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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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EU lawmakers slam brakes on plan for medical exams for all drivers

EU lawmakers on Wednesday put the brakes on plans to force drivers to pass medical exams to keep their licences, although they backed bringing in digital permits.

EU lawmakers slam brakes on plan for medical exams for all drivers

Supporters of medical testing argued it would help cut deaths on the European Union’s roads, where currently 20,000 people die each year and another 160,000 are seriously injured.

But instead lawmakers rejected it and left it up to the 27 member states to decide whether to make health check-ups a requirement to keep one’s licence.

Currently 14 EU states have compulsory medical exams, including Italy and Portugal, but not France or Germany where the proposal sparked an outcry.

Green lawmaker Karima Delli, who pushed the text through parliament, hit out at what she called “misleading arguments” and “disinformation” on the issue.

Despite France’s opposition, she said “a majority of elected French officials” in the parliament supported medical checks, and urged Paris to introduce national rules.

The EU reforms are part of a road safety package aimed at halving deaths and injuries on European roads by 2030.

The parliament will soon enter negotiations on the draft text with EU states, after which the rules will be formally approved and enter into force.

The expectation is that formal adoption will come later this year.

Under the new rules, the EU will introduce bloc-wide digital driving licences, accessible via a smartphone and with the same value as a physical permit.