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: 81.8m
Area: 357,021 sq. km
Currency: Euro (100 cents) - EUR (€)
If you are driving in Germany there are a number of things that are quite different from driving in the UK.

Our guide will help you prepare for any differences by outlining all of the crucial information you need to know before setting off on your journey.

For fast help, try using our quick links below to easily navigate to the right section.

Things you need to take with you

Rules of the road

Regulations

Penalties

Fuel

Emergencies


The most comprehensive European breakdown cover you can get- buy it now from just £9^.

Things you need to take with you

It is essential to carry the below items to stay safe on your trip and ensure you are abiding by all of the foreign laws, you may not typically be accustomed to. 

Driving licence

Visitors riding or driving in Germany must have reached the minimum age required to drive/ride a vehicle of equivalent category even if they are qualified to drive at a lower age in their country of residence.

A foreign driving licence does not entitle the holder to drive/ride a motor vehicle in Germany until the age of 18yrs old.

Driving licences issued in EU and EEA countries are accepted. Motorists must carry their driving licence with them when driving and show it to any authorised person on request.

International driving permits are recognised but not required.

Going away? Remember to take RAC Travel Insurance with you.

Other documents

Vehicles from the UK may be imported into Germany for up to 6 months in any period of 12 months. When driving in Germany the following documents should be carried:

  • Full, valid driving licence* 
  • Proof of insurance (third party or above)
  • Proof of ID (Passport)
  • Registration document (V5C Certificate) 

*International Driving Permits are recognised but not compulsory

Items required in your car or with motorbike

Vehicles in Germany are required by law to carry the following items. Hefty on-the-spot fines can be issued for failing to carry specific items.

Cars:

  • Reflective jackets
  • Warning triangle (Compulsory for vehicles registered in Germany)
  • Headlamp beam deflectors (Depending on your car, you will either need deflector stickers or have to adjust the beam manually)
  • First aid kit (Compulsory for four-wheeled vehicles registered in Germany)

Our European driving kit has all the essentials for people driving in Germany

Motorbikes: 

  • Safety helmets are compulsory for drivers and passengers of mopeds and motorcycles
  • Motorcycles and mopeds must always be ridden with their passing lights on, even in daylight.

Rules of the road

Drive on the right; overtake on the left, it's also worth noting that German roads do not have tolls for private cars, however, all vehicles (and vehicle combinations) exceeding 7.5 tonnes, which is levied by electronic means.

Overtaking and passing

Inside and outside built-up areas, where heavy traffic has built up into queues and two or more lanes of traffic are travelling in the same direction, vehicles on the right may overtake those on the left.

Trams in motion must be overtaken on the right.  If the space on the right is inadequate, they may be overtaken on the left.  In one-way streets, trams may be overtaken on either side. Priority must be given to passengers boarding or alighting from stationary trams.

It is prohibited to overtake or pass a school bus which has stopped outside a built-up area to let passengers on or off. These buses usually have red flashing lights. 

The meaning of the "no overtaking sign" is that it is prohibited to overtake a vehicle with more than two wheels, e.g. a car driver may overtake a motorcycle, but a motorcyclist may not overtake a car.

When a sign gives warning of a lane closure (for example in case of road works), drivers in the lane concerned must drive to the end and merge.

Priority

  • At crossroads and junctions, traffic coming from the right has priority.
  • Vehicles turning left at an intersection must give way to all oncoming vehicles.
  • All road users must give way to fire engines, ambulances and police vehicles which have blue flashing lights, irrespective of whether there is an audible warning signal or not.
  • Traffic in a roundabout has right of way, except when signs indicate otherwise. Drivers must not indicate as they enter a roundabout; they must, however, use their indicators before leaving the roundabout.
  • All road users must give way to fire engines, ambulances and police vehicles which have blue flashing lights, irrespective of whether there is an audible warning signal or not.
  • In heavy traffic, drivers must not enter an intersection unless their exit is clear, even if they have priority or if the lights are green.
  • Trams do not have absolute priority over other vehicles.
  • Buses and school buses have priority when leaving bus stops and other vehicles must give way to a bus driver who has signalled his intention to leave the kerb.

Warning of approach

Light signals and audible signals should only be given when overtaking outside built-up areas or in case of imminent danger.

Road signs

Germany has ratified the Convention on Road Signs and Signals (Vienna, 1968).

The "stop" sign is a red octagon bearing the word STOP in white.

