Driving in Germany

Old Mar 2nd, 2003, 02:12 PM
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Driving in Germany


I am planning on spending a year in Germany. I am looking for a job there, and since I am not sure if I will get a job that is near a train station, I am planning on getting a car while I am over there. I am looking for advice on how to become a "legal driver" in Germany. I will get an international driver's license...are there other things I need to do? Thanks much!
Hausee is offline  
Old Mar 2nd, 2003, 03:06 PM
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Not really, and you hardly even need the international driver's license. Get one at AAA, basically just for peace of mind. It's really just a translation of your own driver's license.

Best wishes,

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rex is offline  
Old Mar 2nd, 2003, 05:17 PM
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You might want to learn the signs. Especially the Priority Road sign. Also, Ausfart isn't a bodily function it means EXIT. Good Luck
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Old Mar 2nd, 2003, 07:59 PM
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Note the following taken from the Internet (http://www.german-way.com/german/driving.html):

Expats living in German-speaking Europe have one year before their home country license is no longer valid. If you're lucky, you have a driver's license from a state or province with a reciprocity agreement. If not, be prepared to spend time and money to attend a driving school (Fahrschule), take tests, and obtain a license. -- The odds are not in your favor. Only 17 of the 50 US states have a license waiver agreement with Germany, and some populous states (California, Texas, New York, Florida) are not among them.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2003, 08:58 PM
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You are not a tourist if you are working there and the laws are very different for residents. You need to read up on being an ex-pat in Germany. Another good web site is www.expatica.com. A good book to purchase is "Culture Shock! Germany". I have heard that the Fahrschule can cost as much as $2000. On the other hand I can attest that German drivers in general are better and more curteous than U.S. drivers because they know the regulations and actually follow them.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2003, 10:06 PM
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My experience in Germany: They are generally good drivers, drive fast, and you had better try to keep up with them on the Autobahn...they don't have many accicents but when they do, they pick you up with a "stick and a spoon" Take care.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2003, 02:10 AM
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trust me on this one, since I am a US citizen working (and driving) in Germany and have gone through the process.

Although BettyK's comments are the most accurate of what's been said so far, no one has been truly accurate.

So here's the deal:

Anyone living in Germany can legally drive with his/her US driver's license for 6 MONTHS (translation, e.g. by AAA, is recommended, but not required in Germany). After the 6-month period runs, you no longer can drive legally in Germany with your US license. There is one EXCEPTION, however: if you conclusively can prove that your stay in Germany will not exceed 1 YEAR (such as by a work contract expiring before one year; return ticket home), then you may request and obtain an 6-month extension of the right to use your US license in Germany. (Although I am not certain, I think that when you obtain an extension, you receive an official document from the German authorities indicating this.

Hence, after 6 months (if you cannot show you're staying in Germany less than one year) or after 12 months (provided you received your extension), then you cannot legally use your US license in Germany. Period.

Obtaining a German Driver's License is a separate issue altogether. If you're so lucky as to hold a U.S. license from a state having a reciprocal agreement with Germany, then from the moment you take up "residence" in Germany, you have up to 3 years to obtain a German license simply by filling out paperwork (I, holding a Virgina state driver's license, was so lucky to have this option). If you miss the 3-year deadline (or if your state does not have reciprocity), then you must take the full-fledged exam, which is a PITA.

Take note that some states allow for only "half" reciprocity, which means you only have to take 1/2 of the German driver's exam, which is comprised of a written portion and a driving portion. You also must have an eye exam.

Therefore, what you need to do before moving to Germany is to make sure you hold a valid drivers' license from a state having reciprocity IN FULL. Apply for a license in a qualifying state--even if not your home state--if possible.
The most comprehensive list of such states can be found on the American Chamber of commerce website for Germany (I think it's www.amcham.de). It's best to have a license that indicates "date of issue" as opposed to just "date of expiration" (VA has this). This is because a German license never expires and the authorities here only care about date of issue. If your most recent license was issued more than 3 years ago, you can receive a probation-free license.

IMHO, get the German license--even if you're going to live here for less than a year--because it will be valid for life, and you'll still be able to hold your US license...you get the best of both worlds.

Riffic is offline  
Old Mar 3rd, 2003, 02:31 PM
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Steve, I did come across a website for an American Women's Association in Hamburg, I believe, that referenced the 6 months period you mentioned. However, the other website appeared more "official" so I figured it probably was right. Thanks for the correction.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2003, 02:55 PM
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No matter what you do....learn the signs and the rules of the road.

I had to pass a signs test and written test when I was stationed in the Army in Germany in the 70s before I could buy a car and drive it on the roads. Best thing I ever was required to do.

The roads are great and the people do drive better than the Americans, but you need to know the rules.

And yes, we get back all the time. Last trip was in 2001.
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Old Mar 4th, 2003, 10:20 AM
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Actually the accident rates in Germany are very high--both the number of accidents per 1000 kms driven and the deaths and injuries per.
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Old Mar 4th, 2003, 10:38 AM
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I am an American expat living in Switzerland. I have a car, but my company pays for it, otherwise I would not bother. My experience in Europe is that you will not need a car to get to work and really don't need it for travelling in Europe generally. Public transportation in Europe generally -- and especially in Germany and Switzerland -- is incredibly efficient, cheap and abundant. I also don't know what kind of job you are looking for, but bear in mind that cars are expensive here, as is gas and insurance. You will also pay a road tax (about $600 a year here in Switzerland) and may have to buy special stickers to drive on the highways. If you are paying the cash price in full, you will have to have a local bank account and evidence that you can make the payments, such as having a job. Leasing is not an option for you, as you will not be there long enough. Parking in many cities is expensive and hard to find. Your employer may not offer it, and your apartment building may not have any, which means you have to pay for a space in a public garage both at work at home. All in all, if you are only there for a year I would not recommend that you buy a car. If you want to buy one to drive when you are there and then ship back, you should look into the costs of this now and how long you would be able to drive the car in Europe before you would have to ship it out. (I believe there are time limits to the "buy and ship" purchase plans offered by BMW and others. Buying outside of these plans and then trying to ship it back on your own will be expensive and the car will have to be retrofitted to the US which is also expensive.)

As you are looking for a job, I assume you speak German so the road signs, parking signs etc should not be a problem. I do not read or speak German or French and it is challenging at times.

My one road rule: unless indicated, drivers on the RIGHT have priority. That means at a T intersection, the car coming up the vertical portion of the T has the right of way, even if you are driving on the main road and he is coming off a side road!
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