Driving advice for every country in Europe

Find up-to-date driving laws and advice for any country in Europe before you visit, including any accessories you may need to purchase. Don't forget the RAC provides European breakdown cover while you're driving in Europe.

Driving in Germany

Germany
Population: 80.1m
Area: 357,021 square kilometres
Currency: Euro (100 cents) - EUR (€)

Coronavirus update

Please be aware that driving in Europe may be restricted at the moment.

Check the Foreign travel advice section of the GOV.UK website for up to date advice on all European countries.

With its fantastic Autobahn and spectacular scenery, Germany is a top destination for a road trip. But, like other overseas countries, it has a unique set of rules for drivers. If you’re planning a visit, it’s essential you know the differences to driving in the UK.

To make your trip to the Continent as safe and stress-free as possible, we’ve put together a guide to everything you need to know before you go, from required documents to rules of the road.  

Driving a rented vehicle? Jump to the advice for driving a hire car in Germany section.

RAC European Breakdown Cover (Basic and Comprehensive) provides a wide range of benefits should you breakdown in Germany to ensure you stay safe. 

To supplement this, RAC also offers travel insurance. Cover will include medical expenses, baggage, personal money and belongings, among many other benefits.

Advice for driving in Germany

driving-abroad-in-germany-tips

In an emergency

112 - Here's a really important bit of knowledge; you can dial 112 from anywhere in Europe and an operator will connect you to an emergency service in the country you're visiting. 

Operators can answer your call in their native language, English or French. 

Driving licence laws in Germany

Visitors must be aged 18 or over and hold a full, valid driving licence to legally drive in Germany. Riders of mopeds or motorcycles up to 125cc must be aged 16 or over. 

Driving licences issued in EU and EEA countries are accepted. International driving permits are recognised, but not required. 

Things to take when driving in Germany

Documents for driving in Germany

Vehicles from the UK can be temporarily imported into Germany for up to six months in any period of 12 months. In order to stay on the right side of the law, the following documents should always be carried:

  • Full, valid UK driving licence
  • Proof of ID (passport)
  • Motor insurance certificate
  • V5 registration document

Do I need a GB sticker for driving in Germany

Yes, you will need a GB sticker on your car to drive in Germany unless it’s equipped with EU number plates, which show the country code in a circle of 12 stars on a blue background. 

Driving in Germany packing checklist

In addition to essential documents, motorists are also required by law to carry the following items to avoid hefty on-the-spot fines:

  • Reflective jackets 
  • Warning triangle (compulsory in every vehicle with four wheels or more) 
  • Headlamp beam deflectors (depending on your car, you will either need deflector stickers or have to adjust the beam manually)
  • First-aid kit (only compulsory for four-wheeled vehicles registered in Germany)
  • Winter tyres (Germany introduced regulations in 2010 requiring all passenger cars and motorbikes to be fitted with winter or all-season tyres in wintry conditions)
  • Crash helmet if you’re riding a moped or motorcycle. Motorcycles on the road must have their passing lights on at all times, even in daylight
  • Green Card (although not a legal requirement, it could be useful to back up your insurance documents and show you've got the minimum legal level of cover. To find out more, contact your insurance company)

Our European driving kit has all the essentials you need for driving in Germany. If you’re camping, a Camping Card International could also be useful as it gives you additional proof of identity, third party liability insurance, plus discounts at a wide range of campsites and tourist attractions.

European Breakdown Cover

Get covered when driving in Europe from just £7. Plus, get a full refund if Covid-19 restrictions prevent travel.†

Rules of the road when driving in Germany

Overtaking and passing

In Germany, motorists drive on the right and overtake on the left. 

Where heavy traffic has built up into queues and two or more lanes of traffic are moving in the same direction, vehicles on the right may overtake those on the left.

Trams must be overtaken on the right if they are moving, unless the space is inadequate. In that situation, they can be overtaken on the left. Trams can also be overtaken on either side of a one-way street, while priority should always be given to those boarding or alighting them.

Drivers cannot overtake a school bus - which can usually be identified by red flashing lights - that has stopped outside a built-up area to let passengers on or off. 

Finally, a ‘no overtaking sign’ means you cannot pass a vehicle with more than two wheels.

Who has priority?

