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Reader question: Do I need an international permit to drive in Austria?

If you're visiting Austria and plan to drive during your trip - or if you recently moved to the country, will an international driving permit be necessary? Here's a look at the rules.

Reader question: Do I need an international permit to drive in Austria?
(Photo: Alex Jumper / Unsplash)

Even though Austria has excellent public transport and train connections throughout, it is also an excellent country for a road trip. In fact, some of its Alpine highways offer stunning views for motorists, and driving to smaller towns is sometimes much easier than taking a train. 

But if you are driving in Austria, as a tourist or a resident, you will need proper documentation. The exact documents needed will depend on where your driver’s licence was issued.

Driving with an EU/EEA licence

The most simple case is if you hold an EU/EEA driver’s licence. With one, you are allowed to drive in Austria without needing any further documentation. Even if you permanently reside in Austria, you won’t need to get a local licence (though you can easily swap if you want).

READ ALSO: How to exchange your foreign driving licence for an Austrian one

Driving with a third-country licence

Here is where things get a bit tricky. If you are driving with a licence issued outside of the EU/EEA, you will likely need to also carry an international driver’s licence or an official translation to German obtained with one of the Austrian automobile clubs ÖAMTC or ARBÖ.

If your national driving licence is in German or divided into classes A to E, you may make use of your foreign driving licence within Austria without the need for a translation. A UK driving licence is not in German but is divided into A to E categories and may be used in Austria without the need for an international driving permit. However, a US licence has different categories and may not be used.

If your licence is neither in German nor divided into classes A to E it is only valid in combination with an International Driving Permit (IDP) from your home country or a translation which explains the extent of your licence.

It’s worth noting that both an IDP and a translation are not valid on their own, so you need to carry your driver’s licence with you as well.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about driving on the autobahn in Austria

If you become a resident of Austria, your non-EEA driving licence is valid for six months from the date on which you become a resident if you are 18 or over. After that, you may not make use o your licence anymore – regardless of if you have an international permit or not. 

Some driving licences are not recognised in Austria and cannot be used for driving within Austria – you also won’t be able to hire a car with such a licence. These are licences from Afghanistan, Bolivia, Burundi, Cameroon, China, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Indonesia, Kosovo, Libya, Nepal, Nicaragua, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Tonga, and Yemen, according to ÖAMTC.

Is it really necessary to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP)?

There is some information out there that suggests that travellers do not need to obtain an IDP at all when travelling to Austria with some people claiming to have driven on Austrian roads numerous times without being asked to show one. 

Although it appears that most visitors to Austria are unlikely to be asked for an IDP, some regular visitors have reported that checks have become more frequent in recent years. It is important to note that not having the necessary documentation when it is required could end up being expensive – and troublesome.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Can I take the Austrian driving licence test in English?

When picking up your rental car, the company may request that you show both your foreign driver’s license and IDP, although this is dependent on the company. However, it is more critical to have an IDP when you are stopped by the police or involved in a car accident, even if you did nothing wrong. 

Random roadside checks are frequent, and not having the necessary permit when asked will result in fines.

We recommend that you adhere to the rules and get your IDP if your license was issued in the US or another country that requires an IDP under Austrian regulations. 

Even if you never have to present it, having an IDP will give you peace of mind and make your trip to Austria more enjoyable.

Please note that The Local cannot advise on individual cases. For more details about how Austria’s road rules may apply in your circumstances, consult the Austrian embassy in your country or read more about the rules on driving in Austria on the ÖAMTC website.

Do you have a question about living in or travelling to Austria that you’d like to see answered on The Local? You can send us an email: [email protected].

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Where to expect traffic jams on Austria’s last summer holiday weekend

Big delays and traffic jams are forecast for the final summer holiday weekend for many Austrian families. The Motorists Association of Austria (ARBÖ) is expecting this coming weekend to be the most intense of the summer on the roads.

Where to expect traffic jams on Austria’s last summer holiday weekend

Although schoolchildren in Vienna, Burgenland, and Lower Austria went back to school on the 4th, kids in the rest of the country don’t return to the classroom again until Monday – and many families will be taking advantage of the sunny and warm weather to go on one last summer trip before autumn and studying sets in.

Helene Fischer’s concerts in Vienna are also expected to contribute to the traffic near the capital.

ARBÖ is expecting some of the worst jams to be near border crossings – especially as schoolchildren in southern Germany will also be enjoying their last holiday weekend, compounding the cross-border travel chaos.

Other bad jams are expected on the A1 near Salzburg and Linz, the A10 near Villach, the A11 near the Karawankentunnel, the A9 near Graz and the A12 between Innsbruck and Kufstein.

European Bike Week, which draws Harley fans to the Faaker See, will see thousands of bikers from around Europe parade through on their Harleys, leading to some additional road closures. The Villach/Ossiacher Lake junction on the A10 will be closed as a result from 12:30 to 3:00 pm on Saturday, as will the Wernberg exit onto the A2.

Finally, the fall fair this weekend in Dornbirn in Vorarlberg is expected to attract thousands of visitors from within Austria, but also neighbouring Germany, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein – many of whom will arrive in their own cars.

Delays are expected on roads in an around the exhibition centre in Dornbirn, as well as the A14 around the city.

ARBÖ says that, if possible, it’s best to use public transport to access the fair, using buses 160, 161, or 315 from Dornbirn main station, or line 134 from Bregenz.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about driving on the Autobahn in Austria