Driving Guide

Germany Driving Guide

Explore Germany by driving with International Driving Permit

2023-12-21 · 9min read

Envision exploring the picturesque landscapes and lively cities of Germany. Navigating the roads takes you beyond the ordinary, immersing you in the essence of German culture.

Picture yourself driving through charming towns, exploring majestic castles, and savoring Germany's renowned beer and delightful cuisine.

If it's your initial visit, don't be daunted by the thought of driving in a foreign land. This guide has you covered, offering everything you need to navigate the roads of Germany confidently.

Let's Take a Closer Look at Germany

General Information

Germany, right in the heart of Europe, is a fantastic destination. Its unique culture, shaped by history, delicious food, and stunning architecture, makes it a must-visit for anyone exploring Europe.

Geographic Location

Germany is in Western and Central Europe. The country borders Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, and France on the west, the Czech Republic and Poland on the east, Switzerland and Austria on the south, Denmark on the north, and the Baltic Sea on the northeast.

It is a country with a landscape of forests, rivers, mountain ranges, and North Sea beaches. The country's geographic setting has played a pivotal role in shaping its complex and multifaceted history.

Languages Spoken

German is the official language of Germany, with most Germans speaking it as their first language. Other languages spoken include Sorbian, North Frisian, Danish, Romani, Turkish, and Kurdish.

English is also widely spoken, with 56% of the population able to communicate in the language. This eliminates language barriers when visiting Germany.

Land Area

Germany is the sixth-largest country in Europe, spanning 349,360 square kilometers (data from 2018), with a population of over 83 million. Agriculture dominates the country, utilizing over 52 percent of the land area.

As Europe's second-largest agricultural producer, Germany generated 53.1 billion EUR in agricultural production in 2017. In addition to its tourist attractions, Germany offers high-quality products. To fully enjoy your time in the country, plan for the best experience.


As Europe's largest economy, Germany played a significant role in the continent's economic, political, and defense organizations. After WWII, two German states were formed: the Western Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the Eastern German Democratic Republic (GDR).

The reunification of Germany brought challenges, particularly in the economy, due to structural issues and unification costs. Despite past difficulties, Germany is now a popular tourist destination known for its rich culture and attractions.


Germany practices a federal system with 16 states, each having a parliament and state leader. Berlin, Hamburg, and Bremen city-states have mayors. Every state has its police force, health, and education system. This decentralized structure evolved from the Roman-German Empire, where small fiefdoms had councils and could coin their own money.


Millions visit Germany annually because of its scenic attractions, delicious cuisine, and rich culture. Among the top things to do in Germany are exploring its natural beauty, historic sites, charming towns, and stunning forests and mountains.

The blend of old charm and modern cities makes it an ideal destination. Germany is traditionally more affordable than other European countries, with a wide range of food, accommodations, and drink options.

International Driving Permit FAQs

Do I Need an International Driver's Permit (IDP) to Drive in Germany?

You need an International Driver's Permit in Germany. While Germany has agreements allowing drivers from certain countries to drive with their national driver's licenses, it is highly recommended for all foreign drivers to carry an IDP.

This document, valid in over 150 countries, is an internationally recognized translation of your driving license and can help remove any potential language barriers when dealing with German authorities.

Is Driving in Germany Hard?

Driving in Germany is a breeze! Well-maintained roads and logical road signs make navigation a breeze. Even if you don't speak German, road signs will guide you to city centers and parking areas. After exploring the country, road signs will lead you back to your chosen Autobahn. Just follow the proper Autobahn etiquette.

Germany is known for its safe drivers. Obtaining a license requires thorough theoretical knowledge and extensive practical training. It's a challenging process, and many fail the test on the first or second attempt. Passing the German driving test is no piece of cake.

What if I Get Involved in an Accident While on the Road?

Stop immediately if an unfortunate event happens, like getting involved in an accident. This also applies if you are not involved in the accident but are a witness. If anyone is injured, you should call for an ambulance and a police officer. Otherwise, you should mark the vehicle's location, take a picture, and move out of the traffic. Immediately dial 110 for emergency rescue.

What Is the Unit to Measure Speed in Germany?

When driving in Germany, speed limits are imposed to prevent accidents. There are two units of speed measurement: MPH (miles per hour) and KPH (kilometers per hour). Germany uses KPH for speed limits.

Germany is the only EU member state with no speed limit on highways. Pay attention to speed limit signs, as some may have no labels. If you exceed the speed limit, you may be stopped by a traffic officer.

Is it Safe to Drive Late at Night in Germany?

Traveling by car in Germany is typically secure. While major cities may present some crime challenges, overall safety prevails. Autobahns and rural roads may lack street lamps, but their well-designed infrastructure guarantees visibility within your headlights' reach when you stick to recommended speed limits.

