Getting your International Driver’s License (IDL) in Germany is technically an easy process, but getting all the information to do so is not quite so easy. I wanted to share our journey to get our IDL so that it may hopefully help someone else, or at least provide you with a ‘glimpse’ into the process. For OPSEC purposes I won’t post building numbers of the places on base, or exact locations, but once your here that info is easy enough to obtain 🙂 You need an IDL if you plan on driving anywhere outside of Germany, and with other countries so close I can’t see not driving outside of Germany.
First you need to take the USAREUR drivers test and pass. Make sure you study beforehand because you have to watch 40 mins video before taking the test, and if you fail you’ll have to watch the video again! It’s painfully boring but I will say that I did learn two things that helped with answers on the test. Our son was abel to get is USAREUR drivers license last week. To drive here you need to be 17 years old AND have a valid US drivers license (which he does) or you have to wait until they are 18 years old. He’s one of the few kids at the High School who can actually drive here. I just wanted to mention this as we got all kinds of conflicting information about whether or not he’d would be able to drive over here and at what age.
After passing the test you will get a temporary license, your hard copy will be mailed to you in about 2-3 weeks. After your hard copy arrives you can go get your IDL. Here is what you need to know to successfully go get it done.
Take your USAREUR driver’s license (hard copy) to the SFS building, room 208 to get the form you need to take to get your IDL. The office is on the 2nd floor at the end of the hall. The form is only good for 7 days so make sure that when you are getting it you will be able to go within that time period.
The back of the form has all the information that you need about locating the Bitburg Courthouse, the hours, as well as needing 15€ per person, and a biometric photo.
Next you will need to go to the Music Video Exchange store (MVX) to get a photo taken. The photo size needed for the IDL is German passport size which is 45mm x 35mm (1.77 in x 1.38 in), US passport photos are 2 in x 2 in. So our US passport photos are just a bit too big. At the MVX you can get the biometric photo taken and printed on the spot for $5 per person. The process took about 5 minutes and we each got a sheet with 8 photos on it, but you only need 1 for the IDL.
Your final stop will be the Bitburg Courthouse where you will take your USAREUR license, IDL form, photos, and ID card to get your IDL. The courthouse was easy to find using a GPS and the address located on the IDL form. I’m a very visual person so I’ve included photos 🙂
This is a view of the Bitburg Courthouse from the street.
There is free parking along on the street in front of these horse statues, make sure to use your blue parking disc.
Set your blue parking disc to the time you arrived. You should have gotten one of these at in-processing if not you can get one from the AFRC.
The entrance to the Bitburg Courthouse. When you enter there will be an information widow on the right if you’d like to ask where to go. When you through these doors you go left and up a small set of stairs. Take another left and walk down the hall to room 122, it will be on the left. There are chairs in a waiting area across from the door.
This is the room door, notice the sign on the upper right with the red light? If it is red it means to please wait, so do not try to enter, someone else is being helped inside. When they come out wait until the light turns green and then you may enter.
After you enter you will need to give your ID card, USAREUR license, and photo to the person helping you. You will also have to fill out a short form with some information. After she gets the IDL’s ready you will have to go down stairs to pay the cashier and then come back up to get the IDL and your ID’s.
To get to the cashier you leave room 122 and take the stairs on the left down to room 1. Pay 15€ per person, make sure you have € with you. Then return to room 122 to get all your items.
It was really a simple process and was pretty quick. There was 1 person ahead of us when we arrived so we only had to wait 5 minutes. Then to get it all done it took about 10 minutes and we were on our way, legal to drive outside of Germany! If you still feel like it’s too overwhelming there is a lady on base who does the grocery shopping trips (call AFRC to get her info) and she does a monthly trip to the courthouse to help people get their IDL.
The IDL’s are big, little bit bigger than our passports, but you only need to carry them when driving outside of Germany so we just carry them with our passports when we do so. We’ve already put them to good use and made a trip to Luxembourg to see a castle the next day.
So Why Can’t I get a AAA Driver’s License From The States?
This question is asked a LOT here! So I’ll try to address it. There are a few things to know about an AAA drivers license vs an IDL from the German courthouse.
First you CAN get an AAA driver’s license if you are going to travel in Europe BEFORE in-processing. As soon as you in process the base your AAA license is no longer valid and you MUST get an USAREUR driver’s license to drive in Germany and and IDL to drive outside of Germany. You in-process within a few days of arriving, so it’s not worth it if your not going to be traveling in Europe for a long period of time before in-processing.
Apparently this is not the case with all the bases here in Germany and I’ve been told by a friend that their Army base does not require and German IDL and you can use an AAA, so make sure you check for YOUR base. My friends who PCS’d here the same time as us were told they needed to get AAA licenses, then they got over here and realized that they were no longer valid so it was a waste of $30.
The official regulations for Spangdahlem can be found here: Spangdahlem Fact Sheet: Getting Your Driver’s License and as you can see it clearly states that for Spangdahlem:
“Do I need an international driver’s license?
If you plan on spending time in Europe before in-processing the base, we suggest you obtain an international driver’s permit from your local AAA in the U.S. For more information on this process, go to AAA.com.
Once you have in-processed the base, your AAA international drivers permit cannot be used for international travel. After you obtain your permanent USAREUR license, obtain an application for the European international license through the 52 SFS Driver’s Testing office. The license costs 15 Euros and must be obtained at the Bitburg courthouse.”
I hope that clears up some of the confusion about the AAA Driver’s license vs getting an IDL here in Germany.
I’ve had several people tell me that they have been printing this post to take with them to get their IDL so made a printable checklist instead of having to print the page, you can get it HERE