Whether it’s the day of your arrival or your third year in Vienna, getting around is probably a key concern. The public transport of the world’s most livable city may be one of the cleanest and most accessible you’ve ever used, but not being able to drive can feel like having your wings clipped. There’s only one solution: facing the charming civil servants at the Verkehrsamt (Motor Vehicle Department) and winning back your driver’s license.
The first step is converting your current driver’s license. If your license is issued from an EU or EEA country, you’re golden! These are recognized in Austria – but you can transfer them, if that’s your idea of fun. Once your license is close to expiring, you will have to renew it with the Austrian authorities. For non-EU licenses, keep reading for a step by step guide that will spare you needless return trips to the Verkehrsamt.
For the first six months after declaring Austria your main place of residence – you indicate this on the Meldezettel, which confirms residency – your old license is still valid. If you ever need to present it to the police, make sure you have a translation (more on that later). However, if you have the bad luck of an expiring driver’s license before your six or twelve months are up, you will need to begin the process immediately. Here’s the procedure for transferring your driver’s license:
Step 1: driving test
Good news! If your license is from one of the following countries, you don’t need to do a driving test:
USA, Canada, Israel, Hong Kong, Australia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, South Africa, North Macedonia, New Zealand, Republic of South Korea, United Arab Emirates.
If your country is not on this list (continued in more detail here), it’s time to swallow your pride. You must take the necessary theory and practical tests at a driving school. Go prove that you have been driving for fifteen years and do, in fact, know how to parallel park.
Step 2: application
You can download the application form here, or get it straight from the Verkehrsamt. Submit it, and it will be approved by the Behörde overlords (the authorities).
Step 3: documents
Make an appointment at the Verkehrsamt, and make sure you bring the following documents.
- Passport, with a couple of copies
- Foreign driving license, copied, with translation if necessary. This can be done at any ÖAMTC office, costing 14€ for nonmembers. (Tip: getting a membership with the Austrian roadside emergency service is a good idea. They are the guardian angels of car drivers in Austria.)
- Applicant’s photo (35 mm x 45 mm, biometric standards)
- Medical certificate (= Ärztliches Gutachten).
- Confirmation of registration (= Bestätigung der Meldung, aka Meldezettel) in the civil register, if applicable.
- Your application form, if not already submitted.
- Confirmation of passing the driving test, if applicable.
- Other potential requests: You may be asked about specifications of your prior license, so make sure you have all that information readily available (size of vehicle you can drive, etc.)
Step 4: old license
You have two choices.
- Hand in your old license and receive a temporary one
- Or, use your old one…
…until your shiny new Austrian license arrives. Usually, it takes between five and ten days by post, not counting the time needed for the conversion procedure (you can ask the authorities how long this will take). Note: the temporary license is only valid within Austria and must be accompanied by some form of ID. It expires after four weeks. And no, you can’t keep your old license to use in its country of issue – that’s generally illegal.
In both cases, you pay the exchange fee of €60.50 directly to the Verkehrsamt.
And that’s it! You have your new Austrian driver’s license. If you don’t want to buy a car, car sharing companies have pretty much taken over the city. Car owners should look into buying a citywide Parkpickerl (parking permit).