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DRIVING

How to change your driving licence to a Swedish one

Driving is a great way to explore Sweden, and in many parts of the country, having a car will make life much easier. But it's crucial to make sure you're doing things legally. Here's everything you need to know about driving licences in Sweden.

How to change your driving licence to a Swedish one
Is your foreign licence valid in Sweden? How do you apply for a Swedish licence? Your questions answered. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/Scanpix/TT

Using a foreign licence

The first thing you're probably wondering is whether a driving licence from your home country is valid in Sweden.

This depends on where you got it, and how long you've been in Sweden.

If the licence was issued by, and is still valid in, an EEA country, you can use it in Sweden for as long as it's valid. It doesn't make a difference whether or for long you've been registered in Sweden.

You should also note that in Sweden, you can only drive if you're over the age of 18, even if you have a valid licence from a country where the legal driving age is lower. And in order to hire a car you must be at least 20, with individual companies sometimes setting their own age limits of up to 25.

For drivers from non-EEA countries, it's a bit more complicated. If you're not registered in Sweden (ie, if you don't have a person number or coordination number), then you can drive here using your foreign licence for as long as it's valid. 

If you're registered in Sweden, but have been for less than a year, then you can drive using a valid foreign licence until that year is up. This applies as long as you don't also have a Swedish driver's licence which has been revoked, and as long as the licence complies with certain regulations.


Photo: Cecilia Larsson Lantz/Imagebanksweden.se

If your foreign licence was not designed according to the Conventions on Road Traffic of 1949 and 1968 and/or in a language other than English, German, or French, then it is only valid if you also have a certified translation into one of the foreign languages: English, Danish, French, German, Norwegian or Swedish. And if it doesn't have a photograph, you'll need to keep it with a photo ID.

It's essential to have your driving licence with you whenever you're on the road. That means the original licence, not a copy. If you've lost the licence, have handed it in to the Migration Agency or don't have it with you for any other reason, you'll have to wait until you can get a new one before you can start driving in Sweden. You'll also need to have proof of insurance and proof of car ownership.


Photo: Melker Dahlstrand/imagebanksweden.se

Once you've been registered in Sweden for more than one year, licences issued outside the EEA, Switzerland and Japan are no longer valid. Make sure you keep track of the dates: if caught driving after this period, you could face a 3000 kronor fine and will be banned from applying for a Swedish licence for another two years. If you're going to be in Sweden for a limited, fixed period of time – for example if you're enrolled as a student – you can apply to extend the foreign licence if you can prove that you won't be a permanent resident.

Otherwise, in order to drive legally in Sweden, you'll need to prepare to get a Swedish licence.


A Swedish driving licence. Photo: TT

Getting a Swedish licence

If you already have a valid driving licence from an EEA country, Switzerland or Japan, and you're a permanent resident of Sweden, you can exchange this licence for a Swedish one without taking a test. It costs 250 kronor to do this, and you can order the form to exchange the licence here. If the application is approved, the next step is to go to a test centre to have your photo taken and provide your signature for the Swedish licence. You'll need valid photo ID for this.

If your driving licence is from a country other than the ones listed above and you've been registered in Sweden longer than a year – or if you've never held a driver's licence before – you'll need to apply for a Swedish one from scratch. According to Körkortonline, the average cost for the entire process from permit to lessons to licence is 15,000 kronor. This figure includes the average costs of lessons and learning materials for beginner drivers, but even if you've already passed a driving test in another country, the cost for the compulsory elements comes to a total of around 4,000 kronor.

All of the forms you need as you go through the process can be found on the Transport Agency's website, which also has answers to frequently asked questions.

1. Apply for your permit

The first step is to apply for a driving licence permit (körkortstillstånd), which you need in order to take driving lessons and, eventually, the test. You can make applications via the Transport Agency's website (the form is here and only available in Swedish, so use a browser extension to translate it or ask a Swedish speaker for help) or by calling their customer services on 0771-81 81 81. It costs 150 kronor.


