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Car-sharing with International Driving Permit in Germany

International Driving Permit (IDP) explained

When you’re new in town, you need all the mobility you can get. A lift from IKEA? Much appreciated! A sudden urge to escape the city and enjoy the countryside? Yes please! Car-sharing in Germany fits well with the spontaneity and flexibility any expat needs. But can you use your own domestic driver’s licence?

With an International Driving Permit (IDP) you can get around any issues - even if your papers are all from outside the cosy European Union. The purpose of an IDP is to turn your locally issued driver’s license into a permit that can be read and accepted almost anywhere in the world. Here’s everything you need to know.

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HOW IDPs work in Europe

What is an International Driving Permit?

The most important thing to note about an IDP is that it is not a standalone document. It is a translation of your domestic license into several of the most common languages and arranged into a neat white booklet slightly bigger than your passport. It is issued and certified by your country’s designated authority – but it is still just a translation and therefore does not replace or duplicate your license. Those two things only work together.

The idea behind the IDP was introduced by the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic and the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic. While not all countries have signed the newer version, this should not be the problem - both types are accepted in Germany.

Do I need an International Driving Permit?

Getting yourself an IDP is generally a very good idea if you plan to drive in another country. Let’s narrow it down: do you need one if you want to use car-sharing in Germany? If you’re from another EU/EEA country, Switzerland, or the United Kingdom, your domestic driver’s license conforms to a European standard, and no extras are required. Whilst this currently applies to British nationals, the situation changes rapidly.

If you’re not a European national, you’ll be on the safer side if you get yourself an IDP. Even if your domestic license is already in English, there might be slight discrepancies in the forms or driver subcategories which are resolved neatly by an IDP.

Finally, if your domestic license has some text in a non-Latin script, as is the case with a Russian driving license, for example, you’ll definitely need an International Driving Permit. The Customer Support team at SHARE NOW will always go out of their way to help you, but we can’t reasonably expect them to be able to speak every single language, can we?

Where can I get an IDP?

That’s a tricky question. Different countries have different rules for who issues IDPs. A Russian national, for instance, has to apply online and then visit a branch of Russia’s traffic authority. In Britain, you can apply for your IDP from any post office. In other countries, such as India or the USA, you have to contact your national automobile association. Certain states that are not part of the treaties mentioned above, issue no International Driving Permits at all.

If you’re uncertain, a good idea would be to take a look at this official IDP website - it is managed by two international automobile associations and, while still not 100% comprehensive, gives you a country-by-country guide for your first steps. Alternatively, you can ask your domestic traffic authority for help.

What we would not recommend doing is turning to any kind of private provider. The best-case scenario is you’ll get your IDP with a heavy surcharge. Scams are not uncommon here, too.

Got my IDP! Can I use car-sharing now?

If you meet the minimum requirements, you can register for SHARE NOW and download the app. Next, e-mail the following to hallo@share-now.com:

  • Your driver’s license (BOTH the domestic version and the IDP)
  • Your passport’s personal data page
  • Your visa or residence permit
  • Proof of entry date (this can either be your passport’s page with border control stamp, or inbound boarding pass, or registration certificate)
  • Proof of registered address in Germany

Customer Support will be on hand if you get stuck. Welcome to the SHARE NOW family!

Can I use my IDP until my home license expires?

Yes, if you come to Germany for short trips or on business. If you establish residence in Germany, things are a little more complicated.

All matters around your driver’s licenses in Germany are tied to your status - i.e. whether you’re a resident or not. If you stay here for an extended period of time – for your studies or work, for example – you are usually considered to be establishing your primary residence in Germany.

Your becoming a resident means that you can only use your non-EU/EEA driver’s license for six months after your arrival. That’s not just for car-sharing, it’s a general rule - after six months, you must get yourself a German driver’s license if you wish to keep driving. That’s why SHARE NOW asks for your proof of entry date. The German transport ministry has a page (English), which covers this topic more exhaustively.

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