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How to get a driving license in Germany- Step-by-Step guide
You are reading this article because you are probably convinced you should drive a car in Germany. If you are still unsure, read my article on 10 reasons to get a driving license in Germany. Once you make up your mind, read the following article carefully and follow all the steps to get a driver’s license. This article also includes some tips and tricks based on my experience.
10 Steps to get a driving license in Germany:
- Find a driving school:
Finding a driving school is the first and most crucial step. Check with your friends and acquaintances, google reviews and reviews in other forums, and take feedback about the driving schools in your area. You can benefit from others’ experiences and should not miss this. Also, if you are uncomfortable with German as a medium of instruction, you can choose a school that offers English/other language instruction. Here, I would point out that the schools that provide instructions in English/other languages are usually a bit more expensive. My 2 cents here are: Learn basic German first and get more comfortable with the language. The instructions are easy and can be understood with basic German knowledge. However, at the same time, I would also mention that good communication between you and your instructor plays an important role. So, if you are not yet there with your German language skills, don’t risk it. Just choose a school that offers the instructions in a language of your choice.
- Register with the driving school:
Once you have shortlisted the schools, contact them by mail/phone. Sometimes, there may be waiting times at the popular driving schools, or some may not be ready to take any new students. If, based on your research, you prefer a specific school, wait till you get a place there. Don’t rush and register yourself in a school you know nothing about and later regret it. It is difficult to change to another school later and expensive too. (I will write about my experience with school change at the end of this article). Once you successfully find a school, register with them. This would involve paying the registration fee.
- Complete the first aid course:
Once you register with the driving school, your first step is to fix an appointment for a first aid course near you. Your school can help you find providers of these courses near you. You can register there and attend the course. You have to pay a fee for the course (unless the school has packaged that for you). The duration is typically 7-8 hours, so choose a day when you are free. Saturday courses are also available in many places.
- Get an eye test done:
An eye test can be done conveniently at any spectacle shop at a very reasonable price, though that cost has to be borne by you ( unless your driving school included that in the package, in which case, they will tell you to get the test done from a specific place). You need to state the purpose of the test and get a report. If it is required to wear specs or change them after the test, you must undertake that activity because you will have to wear them during your lessons and on the day of the practical exam.
- Register at the city hall (Rathaus):
Once you have registered with your driving school and completed the first aid course and eye test, take all the required documents and visit your city hall ( Rathaus) to register there. You may also need, in addition, your biometric photo, id proof, driving school registration document, and completed form to register yourself at the city hall.
For people in Darmstadt: Check the link below to find out the latest document list, link to the form, address where the documents need to be submitted, etc. here:
Here again, you will have to pay a fee.
Once you submit all the documents, it may take 4-6 weeks for the authorities to process them and send you an acknowledgement by post. Only after you receive the acknowledgement can you start your lessons.
- Prepare for your theory test:
This may involve taking lessons from the driving school. You must attend theory lessons if you are new to driving and getting a new license. Apart from attending the classes, you will be given an app and book to help you prepare for the exam. If you are converting your license from your country to a German one, you don’t necessarily have to attend theory lessons. However, you must prepare for the theory exam and pass it. ( Show your existing license to the driving school and check if it is recognized and can be considered for conversion). Also, check with your driving school if the app and book are available in the language of your choice and if you can give the theory exam also in that language. You can choose between 12 languages. Check about the language of your preference with your driving school.
- Clear the theory exam:
Give time to yourself to learn the theory well and practice the questions. Classroom lessons, and home learning with the app, book, etc., are time-consuming and require focus. The preparation material consists of a question bank of 1000 multiple-choice questions. In the app, you can also see how much weightage the questions carry ( 3 points, 5 points, etc.). In your exam, you will get 30 questions. Correct answers will get you points according to the weightage of the question, and a wrong answer will lead to the same number of negative points. E.g., if you attempt a 5 points question and get it right, you get +5 points; if it is wrong, you get -5. You will pass the test if you have less than 10 negative points. E.g., 10 questions of 1 point each gone wrong can lead to failure in the exam, or 2 questions of 5 points each gone wrong can lead to failure in the exam. So be thorough with all the questions. If you pass, you can go ahead with your practical lessons, else prepare once more, and plan to reappear for the exam.
