Your fool-proof plan to get your German driver’s license

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!

German driver's license test

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:

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).

3-Prep the paperwork

You will need to following documents for your German driver’s license application

  • Passport or ID card (Ausweis) and proof of residency (Meldebescheinigung)
  • Biometric photo
  • First-aid course certificate (Nachweis über Schulung in Erster Hilfe) – It can be done at the German red-cross. More info here.
  • Vision test certification (Sehtestbescheinigung) – It can be obtained from any glasses store (“Optiker”).
  • Fee of €35-48 (in cash) depending on your case
  • Proof of registration from your driving school in Berlin
  • your current driver’s license (if applicable)
  • Translation of your current driver’s license (if applicable) – can be done online quickly through platforms like Lingoking.

4- Have patience

The processing time for a conversion can be incredibly lengthy, especially in bigger cities. Various sources quote a 9 to 12 weeks waiting time for Berlin, while as little as 2 weeks for smaller cities.

As usual with German administration; stay cool and have patience.

Please note that If you are taking lessons at a driving school, they can also take care of that paperwork for you too.

How do I pass the German driver’s license test?

If you haven’t conquered the holy grail yet, you will need to pass the German driver’s license test first.

First comes the written part, which you need to pass within 12 months of submitting your application. Then the practical, which you need to pass within 12 months of passing the theoretical. In some cities you can take both tests in English, though that might cost extra.

Theory test

The theoretical test is comprised of 30 questions selected from the 1000 you studied. Each correct answer is awarded 2-5 points and if you miss more than 10 points worth of questions, you fail the test. There is a high failing rate (44% for the B class license in 2017!), so plan that into your budget and timeline.

There is no secret to succeed to the German driver’s license test: study, study, and study some more! There are some great apps that will guide you through the theoretical material, which includes all possible 1000 questions about traffic laws for the exam. Your driving school will also offer the book “Fahren Lernen Lehrbuch” for you to study. Although i have heard that most driving schools in Berlin will let you buy your own material too.

Practical test

Once you’ve passed the written part, it’s on to the practical part of the German driver’s license test. Even if you already know how to drive, it’s a good idea to take at least one set of driving lessons to prepare for the test. The instructor should tell you when you’re ready to take the practical test.

The practical test takes less than an hour. First, you’ll need to answer some questions about the car’s functions. Then you’ll be told where to drive, usually through different types of streets and the Autobahn. The test will also cover several maneuvers, like parking or emergency braking. If you miss an important sign or do any illegal maneuvers, the examiner can fail you. The important thing is to stay calm and focus on following the rules of the road.

Once you’ve passed both tests, you’ll immediately receive a temporary sheet of paper as a license. You will have to wait a few weeks before picking up your German driver’s license at the Führerscheinstelle. For this, you can’t make an appointment unfortunately.

So this is it!

You’re ready to drive through cities, complain about bad drivers, grumble about limited parking options and speed along the Autobahn!

Just keep an eye out for the “Blitzer” or risk getting not-so-lovely picture if they catch you speeding. Your German driver’s license is also valid across Europe, so plan that trip to Sicily and hit the road!

Die Autobahn

Die Autobahn is yours. (Source: Giphy.com)

Hope this short intro to the topic was helpful. Let me know in the comments if something is unclear or if you have any questions.

Tip 1: If possible, try to pass the sight check without glasses. You won’t be forced to wear them while driving then.

Tip 2: You don’t need to buy study material from your driving school. It can be done online for a much cheaper price usually.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

25 Comments

  • Reply James 11/06/2019 at 17:02

    Hi Bastien,

    Do you know if an eye sight test is required to exchange a UK driving licence for a German licence?