Most signs are easily understandable; however, the following do not follow the Convention:

  • A yellow circular sign with a green border and the letter "H" in green = bus or tram stop
  • A blue rectangular sign with, for example, "70 110 km/h" in white = recommended speed range
  • Yellow rectangular sign with a black border and the word "Umleitung" in black = diversion
  • A blue rectangular sign with a white arrow pointing upwards, the letter "U" and a figure in white = diversion for motorway traffic
  • A green bordered inverted triangle, bearing the picture of a flying eagle and the words "Landschafts Schutzgebiet" (protected area of countryside) = no parking on the roadside or outside designated parking places
  • A blue rectangle bearing white symbols of a car, a house and two persons playing with a ball = a residential area where pedestrians may use the road and drivers must exercise special care and be able to stop on the spot at all times; parking is allowed only in designated places.
  • A rectangular sign with the word "Zone" and a prohibition sign indicates that the prohibition (for instance "no parking") applies to the whole area up to an end of prohibition sign.

Traffic lights

The international three-colour system is in use.

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

At railway level crossings, a red flashing light signals the approach of a train.

Service areas

There are many service areas in Germany. Most of them are administered by Autobahn Tank und Rast AG


Regulations

Tyre tread depth

The tread of all the tyres on a motor vehicle and on a trailer must be at least 1.6 mm deep along the whole width of the running surface.

Towing

Caravans, camper vans, luggage and boat trailers may be temporarily imported into Germany without formality.

No inventory is required for normal camping equipment in caravans.  If the caravan contains expensive or unusual items, an inventory in duplicate is required.

The following dimensions for vehicles with trailers must not be exceeded:

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

When towed by a motorcycle or private car, the fully laden weight of the trailer without brakes must not exceed one half of the unladen weight of the towing vehicle plus 75 kg, but in total not more than 750 kg.

Cars towing a caravan must be equipped with two-side rear-view mirrors, which may exceed the overall width of the caravan, but which must be foldable.

Seat belts

Drivers and all passengers on both front and rear seats of German and foreign registered cars must wear seat belts if the vehicle is equipped with belts.

A fine of €30 may be imposed for not wearing a seat belt and €60 (plus one point on driving licence) for transporting an unsecured child (a fine is incurred when the child's restraint system is not correct)

A child must also wear the seatbelt provided in a bus (failure to do so may incur a fine for the accompanying adult).

Exemptions fromt he German seat belt law:

  • Taxi drivers
  • Delivery men going from house to house
  • Drivers travelling at walking pace (e.g. in car parks, when reversing).

The following may be exempt from this rule:

  • Persons who should not wear a belt for medical reasons
  • Persons over 1.50 m in height for whom the positioning of the anchorage points is such that the protective effect of the belt is not achieved

Such persons must be in possession of a special permit issued by the competent road traffic authorities ("Strassenverkehrsbehörde");  in the case of an application for medical reasons, a medical certificate* must be produced.

*A certificate drawn up by an authority in a visitor's country of residence and accompanied by a German translation will be accepted by the authorities.

Parking

A vehicle is considered to be parked if it remains in the same place for more than three minutes.

Standing and parking are usually allowed only on the right except in a one-way street.

Waiting is prohibited when:

  • At places indicated by the sign C,19 "waiting and parking prohibited"
  • At places indicated by the sign C,18 "parking prohibited", except to allow passengers to board or alight, and to load or unload goods
  • Within five metres of a pedestrian crossing
  • In narrow roads or where visibility is not sufficient
  • Less than 10 metres before traffic lights, "give-way" and "stop" signs if these would be concealed by the vehicle
  • At the entry or in front of fire stations
  • Where zig-zag lines are painted on the carriageway (bus stops, narrow roads and places with poor visibility)
  • On taxi ranks

Parking is prohibited when:

  • At places indicated by the sign "parking prohibited"
  • Within five metres of pedestrian crossings and intersections
  • Less than 10 metres before traffic light signals
  • Within 15 metres of a sign indicating a public vehicle stop
  • In front of vehicle entries to properties and, in narrow streets, opposite these entries
  • On the carriageway of priority roads outside built-up areas
  • Along the kerb, facing oncoming traffic
  • For trailers with an admissible total weight of more than 2 tonnes in residential areas, health resorts, recreation and hospital areas between 2200 hours and 0600 hours and 24 hours a day on Sundays and public holidays

In streets where parking is probihited by sign C,18, a motorist can stop for three minutes, or for longer in order to allow passengers to alight or board, or for loading/unloading.

