed above.
You can apply for a renewal after the six months and use your licence six more months or until you leave, if you are staying in Germany for a year or less. You will have to either exchange your driving licence or apply for a new one after six months have passed should you plan to stay longer than one year. Depending on your country of origin.
You will have to go to the local authorities (the respective Straßenverkehrsamt) and submit your application, if you are from an EU/EEA country and want to apply for the exchange of your licence. You will be issued a German licence and your old one will be sent to the authorities of your country of origin. Or kept by the German authorities, in case you want to leave Germany and change your licence back. The new licence will include a note saying that your German licence has been exchanged for one from another country.
For the application you will not only need your valid driving licence, but also the following documentation:
- Passport or personal ID
- Biometric passport-sized photo
- German translation of the licence
- Document stating your registration for residence
- Document stating the validity of your licence (if not indicated on the licence)
Before driving a car in Germany and if you are not a national of one of the EU/EEA countries, it is possible that you have to take the theoretical and the practical driving test in Germany. Decide for yourself if you want to take classes in a German driving school (which is recommended), or take the exam straight away.