  • Traffic from the right tends to have priority at crossroads and junctions
  • Vehicles turning left at an intersection have to give way to oncoming vehicles
  • All road users must give way to emergency vehicles that have blue flashing lights, even if there is no audible warning signal
  • Traffic on a roundabout has right of way, unless otherwise indicated. Drivers must also indicate before they leave the roundabout, but they should not do it as they enter
  • Drivers must not enter an intersection in heavy traffic unless their exit is clear. This applies even if they have priority or if the lights are green
  • Buses and school buses have priority when leaving stops, while vehicles must give way when a bus has signalled its intention to move on

Warning of approach

The use of light signals and audible warnings is allowed when overtaking outside built-up areas or in cases of danger.

Towing in Germany

You can take a caravan, camper van or boat trailer into Germany.

If the caravan contains expensive or unusual items, an inventory is required.

The following dimensions for vehicles with trailers must be followed:

Height: 4m
Overall width: 2.55m (1m if towed by motorcycle)
Overall length: 12m
Length of car + caravan: 18.75m

When towed by a motorcycle or private car, the fully laden weight of the trailer must not exceed 750kg.

Cars towing a caravan must be equipped with two side rear-view mirrors. These may exceed the width of the caravan and must be foldable.

German seat belt law

If seat belts are fitted to your car, they must be worn by the driver and passengers in both the front and rear seats. The driver has a responsibility to ensure that all passengers under 18 are suitably restrained in the car. 

A fine of €30 may be imposed for not wearing a seat belt. 

Traffic lights

The international three-colour traffic light system is used in Germany.

A red light with a green arrow pointing to the right allows you to turn right on the condition that you give way to other road users and pedestrians.

Speed limits in Germany

Germany uses the metric system for all road signs, meaning speed limits and other road signs including distance are indicated using kilometres and metres. 

In built-up areas50km
Outside built-up areas 100km/h
Motorways 130km/h (recommended)

Speed restrictions apply to certain classes of vehicle, including those with trailers and vehicles equipped with snow chains, so check before travel. 

Speeding fines in Germany

Speeding fines in Germany depend on the speed at which offenders are caught and the road on which they’re driving. 

They range from €10 for exceeding the speed limit by less than 10km/h on a motorway to €680 for going over the limit by more than 70km/h in a built-up area.

Speed camera detectors

If you have a GPS navigation system that shows you where any fixed speed cameras are, you must deactivate this function. It's illegal to carry or use any radar detection equipment when driving through Germany.

Arrival Breakdown Cover

Get specialist cover for caravans and motorhomes for just £6 per month.^

Travelling with children in Germany

driving-in-germany

The driver of the vehicle is responsible for ensuring that all children are wearing a seat belt or appropriate restraint.

Car seats

Children over three years old must travel on the rear seats of vehicles. A child under 12 and measuring less than 150cm must be seated in a child seat or child restraint.

Where a child restraint/seat is not available, a child of three years and over must use a seat belt or other safety device attached to the seat. A child under three may not be transported in a vehicle without child restraint/seat.

All child restraints/seats must conform to European safety standards.

A fine of €60 may be imposed (plus one point on your driving licence) for transporting an unsecured child.

Bike helmet law

It is not compulsory for cyclists to wear helmets in Germany. 

Driving a camper van and towing a caravan in Germany

Camper vans and cars with caravans are not allowed to exceed 18.75 metres in length, 4 metres in height and 2.55 metres in width.

Loads mustn’t exceed 11.5 tonnes at the driving axle and 10 tonnes at a single axle.

Please note: The Department for Transport advises that A-frames are not legal for use by UK campers and caravanners abroad. In practice, this could mean towing your car while it’s fixed to a trailer.*

Penalties and fines in Germany

On-the-spot fines

The German police are able to hand out on-the-spot fines of up to €55 to motorists who have been caught violating traffic regulations. The motorist must pay the fine during the following week or legal proceedings could commence.

The police can also collect amounts above €55 as a security deposit for a higher expected fine and, in such cases, legal proceedings will start.

Minimum and maximum fines

Fines range from €10 for a minor parking violation to more than €600 for exceeding the speed limit by over 70km/h. 

For drink-driving offences, harsher penalties may apply, and your licence could be suspended. 

Confiscation of vehicles

The police can confiscate the vehicles of foreign motorists if they are involved in serious incidents.

The Cross-Border Enforcement Directive

An EU cross-border directive came into effect in the UK in May 2017. This is aimed at tracking down people who commit traffic offences in cars that are registered in an EU member state different to where the offence was committed.

This means if you commit a driving offence abroad, the crime will effectively follow you back home to the UK where you can still be prosecuted.

