A guide to driving in Germany
Driving abroad: Germany
Driving in Germany is diverse, exciting and filled with surprises.
With stretches of road literally known as tourist routes, you know you're well catered for if you want to rent a car in Germany. But before you arrive, it's useful to know some local tips so that you're prepared for driving on new territory.
Browse our driving guide to Germany, and get to grips with the essentials before your trip to Deutchland.
Speed limits in Germany
Contrary to popular belief, speed limits do apply a lot of the time in Germany. Plus, the tolerance for breaking speeding laws is low, so it's useful to really know what you are doing. Where speed limits do apply, they are taken seriously and you can be stopped for going as little as 2mph more than the legal limit.
Frequently asked questions
Q. Is there no speed limit on the German autobahns?
A. No, this is not the case. About 60% of autobahns have set speed limits or variable speed controls in place. Variable controls help direct the flow of cars depending on the weather and traffic. It's really important that you follow the limits where signs are in place. Only when you leave congested parts of the road, far from urban areas, are you free to travel at your own pace. The suggested advice is not to exceed 130km/h.
Q. How do you know if there are no speed limits in Germany?
A. Look out for the white circular sign with five black lines running diagonally through it. This indicates that there is no set speed limit for that stretch of road. However, it is not wise to exceed the recommended speed of 130km/h.
Q. How fast can you drive on German autobahns?
A. If speed restrictions are in place, then there will be signs to let you know. If there are no speed restrictions in place then the guidance is to drive at a safe and reasonable pace. If you aren't overtaking, stay in the right hand lane so others can pass.
You will find that the standard of German driving is generally very good, and people adhere to the rules of the road. The driving test is rigorous and expensive, meaning decent drivers tend to end up on the road.
While there isn't always a speed limit, traffic enforcement officers are always on the look out for reckless driving. Going fast is only acceptable if it's safe to do so!
Running out of fuel on the Autobahn is illegal, as it is seen as a preventable circumstance. So, make sure you keep an eye out for that fuel gauge getting low.
If you're driving on the autobahn for a while, take food with you. The selection on offer at service stations isn't always great – plus it's expensive.
In Germany, the way that cars must make room for emergency vehicles on multi-lane roads is unusual so it's worth learning.
The idea is to create an extra “emergency lane” by moving to the far right or far left of your lane. This creates a pathway down the middle for emergency vehicles. The pathway is always in between the left hand lane (so these cars will move left) and the next lane along (so these cars move to the right, as do all the cars in subsequent lanes).
You will notice cars doing this in slow moving traffic regardless of if there is an emergency vehicle or not. It's good practice to do so as a precautionary measure. You can even be fined for not doing so!
What is winterisation?
A. Winterisation is something to consider if you're hiring a car in Germany during the colder months. Put simply, the term means to prepare you car for driving in icy or snowy conditions by using special tyres or chains. If you are visiting an area which expects snow, this will probably be a mandatory add on with your chosen supplier.
What are the rules on winterisation in Germany?
A. The rules on winterisation vary from country to country, but in Germany it is as follows: In 2010, a new regulation was put into place in Germany which stated that if there is black ice, snow, slush, ice or frosted ice on the roads, then motorists must use winter or all-weather tyres. Since it is hard to predict exactly what the weather will do, many locals opt to switch to winter tyres from October – April.
Q. How much does winterisation cost when you hire a car?
A. Winterisation can be costly, so check the ‘free winter tyres' option during the easyCar booking process if you want to select a supplier that adds this on free of charge. Suppliers will often charge up to £150 per rental to winterise the car, so it's good to compare lots of different quotes through a comparison site like easyCar.
Types of road in Germany
|Road sign||Road name||Type of road|
|European road||Europastraße is the German name for an international network of roads which run throughout Europe. In total, they form about 50,000km of road.|
|Federal highway||A federal highway, or bundesstraße is a German national highway. Usually, the top speed is 100 km/h, and a lot of national highways are single carriageway so this differentiates them from the autobahn.|
|Autobahn||Bundesautobahnen are the main network of motorways which run throughout Germany. Currently, these are not toll roads.|
|Tourist route||These signs indicate that you are on one of the many German tourist routes which are carved out so that you can see specific sights en route.|
To help you on your road trip, here are some unusual signs which you may come across when driving in Germany.
Limits no longer apply
This sign will sometimes appear on the autobahn when you are away from residential areas. It means that any speed restrictions that were in place before no longer apply and you can choose to travel at a safe speed that is not restricted.
Display parking disc
If you see a blue parking sign with a dial underneath, this means that you need to display a parking disc indicated the time you parked up. These are readily available in German stores, or online for a few pounds. If the sign says 2 Std. this means you can park for two hours.
This sign is informing you of another route which detours from the autobahn but may avoid congestion. This will be accompanied by a destination sign.
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