Driving in Germany is famous for its efficiency owing to the fantastic autobahn system that the country has. The network of autobahns is also quick due to the fact that they do not have a speed restriction unless stated otherwise. They therefore offer a fantastic way to get around the vast country. Not only are they well maintained, but in general German drivers tend to be excellent users of the road to ensure that the effectiveness of the road network can be enjoyed by all. This means they are adept at keeping up good lane etiquette, knowing how to maintain their cars so that they do not break down and respecting the road so that accidents are kept to a minimum.
The German ruling upon a speed limit is not the only variance that the country has in its approach to driving or cars. In this guide we look at 7 tips for driving in Germany so that international travellers who are using the road system stay on the right side of the law and can make the most of the wonderful views that the autobahns can afford of the wide German countryside. We also investigate some of the best areas to visit in terms of scenic drives as Germany has so much to offer, yet is relatively unknown on the world stage as a tourist destination – with more people choosing to go to the Alps in France or parts of Austria for their mountainside views, or other European cities and Capitals for a dose of culture. This is a great shame, as Germany has a fantastic culture in spades.
As briefly alluded to, the Autobahn is what makes German roads so famous. They offer high speed connections between cities and towns as they offer drivers the ability to drive very quickly. It is the German thought that they have trained their citizens to be good enough drivers to drive only ever at a safe speed to correspond to the conditions that they are in. Therefore, it is expected that drivers won’t drive at 150 km h if it is snowing and there is a lot of traffic. However, if the road is clear on a fine and dry Spring day, it is not uncommon to see drivers using this speed in their cars.
Lorries are to remain in the right hand lane and are not to use the left hand lane on Autobahns that are only two lanes wide at certain times during the day and week. Obviously, there is no parking or stopping allowed on the Autobahn in addition to no U turns or reversing.
German Road Signs
German road signs are clear but do differ from time to time in comparison to other countries around the world. Their roads in general are well sign posted and make drivers aware of any upcoming issues that they should be aware of, but as a foreign traveller it may not be quite as intuitive as it would be in their home country. In the main, it is a good idea to remember that cyclists always have right of way over a driver so drivers must keep a beady eye out for them. Drivers must always stop for pedestrians waiting to cross at pedestrian crossings and should also be aware that the police have the power to pull a driver over by indicating to them with flashing lights.
German Car Rentals
Renting a car is fairly easy in Germany, mainly because the country is set up around a transport system that is heavily reliant on the roads. This makes renting a car a straightforward process and with the usual German efficiency that most car rental outfits will employ, it should not take too long either. Many rental companies have desks in airports with car parks close to terminals so that renters do not have to travel far from airplane to car to get their hands on a wheel. Alternatively, many reputable firms will also have kiosks in major cities.
One important thing to note before renting a car in Germany is that they are a left hand drive for anyone trying to rent a car coming from England or Australia. Many cars will be a stick shift or come with a gear box, so if you are only comfortable driving an automatic, be sure to ask for that when you book your car, as it won’t come as standard. Otherwise, you’ll need a valid driver’s license and a passport, as well as a major credit card for payment.
For further information on renting a car, you may wish to read our guide on the best car rental companies.
German Destinations of Note
As briefly mentioned, Germany has a vast number of places to visit that make ideal road trip destinations from one of their many international airports. The country has a wealth of history that can be seen in its architecture across the land as well as its own ‘has to be seen to be believed’ locations that are astounding in their natural beauty. Its cities are also worth driving to, to make use of local festivals that run throughout the year. The most notable one being Munich’s Oktoberfest which is actually held in September and most towns or villages throughout the country will hold their own version of it.
Other places worth noting down Heidelberg which is a beautiful city near Frankfurt, Rothenburg ob der Tauber which is a well preserved town full of timber clad buildings and of course Neuschwanstein castle. These locations are all on the Romantic Road which is a well worn tourist path that takes in these fantastic sights, amongst many others.
German Roads in General
The German road system is one of the biggest in the world and, especially around big cities and towns, will carry an awful lot of traffic. However, the government are very quick to mend any potholes or other issues so drivers will find that they are a pleasure to drive in the main. However, they are on the narrower side when compared to other road systems of the world – the US in particular. While cars will tend to be that little bit smaller as most Germans like to drive German saloon vehicles as opposed to SUVs, it’s good to note that drivers will have that little bit less space when driving on a dual carriageway or highway.
In addition to the Autobahn, roads in Germany vary in the amount of lanes they have and their road covering depending on what their purpose is. This means that in the countryside nearer farms, it is not uncommon to find little more than dirt tracks, though many county roads are a couple of lanes wide and offer good connection between towns.
Germany Driving Laws
If you are an international traveller driving in Germany, it is good to know their laws to ensure that you are always remaining legal while using the roads. In terms of licensing, if drivers come from an EU member state, this license is fine to drive on for any length of time or residence when within Germany. However, from all other foreign countries, driving licenses are only valid for six months. After that, a German driving licence is required.
No right turns are allowed on red lights unless the light system has also included a green right arrow light, which is lit up. A yellow light with a red light is a warning to drivers that the green light is about to go on, whereas a yellow light on its own means the red light is about to light up.
Cell phones or mobiles are not allowed to be used at the same time as driving, so if you use your phone as a GPS it needs to be mounted on the dashboard. Children under 12 need a car seat with a belt.
German Speed Limits
While Germany is famous for having no speed limits on the Autobahn, that is not to say that no speed limits exist anywhere either. In fact, even the Autobahn will have sections that have limitations on speed that start at 80 kmh and go up to 130kmh – often owing to a stretch of road that has many twists and turns. If you are going past any construction sites or areas of the highway that is under maintenance, the limit could drop even further. Otherwise, within the cities and towns and villages, the signage about will give indication as to what is allowed in that area. If you are found to have been speeding and an accident occurs – whether it was your fault or not, you will still be found liable.