Often described as an international driver’s license, an international driving permit in Germany (IDP) is a document that translates the information on your driver’s license into German. Germany allows U.S. citizens visiting the country to drive with their U.S. driver’s license. However, they can use their IDP in conjunction with the license to assist German authorities in reading the license. With so many fraudulent websites online, it is imperative that applicants remember that only two U.S. agencies can provide the permit: the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA).

The process to obtain an AAA international driver’s license is simple and only requires a few documents. The permit is valid for a limited time and is non-renewable. As such, citizens who plan to stay in the country for an extended period of time will eventually have to obtain a German license to continue driving in the country. For more information on the permit, review the sections below.

What is an IDP?

An IDP in Germany is a document that translates all of the information from your U.S. driver’s license into German. This is a way to assist foreign agencies in verifying your information while overseas. It includes your name, photo and other identifying information. Germany allows U.S. citizens to drive in the country for 364 days before obtaining the German license. The IDP serves as a supplement to the license, not a substitute.

When do I need an international driver’s license in Germany?

Germany allows residents to operate a vehicle in their country for one year without a license. During this time, if you are stopped, you may show your U.S. driving license along with the AAA international drivers license to facilitate the process.

If you plan to stay longer than a year, you must visit a driver registration office in Germany to obtain the German driver’s license. Completing a driving school is not mandatory. However, it is recommended to gain an in-depth understanding of traffic rules and practices in Germany.

Depending on the U.S. state you live in, the Germany driver’s license office may waive the skills and road test. Residents in 27 states and Puerto Rico have exemptions on the tests needed to obtain the license, while 11 states have partial exemptions where residents must only take the road test.

How to Get an International Driver’s License in Germany

To get a AAA international driving permit for your trip to Germany, there are two qualifications that you must meet. You must be at least 18 years of age and hold a valid U.S. or Territorial driver’s license. You can do so in person or via mail. To find the international drivers license USA  application, you must visit the AAA’s website. The application requires information such as:

  • Your full name.
  • Email address.
  • Phone number.
  • Driver’s license information.
  • Birthplace and home address information.
  • Arrival and departure date.

Along with the international drivers license application, you must submit two identical recent passport photos and a copy of your U.S. driver’s license on both sides. The last step is paying the AAA international drivers license fee, which is $20. If you are submitting the request via mail, you can only send a check or money order made payable to the AAA. Otherwise, you may pay with cash or a credit card.

If you are obtaining an international drivers license online through the AATA, the same requirements and documents apply. However, there is one additional requirement: your U.S. driver’s license must be valid for six months beyond the IDP’s issuance date. The payment fee is $20. However, with shipping and handling, you may pay up to $85 more depending on the method you select.  

How long does an international driving permit last in Germany?

With an international driving permit, countries such as Germany have a six-month notification requirement. This means while the permit is valid for one year, you must notify the driver’s license office in Germany six months after arriving in the country.

The notification certifies that you wish to continue to drive with your license and do not plan to stay past the one-year mark. Visitors have up to 364 days until they must obtain a German driver’s license.

Where to Get an International Driver’s License in Germany

If you are in Germany when you need an international driver permit, you must submit the application by mail overseas. In the envelope, you must include:

  • The completed application.
  • Two forms of recent passport photos.
  • Photocopy of U.S. driver’s license on both sides.
  • Money order or check for $20, made payable to the AAA or AATA, along with your preferred shipping method.

If submitting with the AAA, you must mail the IDP Germany application using FedEx due to U.S. customs regulations. The envelope must list the following address:

1000 AAA Drive
Heathrow, FL 32746
Attn: Mail Stop #28

For an international driver’s license application with the AATA, you must mail it to P.O. Box, number 24980 in San Jose, California. The ZIP code is 95154.

Tips for Avoiding International Driver’s License Fraud

Many online companies claim to provide an international driving permit for Germany and other countries. However, only the AAA and AATA have authorization for the U.S. government to issue IDPs. These fraudulent companies will charge hundreds of dollars for fake documents that can leave you at risk of detainment and travel delay.

The fee to obtain a permit is only $20 with additional fees for shipping. Anything more than that is a clear sign that you may be on a fraudulent site. Some websites will also claim that you can use the international driver’s license to drive in the U.S. The best way to protect yourself is by visiting one of the two agencies’ website directly or going to the offices in person.

Driving Rules in Germany

If you plan to drive with an international driver’s license in Germany, it is important that you understand the traffic and driving rules. Germany is different from most U.S. roads in that it has one set speed limit for cities and towns—50 kilometers—and another for highways— 100 kilometers— unless explicitly stated.

With one of the highest injury rates in Europe, Germany houses the Autobahn, a highway free of speed limits. As such, motorists must be extremely careful when driving and passing other vehicles on this road. Other rules to keep in mind include:

  • Seatbelts are mandatory for front- and backseat drivers.
  • Children who are 12 years of age or younger may not sit in the front seat.
  • Driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.5 or higher is illegal in Germany.
Last updated on Friday, March 6 2020.