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How to get around Germany by car

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Germany is every automobile lover’s dream. Home of some of the automotive industries leading brands and the only country with unlimited speeds, Germany is worth visiting just for the thrill of being able to drive (and I mean DRIVE) a car like you stole it. But there are some things you should know before you hit the German speedways with reckless abandon and a lead foot.

1. There ARE speed limits

Autobahn is the German word for “highway” and just because it’s called an autobahn, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a speed limit. In fact, most highways will have a speed limit of 120kph that Germans observe. However, when you see the white signs with grey diagonal stripes, this is your green light to put the pedal to the metal. As long as you don’t see any speed limit signs, you can live out your F1 fantasies on this stretch of road as fast as you have the balls to.

2. Observe passing lane rules

For most Americans, we’re used to multilane highways and speed limits of 65mph. There really is no passing lane—just the relatively fast lane and the relatively slow lane. However, German autobahns have 2 lanes for the most part meaning passing rules are observed quite closely. Always drive in the right lane until you need to pass the car in front of you, only then should you switch to the left lane to pass.

Remember that the lack of speed limits in some sections means that cars can come through the left lane at neck-breaking speeds. Allow fast cars to pass when you see them coming in your rear-view. Flashing headlights is a nice way of asking someone to get the hell out of your way.

3. Watch for cameras

There may not be too many police patrolling the streets, but that’s only because there are traffic cameras just about everywhere ready to take your picture when you’re more than 5km above the posted speed limits. Watch for these on main roads running into and out of towns, in tunnels, and on the highways as well.

In the cities, you can recognize them by spotting a large, olive green box posted on the side. They only face one way, but cities tend to change their direction every now and then. Just because it was facing you when you were coming in, it doesn’t mean you can speed up on your way out.

In tunnels, they are usually white boxes perched in the corners just as you come out of the tunnel. On the highways, watch for metal structures that transverse all lanes. The cameras point both ahead and straight down. Remember, you have about a 5km leeway before the cameras start clicking but if you see a flash and you’re not a celebrity, you’ve just been caught speeding on tape.

One of the longest stretches of unrestricted speed limits is the A81 which runs from the town of Singen on the Swiss border to Stuttgart, Germany. The drive is both beautifully scenic at any time of the year and has both elongated sweeping curves long straight ways. Driving on a German autobahn really is the ultimate driving experience and as long as you keep these pointers in mind, driving in Germany can be one of the most enjoyable experiences for amateur and experienced drivers alike. So enjoyable, you might never want to reach your destination.

Picture of German highway originally posted by soundmonster

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About the author

Venere Travel Blog writer c. o. gumela

C. O. Gumela is a graduate in English Literature from the University of California Santa Barbara and holds a Le Cordon Bleu diploma in Culinary Arts. She loves taking naps, makes a crème brûlée to die for and always reads before going to bed.

10 responses to “How to get around Germany by car”

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  1. Wilvis says:
    September 1st, 2009 at 06:33

    Thanks for the info! My girlfriend and I are looking at doing a Euro trip next year with most of it in Germany. We’ve been looking at car hire vs tours vs public transport… bring on the car and the autobahn I say :D

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    June 24th, 2010 at 08:49

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  3. Aubrey Ann says:
    April 1st, 2011 at 02:48

    I’ve been planning a trip to Germany and some European cities as well, so this is helpful to me. Glad to know that it is also right lane driving in Germany like here in Manila.

  4. Camille says:
    April 3rd, 2011 at 07:27

    This post is really helpful for travelers like us. My dad almost had his license captured once we went to travel due to traffic violations. Thankfully, the police officer understood us because we weren’t from that place and we are not fully aware of their strict traffic regulations. Your post is really helpful since we are planning to visit our relative living at Frankfurt. Again, thanks!

  5. Calgary FIAT says:
    April 3rd, 2011 at 09:05

    Thanks for the driving tips around Germany. I would love to try driving down the Autobahn one of these days. The passing lane tip is very helpful because I always thought that highway rules are international and didn’t realize that each country has her own unique set of rules. No need to be watchful of those cameras as I don’t intend to violate any traffic rules, assuming that I know them all. Nevertheless, I would just be ready for the consequence in case I might commit some violation. Thanks.

  6. Kylie says:
    April 10th, 2011 at 14:18

    Traffic must be very loose in Germany’s autobahns. Must be a car racer’s ideal place. Can’t imagine speeding up in the highways and bumping a passing goat or sheep. Pretty sure that the picturesque sceneries is enough to slow down any driver just enough to take in the sights and sounds.

  7. Alexia says:
    May 17th, 2011 at 09:03

    Germany roads is an attraction to start with. The Autobahns are in great condition and its just a pleasure driving there as long as you are within the speed limit. Germans love fast driving and they adore their cars.

  8. Mac James says:
    August 7th, 2012 at 19:22

    Several years ago while on a visit in Holland, I rented a small Opel and zipped across the border to Germany. I wanted to ‘take a spin’ on an Autobahn ;-)
    I had the pedal pinned to the floor only to have mercedes family cars whipping by me like I was standing still… incredible!

    I was also impressed by the Porsche 911 Police cars – classy :-)

  9. Andy Kuiper says:
    November 19th, 2012 at 21:25

    Your point about traffic cameras is one I think is the most concerning, radar detectors and so on don’t work too well on with cameras. And if you’ve ever received a ticket in the mail taken by a camera, it’s sooooo darn frustrating. They have a clear shot of the plate, the car, and sometimes even the driver, looking none the wiser about the impending ticket ;-)

  10. Chris Bungay says:
    May 11th, 2013 at 21:09

    I recently saw a new type of sign used in Europe, a “waterfall’ sign… very cutting edge technology.

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