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DRIVING

Can I use my foreign driving licence in Austria?

The quick answer is usually yes, but for a limited time, depending on where your driving licence was issued. Here’s what you need to know about using a foreign driving licence in Austria.

Can I use my foreign driving licence in Austria?
This weekend is to be a busy one on Austrian roads with the F1 race in Spielberg and the start of the school summer holidays. Photo by Dimitry Anikin on Unsplash

Most foreign driving licences can be used to drive on Austrian roads for at least six months – just like in most other European countries.

This is great for visitors or for people working in Austria for just a short period of time, but it means many long term international residents eventually have to get an Austrian driving licence.

Here’s an overview of how the system works and how long a foreign driving licence is valid in Austria.

Driving with a foreign licence in Austria

Visitors from most countries can drive on Austrian roads for up to six months as long as they have a valid licence from their country of residence. For some countries, an international driving permit (IDP) is required in addition to their valid licence.

For example, drivers from the UK do not need an IDP in Austria if they have a photocard driving licence issued in the UK, but drivers from the USA do need an IDP, as well as their original licence.

The IDP is an internationally recognised translation of a foreign driving licence and a United Nations regulated travel document. Drivers should apply for an IDP in their country of residence before arriving in Austria.

READ MORE: How half of Austria drove on the left and half on the right – for 20 years

However, driving licences from the following countries are not recognised in Austria: Afghanistan, Bolivia, Burundi, Cameroon, China, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Indonesia, Kosovo, Libya, Nepal, Nicaragua, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Tonga and Yemen. 

It’s not all bad news though as drivers from these countries might still be able to exchange their licence for an Austrian one.

What are the rules for exchanging an EU or EEA driving licence in Austria?

Driving licences from EU and EEA countries are recognised in Austria and remain valid for up to five years, as long as they don’t expire.

This means they do not have to be exchanged for an Austrian licence after six months, although drivers can choose to do this voluntarily.

If an EU or EEA driving licence has to be exchanged in Austria, the process involves the Austrian driving licence authority submitting a request to the issuing country to verify if an Austrian licence can be issued. 

As long as there are no issues, applicants will be issued with an Austrian driving licence within several weeks.

If a driving licence from an EU or EEA country expires while the holder is a resident in Austria, it will have to be renewed in Austria.

What are the rules for exchanging a non-EU/EEA driving licence in Austria?

People with a non-EU/EEA driving licence have to exchange their licence for an Austrian one after six months of living in Austria, because it loses validity after this, and they need to exchange it earlier if the licence will expire before then.

Most holders of a non-EU/EEA driving licence will have to take a practical driving test in Austria to exchange their licence. This usually takes place in German.

Non-EU/EEA countries that are exempt from the driving test rule (for all categories of licence) are Andorra, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Japan, Jersey, Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino, Switzerland, Serbia, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.

Additionally, people with a driving licence from Australia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Hong Kong, Israel, Canada, North Macedonia, New Zealand, Republic of South Africa, Republic of South Korea (if issued after 1 January 1997), USA and United Arab Emirates are exempt from having to take a driving test for a category B licence.

A category B licence allows holders to drive a vehicle with up to eight passengers and a maximum weight of 3,500kg.

READ MORE: What are the post-Brexit rules about UK driving licences in Austria?

For British people, the rules around driving licences in Austria have changed in the past year as a result of Brexit. This means British people that were resident in Austria before December 31st 2020 had to exchange their UK driving licence for an Austrian licence before June 30th 2021. 

British people now moving to Austria (post-Brexit) will have to follow the rules for non-EU/EEA residents when exchanging a driving licence in Austria, although a practical driving test is not required.

How to exchange a driving licence in Austria

Applications for exchanging a licence in Austria take place at a state police department, at LPD Wien (Vienna Police Headquarters) or at the district administration office (Bezirkshauptmannschaft) where you live.

An appointment is usually needed to submit an application, although your local driving licence authority will advise on the correct process.

The documents required for the application are passport, foreign driving licence, one passport photo, medical certificate including an eye test (most doctors will charge for this) and a Meldezettel (compulsory address registration in Austria).

The fee for converting a driving licence in Austria is €60.50.

Applicants are issued with a temporary licence if the original licence is handed in to the authorities. This is valid for four weeks from the date of issue, but only within Austria.