    The lady at the Bürgeramt in Berlin said something about an eye test (I didn’t fully understand) and I said I had my eyes tested this year but I don’t have the paperwork here. She ended up taking payment, keeping my recently expired UK licence, and giving me a Quittung and Antragsbestätigung. So i thought everything is fine, but I noticed the Antragsbestätigung says a Sehtestbescheinigung is required for class B (cars), and “Your application will only be processed if all documents have been submitted. To avoid delays in processing your application, please submit any missing documents as soon as possible without being asked.” But then she also said at some point my application would take up to 12 weeks, implying she has everything she needs already, although I may have misunderstood.

    So I’m wondering if I need to get an eye test and post it to the Bürgeramt?

    Thanks!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 13/06/2019 at 11:46

      Hey James. Yes, if you have not submitted it, you should.

  • Reply davor 07/06/2019 at 18:40

    hey … i chose to drive automatic as option on Burgeramt for beginners licence but wanna switch now to manual, would you by any chance know how to do that and where? tnx

  • Reply Alan 30/05/2019 at 10:48

    Hello everyone. Thanks for the insight.Well my situation is I am in the process of converting my allien DL to a German one.I have already passed the theory and done 3 unsuccessful practical exams attempt in my registered address outside Berlin.Due to various reasons I am changing my registered address to Berlin and the questions lingering in my mind at the moment are: Is it possible to change my driving school to a Berlin one and take the practical exam there once I have notified the ‘Burger Buero’ and ‘Führerscheinstelle’ in Berlin of my relocation?Or I will I have to start the whole process of DL conversion a fresh again in Berlin?What’s the best way to handle this situation?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 01/06/2019 at 15:01

      Hey Alan. the best is to ask a driving school directly. I’m not sure myself.

      • Reply Alan 02/06/2019 at 12:32

        Ok.Thanks.

  • Reply beanie 20/05/2019 at 09:30

    Just started the Theory…can i also start the practical or do i have to complete the test first before the practical can begin?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/05/2019 at 09:56

      Ask you school, some of them allow to start in parralel.

  • Reply Paige 18/05/2019 at 21:04

    Does anybody know how long you have to wait between testing if you fail the theoretical test? I saw 14 days for practical but can’t find theoretical. Thanks!

  • Reply Saad 18/05/2019 at 10:35

    My driving school told me that if I do theory and practical lessons in parallel, I will have to retake all the practical lessons again if I fail the theory even once. Is that really the case?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/05/2019 at 09:20

      Hey Saad. What is the logic behind this?

  • Reply Pratik 15/05/2019 at 11:43

    Can I book Theory exam directly at TUV as my school charges 50 Euro other than TUV fee every time I book the test?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/05/2019 at 13:41

      Hey there. Seems like it’s not possible. Source.

  • Reply NewInBerlin 15/05/2019 at 09:45

    Hello German DL aspirants,
    I have experienced a lot of bureaucracy in getting a German driving license. When it comes to the practical driving test, you feel like spending money like a billionaire on your 80 mins endless driving classes (for these classes if you don’t have pre-booked appointments in regular intervals then it adds to the nightmare even more). Each cost around 60 euro. The test itself is 200 euro including the instructor fee. On top of this if you are a new driver then consider having those 3 special classes as well which cost around 200 euro each.
    My suggestions to all new driving license aspirants is that look for a fahrschule (driving school) which offers simulated driving console at least. Like a game console where you can at least practice all the rules before you go on the road with the instructor and start losing money like water.

  • Reply sam 09/05/2019 at 09:32

    Hallo ,
    I am from India and has a decent amount of experience in driving a Car and also Motor Cycles but yet I had to go through all the tests before hitting the German roads . The theory preparation will teach you how to really succeed in driving and its quite interesting for those who love to Drive . Very useful information on this website and thanks to the team for a good motivation , I would say one can easily get through the driving tests if follow the instructions very carefully and be focused. Happy Driving.
    **Never Drink And Drive** 🙂

  • Reply Cecilia ablorh Odjidja 30/04/2019 at 20:43

    Please thanks for the article. I haven’t driven before. I am now planning to learn in Berlin. I have done my first aid and eye test. Please can you give me guide as to what to do next? Thank you.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 01/05/2019 at 22:46

      Hey Cecilia, well then you can start with the theory test i suppose.

