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Confused.com guide to driving in Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle, GermanyGetting started

Germany has the largest and most efficient road system in Europe – beautifully engineered and well maintained. The autobahns are free to use and have no speed limit – although you’re advised not to exceed 130kmh.

It’s worth hitting the autobahns if only to see the service stations. In contrast to their equivalent in Britain, German service stations are delightful, many with decent restaurants, bakeries, hotels, showers and children’s playgrounds. And there are plenty of them.

Hit the road

Driving on the autobahns can be satisfying – particularly if you want to put a performance car through its paces – but you need to keep your wits about you. Some have only two lanes and vehicles in the fast lane can appear very quickly in your rear view mirror. Check your fuel gauge before setting off – it’s illegal to run out of petrol on the autobahn.

Unless signs indicate otherwise – with a yellow diamond symbol – you must give way to traffic entering from the right. And don’t let confusion turn to road rage – you can face an on-the-spot fine for using “derogatory signs”.

Star drive

The Deutsche Alpenstraße – German Alpine Road – is a monumental feat of engineering that carves 450km across the Alps from Lake Constance to Bad Reichenhall in the Berchtesgaden region. A series of dramatic bridges, tunnels and viaducts takes you past historic spa towns, castles and mountain lakes.

Best of the rest

The Deutsche Märchenstraße – German Fairy Tale Road – stretches 600km between Bremen and Hanau, along the picturesque Weser river tracing a route through the historic villages, castles and countryside immortalised by the Brothers Grimm.

Laws of the land

  • All car passengers must wear seatbelts if fitted
  • Children under 12 are not allowed to sit in the front of a car. Children under 3 years old or less than 1.5m tall are not allowed in a car unless it has an approved restraint/child seat fitted. If over 3 years old and no special seating is available, a child may sit in the rear using a seatbelt or other approved restraint
  • Always give way to trams
  • Horns should only be used in built-up areas in cases of “extreme danger”
  • A warning triangle must be carried. You should also have a first-aid kit with disposable surgical gloves
  • Don’t pass a school bus that has stopped to let passengers on or off
  • Motorcyclists must dip their headlights during the day and wear crash helmets (including passenger)
  • Germany has a high concentration of Low Emission Zones (LEZs). This means that if you travel to any of the cities enforcing them, you will need to display a sticker refering to your car's emission standard and this will need to match or better the city's standard. Information on how to purchase an LEZ sticker in Germany can be found here. If you are found to be driving in an LEZ in a vehicle that does not meet emission standards, you will be fined. For more information on German LEZs and LEZs in general, click here. 

German speed limits

Road type

Speed limit

Urban areas

50 kmh (sometimes 30 kmh)

Urban stretches

100 kmh

Dual carriageways

130 kmh

Outside built-up areas

80 kmh - 100 kmh (check local signage)

Motorways

None (though some local restrictions)

 

Local knowledge

Most German drivers fit winter tyres to cope with snow and ice. These aren’t easy to find in the UK so it’s worth buying a set of snow chains as an alternative. If you’re involved in a collision in snow and have neither winter tyres nor snow chains you’ll automatically be considered at least partially at fault. The maximum speed limit with chains is 50kmh.

Did you know?

Since October 2005 German drivers have been advised to use their headlights at all times. It’s illegal to use sidelights only.

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