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Steve

Travelled to 40 countries / regions

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Worked in Germany for 2 months and drove everyday

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Europe > Germany > Useful Info
Updated on Jun 25, 2019 Useful Info

Driving tips for visitors to Germany

  • Driving in Germany is pretty easy. Road conditions are fantastic and drivers are usually courteous
  • While I worked in Germany, I had a rental car the entire time. On weekends I would drive around the country to stay in different cities. Thought I'd summarize my experience and tips for future visitors who are thinking of driving in Germany


  • Driver's License:
  • Anyone who has a valid driver's license from any country, and over the age of 18, can drive in Germany
  • If you're from an EU country or an EEA country, then you can drive in Germany with your regular driver's license without any limitations whatsoever. It's basically like driving in your own country
  • If you're from outside of EU/EEA countries (like US, Canada, Australia), you can drive in Germany for up to 6 months with just your regular driver's license, as long as your driver's license is written in latin alphabet
  • For example, if your license is from US, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand, it means that you can drive in Germany with just your regular license (no need for International Driving Permit) for up to 6 months. Past 6 months, you will need to get a German license
  • If your license is not written in latin alphabet (e.g. Chinese, Cyrillic, Japanese, Korean, etc.), you will need to get an IDP, which is effectively just a translation of your license and takes less than 15 minutes to get. The agency that offers IDP varies by country so you will need to Google who issues IDP in your country. Again, past 6 months, you will need to obtain a German license
  • Keep in mind that without an IDP, you're not going to be able to drive in neighbouring countries, since they all require an IDP to drive. So if you plan to do some cross-border road trip (to Austria, France, Switzerland, Poland, etc), you should get an IDP


  • How to rent a car in Germany:
  • Most major international car rental companies operate in Germany. I used Hertz but Avis, Enterprise, Europcar, Sixt, are all alternative options you can use
  • Process to rent a car in Germany is identical to North America: just book your car online ahead of time, and go to their booth at airport, train station, or wherever. Present your license and a credit card, sign a bunch of papers, and that's it
  • Most car rental companies have limited number of automatic cars since most people drive manual shift in Europe. The price for automatic cars are also higher than manual cars
  • You need to be at least 21 years old to rent a car in Germany


  • Speed limit in Germany:
  • In urban area: 50 km per hour
  • In smaller residential areas: 30 km per hour
  • On open country roads: 100 km per hour
  • On highway/interstate (called "autobahn" in German, usually translated as motorway), most sections do not have speed limit
  • If you merge onto an autobahn and do not see any speed signs, that means there is no speed limit
  • When I say no limit, I mean literally no limit. I personally drove up to 220 km per hour (136 miles per hour). The fastest I've seen someone else driving at was 260 km per hour (161 miles per hour)
  • You cannot go below 60 km/hour on autobahns
  • Some unwritten speed rules: the right (outermost) lane is used almost exclusively by trucks, driving at <100km per hour. The middle lane average about 130-145 km/hr. The left (innermost) lane is where all the extreme speed happens. Average speed is "only" 160 km/hour in the innermost lane, but frequently there will be cars driving at 260 km/hour. More so than North America, there is a very clear expectation that the innermost lane is only used for overtaking, so you're expected to get out of the way if there's a coming up at you fast from behind, or you will be tailgated
  • By law, you cannot overtake cars on the right lane, even if it's clear. Overtaking in the middle lane is fine, but I rarely saw it during my month driving around the country
  • Even on autobahn, some sections have speed limit for various reason, including winding roads, construction, downhill, urban area, and these sections there will be very clear signage to tell you that speed limit are in place, like this:User submitted photo of Germany
  • When you see a speed sign, that speed sign is in effect until either the next autobahn entry ramp, or until you see this sign, which means end of speed limit zone:User submitted photo of Germany
  • Once you start driving, just follow the traffic and you'll soon get the hang of it. It's really not that complicated. My advice is to start in the middle lane until you are comfortable driving at 150+ km/hour speed, then get into the inner lane for fast driving


  • Traffic light:
  • Keep in mind that you cannot turn right on red light. Traffic lights will either show a green right arrow when you're allowed to turn right, or simply green. This rule is common in Europe, but I know most North Americans are used to doing right turns on red
  • My rule of thumb to interpret Germany's traffic lights is basically: if you see red, don't move in any direction; if you see green arrows, follow the direction they're pointing; if you see regular green (like not an arrow), it works the same as North America


  • How to fill up gas in Germany:
  • In Germany most cars run on diesel instead of gasoline. This is similar to most of Europe. When you rent a car, double check to make sure because you don't want to put the wrong type of fuel in there
  • I found that most gas stations in Germany do not have credit card terminal at each filling station. Unlike in North America where you have to check with the cashier first before you can start filling, in Germany you simply start filling your car after you pull up. Once you're done filling, that's when you go inside to the cashier, tell them your station number (English works most of the time), and then just pay by cash or credit card
  • Fuel is expensive in Germany: equivalent to $5.6 USD per gallon right now, which is more than twice as much in the US. and 65% higher than Canada. To save on your fuel costs, don't drive too fast on autobahn; cars' fuel efficiency declines a lot when you drive faster than 120 km/hour
  • Gas stations usually charge 50 cents Euro to use their restrooms. Carry some change for this purpose


  • Parking:
  • In cities simply follow "P" signs for parking garage. Payment works similar to North America: upon entering you press the button to get a paper ticket -> when you're leaving, find the machine to pay for your ticket (they don't usually give receipts for some reason) -> insert the ticket at the exit for the barrier to open
  • Parking fees vary, but in cities they usually cost between 10 euros to 30 euros per night


  • Other tips:
  • German stop signs look identical to North American stop signs and they work the same way
  • When entering tunnels in Germany you are required to turn your headlines on
  • It's against the law to use your phone while driving, unless it's hands free. This law applies even if you're stopped at a red light
  • Google Maps is excellent for navigation in Germany. I found its real time traffic condition colors to be extremely accurate