  • Reply Brian Laub 01/04/2019 at 12:25

    This was a great walk-through! Much appreciated!!

    On this link for the driver’s license first issue (https://www.berlin.de/labo/mobilitaet/fahrerlaubnisse-personen-und-gueterbefoerderung/dienstleistungen/service.213924.php/dienstleistung/121627/) it lists all the requirements you need to bring to apply.

    Most of them you mentioned in this guide (Passport or ID card (Ausweis) and proof of residency (Meldebescheinigung), etc), but there are a few on there that you aren’t listed here:
    Bescheinigung über die körperliche und geistige Eignung
    Funktions- und Leistungstest
    Führungszeugnis
    Das Führungszeugnis (Belegart “O”, zur Vorlage bei einer Behörde) wird bei der Antragstellung gleich mit beantragt (gebührenpflichtig, 13,- €).

    Are these new requirements? Or how can I make sure I have that paperwork as well?

    Finally, can these two both be accomplished at one eye test: “Bescheinigung über die ärztliche Untersuchung des Sehvermögens” and “Sehtestbescheinigung”, because they are listed as 2 seperate things here.

    Thanks!!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 04/04/2019 at 21:29

      Hey Brian. I didnt mention these because they are needed for other vehicles than traditional cars. You can see it’s required for class D or class B vehicles. Only a sehtestbescheinigung is needed for class B.

  • Reply Sebastian 27/03/2019 at 11:54

    Hi thank you for the article it answered to a lot of my questions. I have one specific question, my foreing not EU license will expire in 12 weeks, and i will star this process rigth now, do you know if my license expires in the middle of the process could i still continue? or it should be valid at least before i take the theory and practical exam ?. Thank you

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 27/03/2019 at 20:41

      Hey Sebastian. I don’t see why you could not continue?

  • Reply Mark 28/02/2019 at 20:59

    Hello, I find this site very helpful. I have a specific question for my case. I have been driving for 15 years now in different countries using my local driver”s license (Philippines) and an International driver”s permit. Since I am now living in Berlin I have asked the assistance of a driving school (since it is mandated by LABO) to exchange my Philippine driving license to German. Since Philippines is not recognized, I hae to start from scratch. To cut the story short I have passed the theory exam and now doing the “Fahruebung” with a driving school. Basically the instructor was not teaching me anything new since I know already the regulations in the German road but he kept prolonging the sessions. One session is 80mins for 50Euro. I just finished my 3rd today. Today we just drove around the city like the first and second session. Then at the end of the session we went to DEKRA to manually set an appointment for my actual practical exam. I thought that was it for me and the driving school but the driving instructor insisted I need to meet him for 40mins prior the exam so we can drive some more (pay him 25 Euro) and he wants to be sitting at the back of the car during the whole practical exam which will last for 45 mins (pay him 85 Euro).
    So my question is this:
    1. In the practical exam with DEKRA, am I going to use a DEKRA car (I assume it is part of the payment) ?
    2. Am I obligated to meet my instructor prior the exam to drive some more and for him to be with me during the exam (which will cost me easily another 110 Euro) ?

    Many thanks!

    Regards
    Mark

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 02/03/2019 at 20:07

      Excellent question Mark. 1- the 85€ or so are covering the costs of the exam, and it is sometimes taken over by the driving school. Whether or not the vehicle is provided by DEKRA, you must clear up with your school. 2- You may want to check your contract to see if you agreed to those extra conditions. Can’t tell you myself.

  • Reply Cedric 19/02/2019 at 15:26

    Hello,

    Where do I find the list of countries which have a reciprocity agreement with Germany to convert a non-EU driving license into a German one?

    Cheers

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 24/02/2019 at 09:14

      Hey Cedric. This page is listing whether or not you need to pass theoretical and/or practical exam to convert your license. Maybe that helps.

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