Driving On The German Autobahn

You’ve just arrived in Germany at one of its major airports (Frankfurt, Munich, Berlin, etc), you’ve got your luggage; and you’re now headed to the car rental counter for a chance to drive on the infamous Autobahn (or any part of the country’s 636,000km of roads).

Ohh, perhaps in a convertible since spring and summer are so beautiful in Germany.

Errrr… put on the brakes for a moment.

Yes, driving in Germany is probably one of the most exciting things you could possibly do in your lifetime — but it ain’t no easy feat.

If you’re coming from the U.S., you’ll just need your passport and driver’s license to drive here. Otherwise, you’re required to have an International Driver’s License. Hmmm, rules already and you haven’t even gotten behind the wheel yet. ;-)

Please… those 30-inch thick road beds on the Autobahn are so worth the wait — have some patience.

A proper, valid license isn’t the only thing you’ll need. You’d better learn the “rules” of the road — and fast if you want to survive out here — one of them is never to pass on the right (big no-no).

Someone behind you flashing their high beams? Uh, Sunday Driver, get out of the left lane you’re going too slow. Whatever you do, don’t flip ’em the bird on the way by — they got the right of way.

Oh, and get this, running out of gas on the Autobahn is illegal! There’s no excuse to run out of fuel — there are service areas with Tankstellen (gas stations) every 40 – 60km. They’re open 24-hours a day, 7-days a week with restrooms and a restaurant or snack bar.

They’re like service plazas found all over the New Jersey or Pennsylvania Turnpike in the US — only better. ;-)

All right, it’s time to be serious now for a minute. Whatever you do, do not (DO NOT) drink & drive. The legal limit for blood-alcohol is .05, but Germany’s getting stricter by the minute. Some places will throw the book at you for a .03.

Want to sample the best of German beer, wine, or schnapps? Leave the keys to the Audi or Mercedes behind, OK?

If you’re not imbibing, remember to always wear your seatbelt. You’re traveling at speeds of 250 km/h (160 mph), or faster in some areas, so safety first.

Don’t worry if you find yourself in trouble. There are callboxes along the roadside to help you. You don’t even have to worry about which way to find the closest one, there are posts that point an arrow to it.

I would, however, worry about where you’re going. Germany’s road signs on the Autobahn list their routes by city (the furthest city listed first) instead of numbering east/north/whatever. You don’t want to find yourself in Stuttgart if you’re headed to Kiel, do you? Learn to read a map (or use a GPS) so you know which cities are along the way to where you’re going.

Just don’t stop along the side of Autobahn to do it — that’s illegal too. ;-)


5 Responses to “Driving On The German Autobahn”

  1. dan says:

    I visited Germany and I really enjoyed. Looking forward to my next visit.

  2. Richard says:

    I’ve been to Germany five times and have driven often on the Autobahn. A great experience. Germany does it better.

  3. William says:

    Sorry guys, i live in Germany since 7 months and i drive a lot but my opinion is different a bit about german highways… I live in the Dusseldorf area and also sometimes i drive from Dusseldorf to Stuttgart till also the Blackforest area. In my opinion the good thing in german highway is that are straight!! I mean they have no many turns… Also, in a few parts there is no speed limit but only in a few parts!!!! Be careful, if you forget this you may pay a very big fine or lose your licence!!!
    About the disadvantages, german highways are not so wide highways…. Usually 2-3 lanes!!!! This is not good in my opinion…. Because of this the risk of traffic especially in rush hours or in parts under construction are very high!!!! Beside this, during night the are NO lights in the biggest part of german highways!!!!! You must have really good vision to drive during night especially when it is raining!! The biggest part of german highways have no lights (at least the area i move…Dusseldorf to Stuttgart / Blackforest).
    Guys before i come to Germany, i had heard again all of these about the “super” german highways that you enjoy driving etc… Sorry but now after personal experience i believe that this was just a big Myth…..

  4. Judith Offermann says:

    I have made three trips to Germany. The first and third times, I traveled all over Europe by train (as far north as Trondheim, Norway, as far south as Florence, Italy, to London on the west and Budapest on the east. On my second trip, which I was making for genealogy purposes, I rented a car – a tiny little Opal, because I wanted to explore the small villages in Northern Germany. I arrived at the airport in Amsterdam and took a train west to Osnabruck, where I stayed overnight and had reserved my car. From there I explored the area around Minden, where my great grandmother Koenemann and her parents were born, then north to Otterndorf (on the North Sea) and Osterbruch, where my great great grandmother Offermann was born in 1812. So the only driving I did on the Autobahn was when I started my journey in Osnabruch. I was on a section where there were only two lanes and I got behind a convoy of about 5 trucks, and every time i tried to pass, a Mercedes or BMW would appear suddenly behind me flashing its lights and I would have to pull over. Finally, out of sheer frustration, I decided I was going to get around those trucks, so I pulled out when I saw no cars coming up behind me. But before I was able to get around all five trucks, a Mercedes pulled up behind me and appeared to be just inches from my back bumper, and I was not able to manuever between the trucks and pull over. Finally, when I got to the lead truck in the convoy, I was able to pull over. I smiled at the driver as he sped by to show that I did not harbor any ill intent, but that seemed to really make him angry. I couldn’t hear him, but I’m sure by the fact that he appeared to be yelling and was all red in the face, that he was shouting obscenities at me.

    Then when I was ready to return my rental car, I had to get back on the Autobahn again. I had mapped the entire route back to the rental car office, so I felt confident I wouldn’t have a problem. Unfortunately, I was trying to keep up with the flow of traffic and was going so fast, I missed my exit to Osnabruch. I didn’t think I had gone very far past the exit when I saw another for Osnabruch, so rather than get back on the Autobahn, I decided just to try to find my way back to my street in Osnabruch – huge mistake! I wondered around for hours, stopped numerous times to ask for directions, but I couldn’t find anyone who could really speak English well, and I had difficulty understanding them, and they me – though they really, really tried to help me. Finally, I found my street, but I was so confused at that point, I didn’t know what was up and down – much less, which was north and south. I was hours late in returning the rental car, and it was past closing time, but the lights were still on! The very kind employee had waited for me – otherwise I would have had to stay overnight and would not have been able to make it back to Amsterdam to catch my flight early the next morning.

    Loved Germany, but if I ever drive on the Autobahn again, I will rent a more powerful car.

  5. Vince says:

    I lived in Germany for two years as a kid, and riding on the Autobahn was a Roller-coaster ride, and I really look forward to visiting Europe again and driving the Autobahn for myself.

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