Photo: Stig-Åke Jönsson/Scanpix/TT

The application includes a form with your personal details and a few questions about your health, including any history of illnesses or conditions which affect balance, movement or eyesight. As well as filling in the form, you must take an eye test and fill in another form (found here) attesting to your eyesight level, which can be done at an optician or at some driving schools, costing around 200 kronor.

The permit is valid for five years after being issued.

2. Take your lessons

Once you have your permit, you can start driving lessons. There are plenty of driving schools across Sweden, and you can rely on these for your teaching if you want, but another option is to combine official lessons with practice with a friend or family member acting as a handledare (supervisor). This is a good way to cut down the rather high cost of lessons.

In order for someone to become a handledare, they need to meet a few requirements. They must be over 24 and have had a valid licence for at least five years, with no temporary suspensions for drink driving or any other serious traffic violations. As long as they meet the Transport Agency's requirements, this person can be a holder of an EEA driving licence.

The form to receive permission (handledarbevis) from the Transport Agency can be found here. It costs 170 kronor and it usually takes around a week to receive the certificate confirming permission. On top of that, there's a special three-hour course (costing around 300 to 400 kronor, depending on the school) which the learner driver and handledare both have to take before they're able to start. The course includes information on structuring lessons, legal obligations, and important safety risks. If the handledare has already taken this course, there's no need to take it again if their status as handledare is still valid.


Photo: Bertil Ericson/Scanpix/TT

When practising, the handledare must have their certificate with then, and the learner plate (a green sign saying övningskör) must also be clearly visible.

As well as the practical side of driving, you'll need to learn driving theory, either through official lessons or by using online resources. Sweden's official Driving Licence Book (Körkortsboken) is available in several languages, but make sure the information you learn from is up to date, since regulations change every so often. A copy will set you back around 600 kronor, but many libraries will have one available, or you can use the information available online. The main portal is Körkortonline, which offers a free demo or packages ranging from 129 to 299 kronor.

3. Risk training

However good a driver you are, there are always some challenging situations, and driving in Sweden brings its own risks, such as the icy roads during winter.

Before you take your test, you must take a compulsory training course that covers these risks and is called riskutbildning (risk training). The first part relates to alcohol, drugs, tiredness, and how these affect driving. The second part is about speed and safety in difficult driving conditions, including a test to see if you can handle the car in icy conditions.

Driving schools will register their students with this test, but if you're learning independently, you'll have to apply with an instructor yourself. The overall cost depends on the school, but is around 2700 kronor.

Like the permit, once granted the risk certification is valid for five years, so you have plenty of time to complete the rest of the process.


Photo: Janerik Henriksson/Scanpix/TT

4. Taking the test

The final hurdle! There are two components to the Swedish driving test, theory and practical, but both must be taken within two weeks of each other and it's common to take them both on the same day (you take the practical test even if you fail the theory beforehand). The theory test costs 325 kronor and the practical part costs another 800 kronor, but these prices go up if you take the test on an evening or weekend. There's also a cost to rent a dual control car from the school. Remember to take photo ID with you to the test, and a new photograph will also be taken at the test.

There are 65 questions in the theory test, plus an extra five 'test questions', divided into five categories: vehicle knowledge/manoeuvring, the environment, road safety, traffic regulations and individual circumstances. The pass mark is 52. The test takes 50 minutes (you can apply for extra time if you have a learning difficulty) and it's possible to take it in any of 16 different languages, or with an interpreter if you do not understand any of the languages offered.


Photo: Per Pixel Petersson/imagebanksweden.se

The practical part of the test lasts about 25 minutes. This is only offered in Swedish, though some examiners might translate their instructions to English if you ask, and it's possible to bring an interpreter with you if needed. The test is judged on an overall assessment of your driving, rather than a points-based system. According to the Transport Agency, examiners are looking for you to show you can “follow the relevant traffic regulations, adapt your speed and drive with confidence, pay attention to road and weather conditions, and other traffic and road users – especially those who are most vulnerable”.