Restricted parking zones

  • Parking meters (if the meter is out of order, the driver must use a parking disc); drivers can park free for the first half hour
  • Parking disc zones: these areas are indicated by the sign C,18 on a white square, with a parking disc in a corner of the square
  • Residents' parking zones: these areas are indicated by sign C,18 on a white square accompanied by the words "Anwohner mit Parkausweis Nr. ... frei" (except for holders of parking permits No. ...); the times during which the restriction applies are indicated on an additional panel
    • At night, any vehicle, including a trailer, parked on the public highway must be illuminated at the front and the rear. However, in built-up areas, motor vehicles of less than 2.8 tonnes are exempt from this requirement if they are sufficiently illuminated by street lighting or if they are parked in an authorised parking place. Trailers must always show lights.
    • A caravan trailer may not be left in a public parking space for more than two weeks.

Enforcement of parking regulations

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

Fines of €10 to €35 are imposed for parking offences. The cost of retrieving an impounded car varies from €100 to 300.

Disabled parking access

The following concessions are granted to disabled motorists. The same concessions apply to 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 which should be clearly displayed on the windscreen)
  • Free unlimited parking at meters and pay and display spaces
  • Up to three hours’ parking in a space reserved for resident permit holders
  • Parking permitted in pedestrian zones during loading and unloading times

These concessions only apply if there are no other parking facilities in the vicinity.

Travelling with children

Children over three years old must be transported on the rear seats of vehicles. A child under 12 years of age and measuring less than 1.50 m travelling in any type of vehicle 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 years old may not be transported in a vehicle without child restraint/seat.

All child restraints/seats used must conform to the ECE 44/03 norm.

It is the responsibility of the driver to ensure that all children are safely restrained.

These regulations apply also to children travelling in foreign registered vehicles driven by visitors.

Speed limits

There is a speed limit of 50 km/h in built-up areas for all types of motor vehicle, unless otherwise indicated by road signs. 

A built-up area starts from the place name shown at the beginning of a town or village. 

Motorists are required to exercise great care when in the vicinity of children and disabled or old people; they must drive in such a way that they can stop without danger at any time.

Outside built-up areas, the following limits (in km/h) apply, except when signs indicate a lower limit:

VehicleMotorways and dual carriagewaysOther roads
Private cars and other vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes130 km/h (recommended)100 km/h
Private car with a trailer, goods vehicle up to 3.5 tonnes (total authorised weight and with a trailer), vehicle from 3.5 to 7.5 tonnes (total authorised weight and without a trailer), bus80 km/h or 100 km/h with some restrictions*80 km/h
Camper van up to 3.5 tonnes, with trailer80 km/h80 km/h
Vehicle over 3.5 tonnes (with a trailer), vehicle over 7.5 tonnes (with or without a trailer)80 km/h60 km/h
Motorcycle with a trailer60 km/h60 km/h

* 1. The permissible maximum weight ratio between the caravan/trailer and the car is:

  • 0.3 for caravan/trailers without brakes or without hydraulic suspension
  • 0.8 for trailers with fixed platform and hydraulic suspension
  • 1.1 for other trailers with hydraulic suspension
  • 1.2 for trailers with stabilisation mechanism who have a certificate

2. The tyres on the caravan/trailer must not be more than 6 years old.

3. A “100 km/h” sticker has to be affixed on the back of the caravan/trailer.

Radar detectors are prohibited. If they are part of the car satellite navigation system, the POI function must be de-activated.

Drink/drug driving limits

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

However, for novice drivers who have held a driving licence less than two years and for young drivers aged under 21 years, the blood alcohol limit is 0%.  Absolutely no alcohol is tolerated when driving.

This regulation also applies to foreign drivers.

If a novice driver is tested with even a small amount of alcohol in his/her blood, the fine is €250, two penalty points and a further extension of the probationary period by two years.

The police can ask a driver to undergo a breath test if there is a definite suspicion that he is under the influence of alcohol. The driver can refuse but is then compelled to undergo a blood test.


Penalties

On-the-spot fines

The German police are empowered to impose and collect fines of up to €35 on the spot in the case of violation of traffic regulations. The motorist must pay the fine during the following week otherwise legal proceedings will start.

The German police are also empowered to collect an amount exceeding €35 as security deposit for a higher expected fine, and in that case, legal proceedings will start.