Parking in Germany

Regulations

In Germany a vehicle is considered parked if it is stationary for more than three minutes. Parking is not permitted:

  • At places indicated by a ‘parking prohibited’ sign
  • Within 5 metres of pedestrian crossings and intersections
  • In narrow roads or where visibility is reduced
  • Less than 10 metres from traffic lights
  • On taxi ranks
  • Within 15 metres of a bus stop or other public vehicle area
  • In front of vehicle entries to properties and, in narrow streets, opposite these
  • On the carriageway of priority roads outside built-up areas
  • Along the kerb, facing oncoming traffic

Parking at night

Any vehicle parked on the public highway at night should be illuminated at the front and rear. 

In built-up areas, this rule does not apply to cars and motorcycles if they’re sufficiently illuminated by street lighting or if they’re parked in an authorised parking place. Trailers must always show lights.

Enforcement of parking regulations

Wheel clamps are not used in Germany, but vehicles can be towed away.

Fines of €10 to €35 can be imposed in relation to parking offences. The cost of retrieving an impounded car can reach up to €300.

Disabled parking access

The following concessions are granted to disabled motorists, including foreign badge holders:

  • Free parking for up to three hours in a restricted or no parking zone (the arrival time should be indicated by a parking disc on the windscreen)
  • Free unlimited parking at meters and pay-and-display spaces
  • Up to three hours’ parking in spaces for resident permit holders
  • Parking permitted in pedestrian zones during loading and unloading times

However, it is important to remember that these concessions only apply if there are no other parking facilities in the vicinity.

Drink-driving law in Germany

Legal limit

The maximum level of alcohol in the blood for private drivers is 0.05%.

For newly qualified drivers with less than two years' experience, and young drivers aged under 21, the limit is 0%.

Drink-driving test

The police can ask a driver to undergo a breath test if there is a definite suspicion that they are under the influence of alcohol. The driver can refuse, but then has to have a blood test.

If a novice driver is found to have even a small amount of alcohol in their blood, the fine is €250 and two penalty points. Their probationary period is also extended by two years.

Tolls in Germany

German roads do not have tolls for private cars. However, there is a motorway tax on all vehicles (and vehicle combinations) exceeding 7.5 tonnes, which is levied by electronic means.

German service areas

There are many service areas in Germany. 

Availability of fuel

Unleaded petrol, diesel and LPG are readily available throughout Germany.

Most petrol stations are open from 08:00 to 20:00, and many pumps operate using credit cards. In large cities some are open 24 hours a day, while on motorways service stations are open day and night. 

In larger urban centres, there is also a growing network of electric charging points.

European Breakdown Cover

Get covered when driving in Europe from just £7. Plus, get a full refund if Covid-19 restrictions prevent travel.†

Driving a hire car in Germany

Not all of the information in the guide above will be relevant to those looking to rent a hire car in Germany. Though it might be a good idea to read through everything anyway, here are the most important things to know for drivers of rental vehicles:

Rental information

  • The minimum age to hire a car is 18, although this may vary depending on the vehicle type
  • You need a full, valid UK driving licence and usually a second proof of ID (passport)
  • Car rental companies ask that you have held your licence for 1 to 3 years
  • Some companies may require you to use a credit card for deposit
  • You may not be able to drive outside of Croatia unless planned in advance - check with your hire company first
  • Make sure you get car hire excess insurance before your trip to protect yourself from unexpected costs. It's almost always cheaper to do this with a separate insurer and in advance

Hire car driving tips

  • Germans drive on the right - the opposite to the UK
  • The national speed limit on motorways in Germany, unless otherwise indicated on local signage, is 130km/h (80 mph). On a main road outside a built-up area it's 100 km/h. For built-up areas it’s 50km/h.
  • Dial 112 in an emergency
  • If seat belts are fitted to your car, they must be worn by both drivers and passengers.
  • The blood alcohol content limit for drivers of private vehicles is 0.05%. That's lower than the 0.08% in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, but the same as Scotland.

Driving in Germany FAQs

  • Can I drive my car in Germany?

    Yes, so long as you have a valid UK licence and V5 document, along with sufficient insurance and breakdown cover for your trip. You should also familiarise yourself with the laws around driving in Germany before you set off to keep yourself and other road users safe.

    Getting to Germany by car is easier than you might think. Simply take the ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam or Hull to Rotterdam, then drive around 90 miles to the German border. This should take you around two hours.

  • What side of the road do they drive on in Germany?

    Unlike in the UK, motorists drive on the right-hand side of the road in Germany and overtake on the left – which can take some adjustment if you’re used to driving on the left.