FOR MEMBERS: What happens if you haven’t exchanged your UK driving licence in Austria?

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For members

PROPERTY

Where to find property in Austria for under €100k

Austria is not known for being a cheap country and property prices are higher than in some other European countries, but it's still possible to find property bargains, some for even under €100k.

Where to find property in Austria for under €100k

Property prices are rising in much of Europe, and Austria is no exception.

The graph below from the European Union’s statistical agency Eurostat shows the sharp upwards trajectory over the past few years with property price increases in Austria outpacing those in the European Union  as a whole.

And a new survey found that the average price per square metre for new apartments in Austria rose by 11 percent last year, making the country Europe’s second-most expensive market.

It’s no surprise, then, that property ownership in Austria remains low.

According to Eurostat, 55.2 percent of people owned their home in Austria in 2021 – well below the 70 percent European average. That’s the third lowest percentage in Europe after Switzerland (41.6 percent) and Germany (51.1 percent).

READ ALSO: Why do so few Austrians own their home?

So, where can we find cheap(er) homes in Austria – either properties that are move-in ready or those that could be excellent investments for those who enjoy fixer-uppers (or huge DIY projects)?

To find these gems, we used a property website that allowed us to search for real estate in the whole of Austria (instead of just a few main cities) and showed us homes with at least three rooms.

The price limit was set at €100,000 (while our colleagues in even-more-expensive Switzerland had theirs set at a much heftier CHF 500k, around €515k).

As of August 2022, we found 25 houses and 34 apartments meeting these criteria on sale.

As you might expect, many of these need (a lot of) work, but the good news is you can definitely still nab a home for under €100,000 with gorgeous views, small plots of land or lake access.

austria map
Houses below €100k are mainly in the south and east of the country. Property map from Wlllhaben.at.

What types of properties are there?
Looking at houses first (see the map above, which also shows the average purchase price across Austria’s different regions), a few things stand out:

The vast majority of the immediately liveable properties are on the tiny side – most are around the 40 square metres mark and billed as holiday homes – but many come fully furnished, a bonus if you’re working to a tight budget.

You will find bigger ones (the largest we saw was 124 square metres), but then they are likely to be complete renovation projects.

If you head for the border, you’ll get more house for your euro in southern and eastern Austria. Many of the properties we saw were in peaceful Burgenland, Austria’s least populous state.

And if you’re happy to buy just over the border in Hungary, Slovakia or even cross into Croatia, you’ll get more space – and less work – for your money.

You might think cities would be a complete no-no for snapping up bargain properties, but when we looked, we actually found a few properties a short drive from Vienna that were below our top price.

House or apartment?
When it comes to apartments, you’ll get more square metres  – we found flats within this price bracket were around 70 square metres on average – and a slightly greater choice of location for your money

READ ALSO: ‘Concrete gold’: Austria ranks as Europe’s second most expensive property market

Plus, the apartments we found were generally in much better condition – some are even newly renovated and fabulous – so you wouldn’t have so much, if any, work to do.

But there is, inevitably, a compromise: you might get a terrace or a balcony, but most won’t have a proper garden, and certainly no land or outbuildings, which many of the houses we found did have.

If you opt for an apartment over a house, you’ll usually have a slightly greater choice of location. Property map from Willhaben.at.

Even when you do find cheap properties, though, they are sometimes quite literally too good to be true. Some may require completely gutting, others may not be connected to the grid or might need costly lease renegotiations.

So, whether you go for a house or an apartment, you need to make sure you do your homework and carry out a thorough inspection first.

While renovation projects can be great investments, they’re time-consuming and can be very costly.

Before you take the huge step of purchasing, be honest with yourself about your own skill levels and how much time you have for a project – it’s easy to get caught up in the romantic idea of the end result of a gorgeous renovation – and get estimates for any work that needs to be done.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why Austria’s rising property prices are causing alarm

If you’re looking at buying somewhere to rent out, check average monthly rents for that area to be sure it’s worth you putting all the hard work in and that you’ll get a good return on your investment.

Whatever your reason for buying, check the property’s location carefully – some have poor access or no connection to basic services.

And it’s important to be mindful of extra costs, too: besides renovation costs, you’ll also have to fork out for property taxes, monthly charges, as well as any lease renewal costs and other living expenses.

These can all vary depending on the type of property and where it is.

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