Speeding fines and penalties

Fine in EurosFine in EurosPoints/suspension permitPoints/suspension permit
Exceeding the speed limit by (km/h)In built-up areasOutside built-up areasIn built-up areasOutside built-up areas
0-2015-3510-30--
21-2580701 point1 point
26-30100801 point1 point
31-401601202 points*2 points*
41-502001604 points*2 points*
51-602802404 points*4 points*
61-704804404 points*4 points*
over 706806004 points*4 points*

*and 1 to 3 months suspension of driving permit

Other offences and penalties

OffenceFine in EurosPoints/Suspension of licencePrison sentence
Alcohol in blood (0.05 to 0.11%)500 - 15004 points / 1 to 3 months-
Alcohol in blood (from 0.11%)3000 +7 points / 6 months - 12 monthsPossible prison sentence
Alcohol in blood of young driver (>0%)2502 points-
Parking10 to 35--
Not wearing of seat belt30--
Using hand-held phone whilst driving601 point-
Not stopping at red light90 - 2002 points/1 month-

A driver with 0.05% of alcohol in the blood will normally have his driving licence suspended for one month.  A driver with 0.11% or more of alcohol in his blood will have his licence withdrawn for between 6 months and one year, and a heavy fine will be imposed.

If a driver believes he is not guilty of the offence he can refuse to pay and go to court.

The German police can ask a foreign motorist to deposit a sum of money.  If he refuses or is unable to pay, the vehicle can be confiscated.  If his driving licence is suspended, a note indicating the period during which he is not allowed to drive in Germany appears on the licence. 

Confiscation of vehicles

For serious incidents, the police are allowed to confiscate vehicles of foreign motorists.


Fuel

Most petrol stations are open from 8am to 8pm. In large cities some are open 24 hours a day. On motorways, service stations are open day and night. 

Most petrol stations accept credit cards and travellers' cheques.

At some petrol stations, pumps operate using credit cards.

The following fuels are available in Germany

  • Unleaded petrol (95 octane) E10
  • Unleaded petrol (98 octane)
  • Diesel
  • LPG
  • Electric

Emergencies

In the case of injury or serious damage to vehicles the police must be called.

Emergency telephone numbers are:

  • 110: Police
  • 112: Ambulance, Fire Brigade

Emergency telephones are placed at two km intervals along the motorways.

The nearest emergency post is indicated by a black arrow on poles at the edge of the carriageway. 

Some telephones have a button to request breakdown assistance and a button to request an ambulance; other telephones connect the caller to a rescue control centre.

The warning triangle must be placed 200 metres behind a vehicle which has stopped on a motorway.

A vehicle which has broken down on a motorway must be towed away to the nearest exit.

PLAN ROUTES

 

*Price for 1 day cover for up to 9 people travelling in a vehicle up to 1 year old in Zone 1.
RAC European Breakdown cover arranged and administered by RAC Financial Services Limited (Registered No 05171817) and provided by RAC Insurance Ltd (Registered No 2355834). Registered in England; Registered Offices: RAC House, Brockhurst Crescent, Walsall WS5 4AW. RAC Financial Services Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in respect of insurance mediation activities. RAC Insurance Ltd is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

 

Source: All 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 (May 2016).
 
Still current at:
30th May 2017
Updated at:
13th Mar 2017
Latest update:
Latest update: Summary – England take on Germany in an international friendly on 22 March 2017; information and advice page for travelling fans; further editorial amendments throughout

Information and advice for British nationals travelling and living in Europe, following the result of the EU referendum.

England take on Germany in an international friendly on 22 March 2017. See this information and advice page for travelling fans.

There is a high threat from terrorism. The German government has announced that increased security has been put in place as a precaution at public buildings, major events, transport hubs and large public gatherings. See Terrorism

There’s no requirement to carry your passport with you, but the police are currently carrying out more frequent ID checks. If you’re asked to show your passport and you don’t have it with you, the police may escort you to wherever your passport is being kept so that you can show it to them.

Border controls have been reintroduced at some crossing points between Germany and Austria, Denmark and Sweden. Carry your passport with you and be aware of potential delays.

Around 2,000,000 British nationals visit Germany every year. Most visits are trouble-free.

If you need to contact the emergency services call 112.

British nationals have been arrested for possessing counterfeit currency. Avoid changing money anywhere other than banks or legitimate currency exchange offices.

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.

Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel. 

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: ukingermany@fco.gov.uk

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: ukingermany@fco.gov.uk

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: ukingermany@fco.gov.uk

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

Comparisons based on the top cover levels from the AA and Green Flag. View our European Breakdown Cover comparison table for full details.

^Price for 1 day cover for up to 9 people travelling in a vehicle up to 1 year old in Zone 1.

RAC European Breakdown cover arranged and administered by RAC Financial Services Limited (Registered No 05171817) and provided by RAC Insurance Ltd (Registered No 2355834). Registered in England; Registered Offices: RAC House, Brockhurst Crescent, Walsall WS5 4AW. RAC Financial Services Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in respect of insurance mediation activities. RAC Insurance Ltd is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.