Driving in Germany: Getting guests behind the wheel

by Joshua Myers
Special to 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Summer in Germany presents unique travel opportunities, not only for those stationed here, but for visiting family members and friends as well. However, if guests plan on driving a United States Amy Europe-plated vehicle during their stay, they must receive proper documentation beforehand ― the driving privileges of the vehicle’s owner could depend on it. 

The first step to getting guests on the road can be taken care of before they even arrive. A short visit to the military customs office with their passport numbers and clear copies of both passports and a United States or international driver’s license enables the prospective host to fill out a “Request for Exception to Policy to Operate a Privately Owned Vehicle” form.

“It’s basically a walk-in,” said James Cook, Deputy Chief Inspector, Customs. “No appointments ― our people are very proficient.” Next, visitors must ensure they have insurance through the vehicle owner’s insurance company. Finally, if they don’t have an international license, they must obtain an official German translation of their stateside license. Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club, more commonly referred to as ADAC, can provide this document.

If the custom’s office approves the initial request, guests have permission to drive USAREUR-plated vehicles for 90 days, beginning when they arrive in Germany. However, at all times they must have with them the authorizing document, registration, proof of insurance and either an international driver’s license or the translated U.S. one.

“And of course, they should always carry their passports,” said Cook.
It’s also important to note that guests are not authorized to purchase tax-free gasoline at AAFES pumps; that privilege is limited to those covered under the Status of Forces Agreement.

Should the owner of a USAREUR-plated vehicle allow an unauthorized guest behind the wheel unattended, he or she can expect potentially severe consequences. The punishment for such a violation can include a 180-day suspension of the vehicle owner’s driving privileges.

Visitors can use the freedom of travel that comes with proper documentation to create their own European experience. Those who own USAREUR-plated vehicles should plan ahead and exercise responsibility, both for their guest’s sake and for their own.