You'll be told immediately after the test whether you've passed. The bad news is that around half of all applicants fail Sweden's driving test. The good news? If you rebook it within three days and pass no more than two months later, you'll avoid having to pay the fees a second time.

If you pass the practical test, and have previously passed the theory test, you're immediately able to drive in Sweden. The physical licence will be sent by recorded delivery within around a week, and you must collect it in person by showing a valid ID. There's a processing fee for the licence of 150 kronor.

If you commit a serious offence within your first two years as a qualified driver, however, you'll have the licence revoked and have to go through all of these steps once again.

Note: All information and prices correct as of January 2018.

Member comments

  1. Please correct the article, you must pay fees for every test you make. There’s no such a thing, in case of not passing at first, as not having to pay fees a second time if you re-book the test(s) within three days and pass no more that two months later.

    Regards.

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For members

DRIVING

What’s it like driving from Scandinavia to the UK with a young family?

With the cost of airline tickets increasingly discouraging, is driving from Scandinavia to the UK becoming a more attractive option? The Local Denmark editor Michael Barrett gave it a try.

What’s it like driving from Scandinavia to the UK with a young family?

This summer has seen the return of large-scale international travel after a couple of Covid-hit years that have not been a picnic for anyone.

While the end of restrictions came as a relief, severe delays and disruptions at airports have added a new uncertainty around travel in 2022.

Scandinavia has not been an exception to this, with strikes at Scandinavian airline SAS and delays at Copenhagen and other airports among the problems faced by the sector.

Additionally, the increasing price of airline tickets in a time when inflation is hitting living costs across the board has become another factor discouraging air travel.

Finally, there’s the impact of air travel on climate to be considered. So is there an alternative?

The plan

Unlike colleagues who have made long distance journeys from France and Sweden respectively by rail, our plan was to make the trip from our home in Denmark to the UK by car.

There are a few reasons we picked this less climate-friendly option. I’ll readily admit they were driven (no pun intended) by our own needs, and not those of the planet. I hope we can offset this by using the train more than the car for longer journeys within Denmark, where costs are competitive.

Once we decided not to take our usual Ryanair flight, we only really considered driving. This is primarily because we have a toddler (age two), and felt that on such a long journey, the ability to control the timing and length of our stops would be crucial.

Secondly, the route would have taken longer and been more difficult logistically by rail, and would also have cost more. For example, we arrived at Harwich International Port late on a weekday evening, from where onward travel was to rural Suffolk. The thought of doing this on multiple local rail (possibly bus) services with a tired two-year-old makes me shudder a bit.

The route

From our home in central Denmark, we set out on a Monday morning and drove south on the E45 motorway, crossing the German border and continuing past Hamburg. We then got on to the A1 Autobahn and made for Bremen, where we stopped overnight.

Travelling non-stop, this journey takes just under four hours. It took us around five and a half. We stopped twice and were caught in traffic at Hamburg, where there is lot of construction going on around the city’s ring road.

Leaving early (just after 6am) the following day, we drove southwest and crossed the border into the Netherlands after a brief stop, but then managed to complete the journey to the port town Hook of Holland without a further break.

Our ferry from Hook of Holland to Harwich was due to leave at 2:15pm and check-in time was an hour before that. This was the only deadline we had on our journey that would have been problematic to miss, so we gave ourselves plenty of time for the drive from Bremen. We arrived in Hook of Holland at around 11:30am.

Next was a six-hour ferry crossing to the East Anglian coast. We booked a cabin – they are inexpensive on daytime crossings – which gave us a chance to relax after the drive and our daughter a comfortable spot for her afternoon nap.

After a queue at customs in Harwich which took around 45 minutes, we were driving through the Essex countryside just before 9pm local time. The final drive to our destination took an hour and a half.

