Tuesday, 19 September 2006

German Driver's Licence

This post is part vent, part information. So, the time has come for me to obtain my German driver's licence[1] and there are a number of rules governing the use of foreign licences here. For starters the most infuriating part is the sheer bureaucratic and almost arbitrary nature of which licences are easily exchangeable. Once you have moved here the rule is all licences should be converted to a German licence within 6 months. Since I only 'moved' here at the beginning of May[2] I must change over by November. There is a list as to which countries can simply exchange their licences and those whose resident's must take theory and/or practical tests. The list is generated using the rule: "Whoever Germany has made a formal agreement with". And that seems to be the only rule as far as I can find out.[3]

That means that all countries in the EU are fine to just exchange, since Germany as an EU member has agreed to this. The list gets a little stranger the further away you go. So Japan is free to exchange as are South Korea and Canada however Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are not. The list gets, in my opinion, positively crazy when some states in the U.S. can simply exchange -- such as Utah and Virginia -- others must only perform a theory test -- such as Missouri and Oregon -- and still others, such as poor Texas, must do both a theory and practical test. Australia, NZ and South Africa also fall into this category of having to do both tests. If you hold a current licence the requirement for a certain number of instructor hours is waived.

In addition to the tests one must also present documentation for a first aid course, eye sight test as well as a translation of any current licence. Of course each of these cost money and money also goes to pay for the tests, the licence itself and the driving lessons (enough for the instructor to determine that you are competent enough to pass). All up for Gaynor the cost was around the 400€ mark and I expect it will be a little cheaper for me, though probably not much. To keep this in 'perspective' one should realise that a first-time licence getter will pay a minimum of 1500€, most of which goes in lesson time to meet the required number of hours standard.

The craziest part of the licence exchange (f├╝hererscheinumschreibung in German) is that legally it's ok for you to get off a plane from Australia -- having driven your whole life in a right-hand drive vehicle and on the left hand side of the road -- and do 200km/h down the autobahn. And you can keep doing this for 6 months not having a clue about the road rules or being able to read German to know them. After that however, they really view you as a danger on the roads since you don't have a valid licence!

On the plus side you do end up with pretty decent driver training and they really do seem to take their social responisibilty to be a good driver very seriously. In addition, the German driver's licences are valid for life. You only have to do this once and they never need to be renewed. And -- and here is the part I like and will miss soon enough -- you can keep driving on the autobahns. :D


[1] Gaynor's time has already come and gone and she successfully completed the transfer last April. But since she hasn't blogged about it, I'll have a go.
[2] Actually didn't blog about that piece of minor news though it was alluded to in our post about our visit to Amsterdam.
[3] Bit more information on driving in Germany at How To Germany.