  • Can you drive in Germany with a UK licence?

    Yes, you can legally drive in Germany with your UK-issued driving licence without the need to apply for an International Driving Permit, regardless of the length of your stay.

  • Do I need extra insurance to drive in Germany?

    Germany and the UK are both part of the Green Card System, a Europe-wide scheme allowing all countries to recognise foreign vehicle insurance policies of visiting motorists, so it’s quite possible your existing insurance will cover you.

    However, before setting off on your trip, you should contact your insurance provider to make sure that no additional cover is required.

  • Is driving in Germany dangerous?

    Driving in Germany is generally an enjoyable experience. Road signs are clearly marked, and the road network is excellent, with the Autobahn connecting every corner of the country.
    As with any foreign country, though, you should always familiarise yourself with German road laws to ensure you stay safe. Be especially careful if you’re driving in the countryside as some roads can be particularly steep and narrow.

  • Do I need a GB sticker for Germany?

    If your number plate does not have an EU symbol with GB national identification, you’ll need to attach a GB sticker to the rear of your car when travelling in Germany.

  • Do I need headlamp converters in Germany?

    Yes. This is so you don’t dazzle oncoming traffic when driving on the right side of the road at night.

  • What age can you start driving in Germany?

    To legally drive in Germany, you must be 18 or older and in possession of a full valid driving licence.

  • Do I need winter tyres in Germany?

    Winter or all-season tyres with the Alpine snowflake symbol are a legal requirement at certain times of the year in Germany, or when conditions require them. All motor vehicles, including passenger cars and motorcycles registered abroad, must be fitted with them.

    Make sure your car is fully equipped for winter if you’re visiting Germany in the colder months.

  • Is it compulsory to carry a spare wheel in Germany?

    There is no legal requirement to carry a spare wheel. However, you should make sure you check all your tyres before setting off. All motor vehicles and their trailers must have tyres with a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm. Winter tyres should have a minimum tread of 4mm.

  • How fast can I drive on the Autobahn?

    Many rural sections of the Autobahn have no speed limit, which is indicated by a circular white sign with five diagonal black lines. You can drive as fast as you feel safe but be aware that cars can appear behind you suddenly, so take extra care when overtaking.

    Some parts of the motorway network are limited to 130kph (80mph), while others have a variable speed limit, so be sure to pay close attention to the signs.

  • Does Germany have toll roads?

    Although Germany currently operates a toll system for trucks, it’s one of the few countries in Europe that doesn’t charge cars to use motorways.

    Back in 2017, a plan to charge foreign drivers to use the Autobahn was mooted, but this has since been rejected by the European Court of Justice.

UK Government travel advice

See up-to-date travel advice


Source: Information in this document is sourced from the AIT (Alliance Internationale de Tourisme) & the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile) and, to the best of the RAC’s knowledge, is correct at the time of publication (November 2020).
 
*https://www.campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk/helpandadvice/travelplanning/eurotraveladvice/europeancampingguide/page5/

British Embassy Berlin

Office: British Embassy Berlin
Street Address: Wilhelmstrasse 70/71
ZIP Code: 10117
City: Berlin
Country: Germany

Telephone: +49 (0) 30 204 570
Email: [email protected]

British Consulate-General Munich

Office: British Consulate-General Munich
Street Address: Möhlstraße 5
ZIP Code: 81675
City: München
Country: Germany

Telephone: +49 (0) 89 211090
Email: [email protected]

British Consulate-General Düsseldorf

Office: British Consulate-General Düsseldorf
Street Address:    Yorckstraße 19
ZIP Code: 40476
City: Düsseldorf
Country: Germany

Telephone: +49 (0) 211 94480
Email: [email protected]

British Honorary Consul Hamburg

Office: British Honorary Consul Hamburg
Street Address: Neuer Jungfernstieg 20/Fehlandstraße 3
Zip Code: 
City: Hamburg
Country: Germany

Telephone: +49 (0) 40 44803236

† Price for 1 day cover for up to 9 people travelling in a vehicle up to 1 year old in Zone 1. For more information visit rac.co.uk/breakdown-cover/european-breakdown-cover

^ For existing Camping & Caravanning Club members purchasing new personal based Roadside only on a monthly renewing contract.

† Price for 1 day cover for up to 9 people travelling in a vehicle up to 1 year old in Zone 1. For more information visit rac.co.uk/breakdown-cover/european-breakdown-cover