- Start with practical lessons:
You can start with practical lessons once you have passed the theory exam. Your school will fix appointments with you for your driving lessons. These sessions can be for 45 minutes or 1 1/2 hours. 45 minutes is called eine Stunde, and 1 1/2 hours is called dopplestunde. The number of lessons is decided by your teacher. He or she has complete authority to decide how many lessons you should take. These lessons are expensive, and you may be tempted to request your teacher to cut them short and let you appear for the exam early, but please refrain from doing so. It is better to do a few extra lessons than attempt early and fail. Here, I would also mention that the exam session costs are high. For the exam day, you pay for both your teacher and the examiner. So, suppose you rush and appear for the exam and fail; it would mean extra cost for the additional mandatory lessons because you have failed the test, plus money lost on the exam taken and additional money to be spent for reappearing. My tip: For good preparation, I strongly recommend watching driving lesson videos on youtube. Watching the videos for a minimum of 30 minutes daily would help you understand the road rules better and make you more confident. It would also prepare you for what is to come.
- Clear the practical test:
If your teacher feels you are ready, he/she shall fix an appointment for the exam. On the exam day, reach on time and carry your id proof, specs, etc. Patience, confidence, and a good understanding of all the rules are the key to passing the test. During the exam, your teacher will sit next to you, and the examiner will sit in the back seat. He will give you directions, and you are expected to drive where he asks. Typically, the test duration is about 45 minutes ( check the latest on this with your driving school), but the examiner can decide to end it sooner too. If you have made too many mistakes, he/she may want you not to continue further. OR, if he/she feels confident that you are good, the test may get ended sooner. If you fail, it is mandated that you do a couple more lessons, after which you can appear for the exam again. If you pass, the examiner will verbally confirm that to you, verify your contact details, and take your signature on a document stating that you have passed the test.
- Pick your license
A day after the exam, you will receive an email stating that you have passed (Prüfungsbestätigung). You must take the document attached in the email from the authority ( TÜV/Dekra), take it to the driving license authority (Fahrerlaubnisbehörde), and get a license. It may happen that the actual driving license card may not be immediately available. In that case, the licensing authority may issue a letter ( which typically has a validity of 6 months) stating that the same can be used as the authority to drive. Then you must carry that letter with you every time you drive (just like you would carry your license). Once the actual license (card) arrives at your residence, you can start using that and carry it every time you drive.
Darmstadt residents can check the link below to pick their license:
What happens if you are unsatisfied with your driving school and want to change?
Despite doing everything right, things may not work out, and you may not feel comfortable/satisfied with your driving school. If that happens, you can change your driving school. It is called ‘Fahrschulwechsel.’ You will have to call the driving schools you want to shift to, explain your situation and check with them if they are ready to enrol you. Here, I want to inform you that changing schools is not easy. From my experience, I can tell that driving schools are generally more interested in taking in new students but not students from another driving school.
Here are some additional tips:
- Choose the driving school carefully. This is the first and the more critical step.
- Don’t take it easy on the road at any time. Understand each and every rule, and if you have any doubts, clarify with your teacher.
- For the theory test, you have to literally learn the answers by heart. If you have learned the theory well, some answers may be obvious. However, there will be some that you have to remember. Ten negative points will fail you in the test, so be well prepared.
- Be confident but not aggressive on the day of your practical test. Follow all the rules to the T.
- Try to plan things so that you give your practical test in one of the summer months—that way, you eliminate difficult situations like fog/snow, etc.
- Getting a driving license in Germany is not cheap. Right from registration at the school and Rathaus, practical/theory lessons fee, theory test material, practical/theory test fee, eye test, first aid course, everything costs money, which may easily touch around 2500-3000 Euros. It would cost more if you fail and have to do extra lessons. So, plan accordingly.
- Some ways of gauging whether your teacher is doing a good job: -Observe whether your instructor is making notes of your progress. As part of the lessons, they are supposed to cover a couple of hours each on the Autobahn, country roads, night driving, etc. Teachers take lessons for many students and may find it difficult to remember every student’s progress/needs. That is why most good driving schools have their own app/sheet in which they note the student’s progress. They use this to plan further lessons. Discuss with your instructor if you see him/her not following any plan.
Observe whether your teacher communicates clearly with you, explaining the road signs/rules, etc., every step of the way. Any mistake on exam day can lead to failure. Hence nothing must be missed during the lessons too.
- This process can take anywhere between 8-12 months, from finding a driving school to getting a license. You must be present in the city to be available for all the appointments. Also, you will need to take time out for the paperwork/ test preparations. So, plan accordingly.
Please note that timelines/costs/processes etc., may change based on your country of origin, age, and whether it is a new license or a conversion. It is best to check with your driving school and local authorities for your case and get the latest information about the test. TÜV and Dekra websites are excellent sources of information.
This article is written with the sole purpose of giving you an idea about how the process of obtaining a driving license in Germany works. For the lastest information, please refer to the official websites.
You can also read my article about my experience of renting a car in Germany.
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