While chatting with an old friend the other day about my stay in Germany, I was asked; isn’t it weird driving on the left side of the road all the time?
Trying not to laugh, I informed him that it was not weird because they do not drive on the left side of the road. This inspired me to write this article and hopefully shed some light on the basics of driving in Germany.
I will start with some common-sense information like your driver’s license. Of course, your driver’s license may not authorize you to drive in Germany if you are not a German citizen.
What We Cover
- Know About Driving in Germany
- Traffic Lights
- Right Before Left
- Driving on the Autobahn
- Accidents Through Driving in Germany
- Where is Ausfahrt Germany?
- Speed Limit
- Be Careful of Trains!
- Are cars in Germany Left Hand or Right Hand Drive?
- Car Insurance
- First Aid Kit
- Headlights and Tail lights
- International Driving Permit
- Always Drive with Caution
- Driving while Intoxicated (DWI) in Germany
- How to obtain a German driver’s license?
- What if I’m not 18 and I want to drive in Germany?
- What is the German Autobahn?
- Can I drive in the left lane?
- Can I use my cell phone while driving?
Know About Driving in Germany
You must contact your local license branch (BMV) and learn the steps needed to receive an international driver’s license. This sounds scary, but relax – most driver’s licenses from around the world (including the US, UK, and any EU nation) are fine when renting a car.
Most service representatives speak English and will be happy to help you out. We also recommend booking a car through RentalCars.com, where you can compare pricing from the world’s most reputable rental car companies.
Now you must know the traffic laws and the “meat and potatoes” of driving in Germany. If you are an American or have driven in the US, you will find that driving in Germany is not much different.
Without telling you every single travel law written in Germany, I will try to shed some light on some of the major differences:
When pulling up to a traffic light, you will notice that, unlike the US traffic lights, which go from green to yellow to red and then directly back to green, German traffic lights will go from red to yellow and then green. This is nothing to worry about.
They want to ensure you have it in gear and are ready to take off. The second thing, but extremely more important, is the “right on red” rule we have in the US.
This rule DOES NOT EXIST in Germany. If you try to turn right when the traffic light is red, you may find yourself in a lot of pain and a significant lawsuit!
See Related: Public Transportation in Germany
Right Before Left
This is a big one. And one that, if forgotten, can cause serious wrecks! Unlike the law in the US, when you come upon an intersection, if a car is coming from the right to your right, that car has the right-of-way.
Also, when you come upon an intersection, and a car is coming from the left, YOU have the right of way because you are to his/her right.
Always be careful though because that other person may be a tourist like you!
See Related: Things to Do in Landshut, Germany
Driving on the Autobahn
If you think the autobahn is a paradise for people with a lead foot, you may still get a speeding ticket. Although some stretches of the autobahn have no speed limit (effectively 155 mph as that is the speed German cars are limited to), there is a recommended speed limit of 120 kilometers per hour (around 75mph) that most drivers adhere to.
Granted, some exceed this speed recommendation, but now you know you CAN be ticketed on certain stretches. It’s good to know the general tips for driving in Europe as you’ll share the road with plenty of other people, not just Germans.
See Related: Pictures of Germany
Accidents Through Driving in Germany
If you are the first on the scene of an accident in which someone has been injured, you are required by law to assist. Whether you stop and call an ambulance (112, not 911) or you provide medical aid, you must do something to help the casualty.
Where is Ausfahrt Germany?
No, Ausfahrt is not a city that seems to pop up everywhere you go. Ausfahrt is the German word for exit.
Speed Limits in Germany are as follows:
- 30 km/h in built-up areas
- 100 km/h outside of built-up areas
The autobahn has no general speed limit but a recommended speed limit of 120 kilometers per hour. Remember, you should always obey the posted speed limit signs!
Be Careful of Trains!
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Germany has a LOT of trains, and they run on the same tracks as cars. Always be aware of trains when driving, especially when turning at an intersection.
Are cars in Germany Left Hand or Right Hand Drive?
Plenty of people believe that German cars are right-hand drive cars. This is not the case. Almost all cars in Germany are built as left-hand drive cars because, in Germany, you drive on the road’s right lane. It means the driver is on the left car seat of the vehicle.
In short, it’s the same as the US and the majority of countries around the world.
All cars in Germany must have third-party liability coverage insurance to be registered in the local motor vehicle registry, even rentals. You must always carry proof of your liability insurance in your vehicle with you at all times.
The only other type of insurance that is legally required if you own a car is Personal Accident Insurance (PIA). PIA insures against injuries to the insured person while driving or riding in the car.
You are not required to have comprehensive or collision insurance, but it is highly recommended. If you are in an accident, even if you are not at fault, the other driver can sue you for damages even if you have insurance. It is important to always have proof of your insurance with you when driving.
First Aid Kit
It is required by law to have a first aid kit in your car when driving, even rentals.
Headlights and Tail lights
Germany’s Law on Driving with Lamps states that all vehicles must turn on their headlamps from the beginning of November to the end of April from 6:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
In addition, all vehicles must always have their rear lights on. This is true even during the daytime.
International Driving Permit
If you don’t have a German driver’s license and plan on driving in Germany, you’ll need to obtain an International Driving Permit or IDP for about $15 or possess one of the accepted international licenses. A valid US driver’s license usually is good enough.
The IDP is an internationally recognized translation of your current driver’s license and can be used in place of your original license while traveling if you’re afraid of losing it.
Always Drive with Caution
Pedestrians crossing the street, cyclists in the bike lanes, and people all around you may not be paying attention. Always drive cautiously on German roads, especially when approaching intersections, crosswalks, or pedestrian crossings.
Driving while Intoxicated (DWI) in Germany
Drinking and driving is despised in Germany. If caught driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or certain medication, you can be penalized with heavy fines and jail time. You can also lose your driver’s license for up to two years.
Driving while under the influence is just not tolerated in Germany, and it has a huge impact on your wallet as well as your freedom. The blood alcohol limit is 0.05mg, but this can be tested at any time with a blood or breathalyzer test.
Suppose you are caught driving under the influence. In that case, you will have to deal with legal repercussions, including heavy fines, losing your driver’s license, and ALL medical costs associated with the accident.
Driving in Germany is the same as in other countries. Follow the rules and regulations strictly and respect German authorities. Rental cars are available if you don’t own a vehicle there.
How to obtain a German driver’s license?
This is the first thing foreigners think of when it comes to driving. The good news is that if you are at least 18 years old, you can exchange your foreign driver’s license for a German one without taking a German driving test.
What if I’m not 18 and I want to drive in Germany?
If you are under 18, you must take a German driving test at your local driver’s registration office to obtain a German driver’s license.
What is the German Autobahn?
The Autobahn is a highway system in Germany that has no speed limit. However, there are recommended speeds; most people drive around 120 km/h (75 mph). A few sections have a posted speed limit of 100 km/h (62 mph) or less.
Can I drive in the left lane?
In Germany, you can only drive in the left lane if you overtake a vehicle. If traveling the speed limit or slower, you must drive in the right lane.
Can I use my cell phone while driving?
It is illegal to use your cell phone while driving in Germany. This includes using it to talk, text, or check social media. If you need to use your phone, you must pull over to the side of the road and stop.