How to drive a car legally in Europe
Rules will vary for each country, but if you want a driving license in the EU and you are a non-EU citizen here are your general options.
- If you have a driver’s license from any EEA/EU country you can drive anywhere in Europe.
- If you have a US license you need an International drivers license which would accompany your US driver’s permit. No exam required, only a form/permit you can get at AAA and the National Automobile Club. This will be generally valid if you are on vacation or on a tourist visa. However, generally if you live in Europe for a year or more than you need to get a local permit.
- If you are concerned about driving on the European road I recommend you get a learners permit. You need to pass the written test or the theoretical part to get a learner’s permit. This permit is good for two years and you can drive as long as there is another licensed driver in the passenger seat.
- You can exchange your US driving license for an EU drivers license. You can surrender your US drivers license to the driving office in that country and just pass the written exam without the road test. The written exams for EU drivers licenses are low stress and you can study with a computer program, you just need to memorizes the rules. This is great as you do not need a road test to get a driver’s license in the EU (usually). But you will have to speak the language of the country enough to take the drivers test in the language of the country you reside in.
If you are clever you can get a Ukrainian drivers license or another country with a working partnership with the EU and exchange the permit for an EU one. Many Polish guys do this as they have these schools in say Lviv where you are ‘guaranteed’ to pass and they are only we weekend. If you want more information about this method leave a comment.
The EU motor vehicle exam – is it hard?
The written exams can be passed by anyone, you just have to do the practice test. Further almost all countries offer them in English. Even if not you can figure it out if you do the exam books enough. I have taken so many standardized tests I can tell you they are all the same. I took insurance exams, stockbroker, financial advisor, real estate etc. A European driving exam is no different despite the horror stories you here. Two choices you can eliminate easily and two they try to trick you, you just have to determine what they are asking. They are testing a specific point, and usually guessing is not as good as knowing what they are looking for. My recommendation is do the practice tests over and over until you get over 90%. Then take the written EU exam. You can find these exams online or in a book form. In Poland I bought a book. However, recently when I passed my Real Estate exam I did an online course.
The road exam in Europe is brutal compared to the US exam. Plus in Eastern Europe they use a manual transmission. The road exam for a EU drivers license is notoriously hard. Natives will often fail five times. You can not do one little thing wrong; and it is illegal to bribe the examiner, which was the rule maybe ten years ago in many countries.So I recommend getting a learners permit.
Getting deported for not having a Driver’s license in Europe
Most of my friends drove on their US license and played dumb when they got caught and most traffic police do not want to deal with an international incident (not really, it is more about paperwork) of giving a US citizen a ticket. However, now the police are cracking down on foreigners driving in sincere there are a flood of people coming to Europe for a better economic life, many illegally and they will check your visa if caught.
Do not think you will not be stopped. You will eventually. I am an excellent driver and I was going a little over the limit and the police stopped me. They gave me a warning, thank God, but got me on something else, my insurance was expired. I had to go to DMV to prove it was not. This happened less than a Kilometer from my home. They will eventually stop you. So my warning is get a driver’s license, even if you do not have a perfect visa, figure out a way to get a driver’s permit, in some ways it is more important.
They will not deport you for not having a license but if your documents are not in order for a visa, they will, and this is one way Police and immigration will discover this. One American girl I know was deported when on a routine check they discovered she was there with no visa.
Our situation, is in Europe I studied for my Polish drivers test. In the US my wife who is from Poland does not have a US driver’s licenses yet although she has her EU one. We were thinking of getting her a learners permit which means she can drive anywhere as long as I am in the car. After two years she will have no problem with the road exam. She can drive now but it is always stressful in a new country. It is cheaper than taking a drivers school course.
EU driver’s license get a new look
There were over 100 variations in Europe for the actual drivers card. The European drivers licensees are now replacing the old style in Europe, because of uniformity. They have the EU flag in the upper left hand corner and the initial of the country. These now have microchips and 3D text, which are designed to counteract people who buy a fake EU drivers license. The European Economic Area has 300 million drivers and a lot of diversity even now there is a good risk of fraud with people who are looking to get a fake EU drivers license.
European nations have harmonized the laws regarding drivers regulations and testing. There are variances but they are going to make everything look the same.
A driving course to get a driver’s license in the EU is about 700 dollars and well worth the investment if you are going to hang around the EU. You can even get it in English, for a 20% premium.