An American’s Guide To Driving In Denmark
Now that you’ve been granted entry to Denmark (aside from the mainland, the Kingdom of Denmark includes Greenland and the Faroe Islands), let’s take a look at what to do to get around the country.
There are a few things to consider, such as bringing your car and the possible costs of doing so. Denmark has been tagged as one of the most expensive countries in the world so you will want to consider this in deciding whether to buy, rent, or import a car.
It is fairly safe and stress-free to drive in Danish roads. But there are some things to remember about driving in Denmark. Some may differ from what we’re used to in the United States. The important ones are:
American license vs. Danish license
If you will only be staying for less than 6 months (as a tourist, for example), there’s no need to get a Danish driving license. On the other hand, if you will be establishing residency, you have to exchange your US driving license to a Danish one. You are only allowed 90 days after establishing residence to use your US license. Beyond this timeframe, Danish license will have to be your legal driving document.
Additionally, you will typically be required to take a driving test when exchanging your US license to a Danish one. The first test is free of charge but you will already be charged for the next test should you fail on first attempt.
Danish driving and traffic rules
Lights constantly turned on day (dimmed) and night. This is called daytime running lights (DRLs) that have been implemented in Denmark as a law since 1990. Turning the lights on ensures all vehicles are visible on the road at all times.
Denmark strictly implements speed limits. Your need for speed may not work here. Speed limits differ depending on location, as follows: 50 kph in urban areas such Copenhagen, 80-90 kph on open and rural roads, and 110-130 kph on highways/motorways.
Moreover, always put your seatbelt on. If you have a child passenger, make sure they’re protected with child restraint system at all times.
On-the-spot fines are imposed on those who violate traffic rules.
Likewise, driving in the influence of alcohol is a no-no. Go beyond 0.05% BAC and penalties could be anything up to imprisonment.
Watch out for cyclists!
Bicycle riders are a common sight in Denmark. Cyclists have the right of way and perhaps the “kings of the road” here. It’s one of a handful of countries in the world that have bicycles are inherently part of their daily lives. Never swerve or turn left and right without watching for on-coming bikers. Always, always keep them in mind whenever driving around busier streets!
They have designated bike lanes which are usually between the sidewalk and motor lanes. Pedestrians and cyclists are a priority so be careful with your turns.
Taxes and insurance
When I say everything is extra expensive here, you’ve been warned. You may find paying higher than what you usually pay back in the US. It could also be the reason why many Danes select to pedal bicycles on the streets, along with environmental reasons. This is not to scare you off though as you will find that standard of living and services is impressive.
If you plan on settling (taking up residence for at least a year, that is), think first whether to buy a new car in Denmark or just bring over your own car. Buying a new car in Denmark usually costs three times than in the US and that’s already for the same brand and model. Additionally, you will also be paying car registration tax of 180% of your car’s price, plus 25% VAT or MOMs as referred locally.
Now, if you want to import your car, you will have to pay 60% import tax (computed from your car’s current value, depreciation already considered) and 180% car registration tax.
On top of import and car registration taxes, you are also required by Danish law to pay road usage tax, fuel tax, and secure liability insurance coverage (click here for the translated version).
Denmark doesn’t have toll roads and driving in motorways is free of charge. The only exception is when you use its two major bridges: the Øresund Bridge and the Storebælt (Great Belt Bridge). The Øresund bridge, or the “Sound Bridge”, links Denmark and Sweden and imposes one-way trip toll fees from €43 to €216 (around $52 to $262) depending on vehicle type, which already includes 25% VAT.
Meanwhile, passing through Storebælt, or the Great Belt Bridge, that connects two main Danish islands Zealand and Funen requires toll fees from €32 to €145 ($39 to $176) also depending on vehicle type.
Overall, driving in Denmark is safe and smooth so long as traffic and driving laws are followed. Don’t forget to enjoy the sights and scenery, of course!
Roan Manguera writes about all things Danish for international readers.