Driving in Germany - everything you need to know

  • There’s more to driving in Germany than just the autobahns
  • Make sure you know all the latest regulations
  • Check up before you leave the UK! 

If you are planning a driving trip across Germany, you're not alone. Confidence in air travel is falling, and many families are considering letting the car take the strain for the annual overseas holiday. That's fine, but do be armed with all the latest information.

Firstly, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s really easy, and you can speed along the autobahns for the entire journey. Although most autobahns only have a suggested speed limit of 130km/h, there may be other more specific maximum speeds, plus other regulations you need to be aware of.

Driving in Germany after Brexit

Depending on the outcome of Brexit (which is still in the ratification phase), you might need different documentation to before. But for now it's business as usual. In 2021 you'll probably need an Insurance Green Card and an International Driving Permit. You will also need at least six months on your passport. 

Stay up to date with how Brexit might affect foreign driving by checking the latest government advice on driving in the EU after Brexit.  

Speed limits in Germany

Built-up areas: 50km/h (30mph)
Outside built-up areas: 100km/h (60mph)
Dual carriageways: 130km/h (80mph) (recommended maximum)
Motorways/ Autobahn: 130km/h (80mph) (recommended maximum)

In bad weather (visibility below 50m) the maximum speed limit is 50km/h (30mph). If you’ve got snow chains fitted the maximum speed limit is 50km/h (30mph). An increasing number of sections of the Autobahn now have speed limits in force, so pay attention to signs. 

Latest regulations for driving in Germany

  • You must be over the age of 18 to drive in Germany, even if your licence allows you to drive at home.
  • Alcohol limits: the alcohol limit is 0.5g per litre; however, if you have less than two years’ driving experience or if you are aged less than 21 years, the limit is 0.0g per litre. Both are lower than England, Wales and Northern Ireland, where the limit is 0.8g per litre. Scotland is the same, with a limit of 0.5g per litre.
  • Blue speed limit signs on the autobahns, usually showing 130km/h, are only suggestions; there might be other signage showing speed limits, which are rigorously adhered to. Note however, that driving beyond the suggested speed limit will be taken into account should you be involved in an accident. 
  • It is compulsory to carry a first aid kit in the car.
  • Many petrol stations in rural areas only operate automatic pumps at lunch times, evenings, and weekends, and credit or debit cards might not work at automatic pumps.   
  • Speed camera detection devices – even ones on your phone – are banned

Low emission zones in Germany

Audi A8 in the German Alps

Many German cities are now listed as Low Emission Zones, and you’ll need a special sticker to allow your car to travel through these areas without fines. One sticker will cover all the affected cities – you can view the full list of cities and order your sticker here

In case of emergency while driving in Germany

In case of an accident, phone the police. If you are in an accident, don’t leave the scene within 30 minutes

What to carry with you while driving in Germany

  • Full, valid driving licence
  • Proof of insurance  
  • Proof of ID
  • Proof of ownership (V5C Certificate)
  • At least two reflective jackets
  • Warning triangle  
  • Headlamp beam deflectors
  • First aid kit
  • Safety helmets for motorcyclists and their passengers
  • GB sticker

Driving on the right in Germany

If you need to overtake a moving tram, overtake on the right, unless there isn’t enough space; in one-way streets you may overtake on either side.

Give way to cars already on the roundabout (to your left); however, don’t indicate as you enter the roundabout, only when you are leaving it.

Penalties and on-the-spot fines

German police can issue and collect on-the-spot fines of €35. If the police ask you to deposit a sum of money and you refuse or are unable, your car can be confiscated.

Cross-Border Enforcement means if you commit a speeding offence in Italy, or a number of EU countries, your licence details are available to the authorities in the country the offence was committed. So don’t assume that because you’re abroad, the authorities can’t access your details and chase you for a fine.

Take our Driving Abroad Quiz!

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