What went right

It’s not the most relevant information for anyone considering a similar trip, but I have to mention our car. A 2003 VW Polo we bought two years ago that has never had any mechanical issues, I was nevertheless braced for possible problems given its age (and ensured I had roadside assistance for outside of Denmark, more detail on this below).

However, there was not so much as a hint of an issue of any kind at any point during the 900 kilometres it covered on the journey, nor on the way home. Respect.

Our plan to split the trip into two days paid off. I think you could do it in one day (there are also overnight ferries) if you shared the driving and needed less flexibility. I should also recognise here that we live relatively close to Germany and our destination was close to the east coast of the UK. If you were travelling, for example, from Copenhagen to Cardiff, you’d have significantly more driving to do.

For us, knowing we could take long breaks if we needed them took a lot of stress out of the journey and allowed us to adapt to our toddler’s needs – changing nappies, finding a service station playground or stopping for an ice cream.

Stopping overnight also gave us the chance to see some new places (we switched things up on the way back and stayed in Groningen in the north of the Netherlands, instead of Bremen) and gave us a feeling of being on our own little bonus holiday.

What went wrong

In all, things went as well as we possibly could have hoped for and our conclusion after we got back home was that we’d like to travel this way again.

We were stopped by traffic police in Groningen city centre because I failed to understand signs showing we were entering a public transport-only zone. The officers who stopped us then offered to escort us to our accommodation a few streets away.

The ferry, operated by Stena Lines, had far less to do on board than we’d imagined there would be on a six-hour voyage. Two tiny off-duty shops, a cinema showing a superhero film and a minuscule play area (which our daughter nevertheless enjoyed) were about the extent of it. We hadn’t downloaded any films ourselves or brought much entertainment with us from the car, so we got a bit bored during the crossing. This is hardly a serious gripe and an easy one to rectify on the return trip.

The practical stuff 

Roadside assistance is obviously crucial for a journey like this, and it’s also important to double check your insurance is valid once you leave the country in which your car is registered and insured – Denmark, in our case.

Foreign authorities can check your insurance is valid. You can document this with the International Motor Insurance or “Green” card, which serves as proof you have motor insurance when you drive outside of the EU (you don’t need it within the EU).

This means that (in theory) you can be asked to present it in the UK. We weren’t asked for it.

The Green Card can be printed via your insurance company’s website. You’ll need your MitID or NemID secure login to access the platform and print off your document. Here is an example of the relevant page on the website of insurance company Tryg. If you can’t find the right section on your insurance company’s website, contact them by phone.

A number of Danish companies specialise in roadside assistance, including Falck and SOS Dansk Autohjælp. You can also include roadside assistance as part of your motor insurance package. We have the latter option, but in either case, I’d recommend calling your provider to make sure you are covered for breakdown in the EU and non-EU countries like the UK (if that’s where you’re going). Obviously, you should add such cover to your existing deal if you don’t have it, or change to a different deal.

The company which operates the ferry from Hook of Holland to Harwich is Stena Line. Both directions have daytime and overnight departures.

There is a range of prices, and I couldn’t cover all the options here if I tried. However, I’d recommend a cabin on the daytime departures, because it’s inexpensive and gives you a bit of personal space and privacy, which is useful with children.

After calculating what our approximate fuel costs would be, the price of the hotel stays and ferry tickets, we found that the trip cost around 1,500 kroner more than we would have paid to fly from Billund Airport to London Stansted with checked-in baggage with Ryanair on the same dates. In return, we could take as much luggage as we want with us (and back), we got to see Bremen and Groningen and had our own car with us in the UK. This was more than worth the additional expense.

I also spent 50 kroner on a “DK” sticker for the tailgate of the car (because the car is so old it predates the EU number plates that include the country code) and 70 kroner for some headlight stickers which prevent full beam headlamps from dazzling oncoming drivers when you are driving on the left in the UK.

As I busily fixed them onto my car as we waited to disembark the ferry, however, a lorry driver parked next to us said these were, in fact, entirely unnecessary.

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