During nighttime, Germany's road network stands out as one of the safest globally. However, be cautious of vehicles that might exceed speed limits on unrestricted roads. To ensure your safety, maintain your lane and strictly follow all traffic regulations.

Renting a Car in Germany

Exploring the beauty of Germany at your own pace is a dream many travelers share. Renting a car offers the freedom to traverse picturesque landscapes and vibrant cities.

Here's a brief overview to make your car rental experience in Germany smoother:

Car Rental Companies

Many tourists opt to rent a car when navigating Germany for their own convenience and comfort. Numerous online options, such as Europcar with its enticing loyalty program, make the process seamless.

Other reputable choices include Autoeurope, Kayak, Sixt, Hertz, and Rentalcars. However, if you prefer spontaneity, you can also rent a car upon arrival in Germany, although prices at rental booths may be slightly higher.

Documents Required

To rent a car in Germany, essential documents include your local driver's license and government-issued ID, such as your passport. Additionally, having an International Driver's Permit is advisable, as many car rental companies require it. This permit complements your local driver's license and passport, ensuring a smooth rental process.

Vehicle Types

Different rental companies offer a variety of vehicles for rent in Germany. You can select from diesel or gas models in different sizes and types, such as compact, medium, or SUV. Automatic vehicles are pricier and may only be available for larger models.

Opting for a small, budget-friendly manual car is advised for cost savings and maneuverability on Germany's winding and narrow roads. This choice not only helps you save money but also ensures easier handling. If traveling with several adults, considering an upgrade to a larger European car could provide added comfort and space.

Car Rental Cost

Prices fluctuate across companies and countries, turning the cheapest rate in one location into the most expensive in another. Standard rates typically cover unlimited mileage, VAT, third-party liability insurance, and essential add-ons. Roadside assistance, however, is often an extra expense, safeguarding against mechanical failures.

Consider supplementary fees for winter tires or add-ons like child seats, GPS, and drop-off/pick-up services—factor in budget considerations for fuel, tolls, and parking to avoid unexpected expenses.

Age Requirements

Rental companies may impose a minimum age requirement, commonly 18 or 21, with some even setting higher thresholds. Age is just one criterion; a local driver's license is another prerequisite. Some companies mandate an Underage Driving Fee for those under 21, and violating age requirements can lead to severe penalties.

Car Insurance Cost

One significant extra cost when renting a car is insurance. Securing car insurance is imperative in Germany. Your rental contract typically incorporates third-party liability insurance fees within the rental cost. Discuss additional details on car insurance costs with the rental company.

Car Insurance Policy

Car insurance serves varied purposes, depending on the policy you choose. Here's a brief overview of common coverage types:

1. Collision Damage Waiver (CDW): This insurance covers the costs of damages your
rented car incurs while in use, providing peace of mind in case of accidents.

2. Theft Protection Insurance: This coverage safeguards against damages if your rented
car is attempted or successfully stolen, ensuring financial protection.

3. Third-Party Liability Insurance: In the unfortunate event of a road accident, this
insurance covers the costs incurred by the car you collided with or damaged, offering
comprehensive protection.

For additional insights and options, the car rental company will provide further information on various insurance choices tailored to your rental needs.

The Road Rules in Germany

Familiarizing yourself with the driving rules in Germany and other countries you plan to visit is crucial. This knowledge enhances your travel experience and helps avoid any potential issues with local authorities. Here are some essential rules to keep in mind while driving in Germany:


Driving under the influence of alcohol is strictly prohibited in Germany. The legal blood alcohol limit is 0.05%, with a zero-tolerance policy for drivers under 21 or those with less than two years of driving experience. Violating these restrictions may result in imprisonment for up to one year or a fine.

Turning Signals at an Intersection

Indicating your intention to turn at an intersection is crucial. Turn signal lights should be activated 30 meters before reaching the intersection, and you should be in the closest lane to your turning direction. Always ensure there is no oncoming traffic before proceeding.


In Germany, roadside parking is expected, given its affordability and convenience. A vehicle is considered parked if stationary for over 3 minutes. Avoid parking within 10 meters of traffic lights, 5 meters of pedestrian crossings, or on bike lanes. Choose designated spots, consider parking rates, opt for well-lit areas at night, and secure your belongings when leaving the car unattended.

Check Vehicle Condition

Maintain a safe driving experience by using a registered and fully functional vehicle. Regularly check brakes, horns, mirrors, number plates, lights, and windows to prevent accidents. Adhere to road rules, wear a seatbelt, refrain from cellphone use while driving, and stay vigilant, following traffic signs.

Speed Limits

While some sections of the Autobahn have no speed limit, the recommended speed is 130 km/h (81 mph). Other limits include 130 km/h for motorways, 100 km/h for main roads, and 50 km/h for urban areas.

Driving Directions

Germany's well-maintained roads and scenic routes offer a delightful driving experience, granting easy access to cities and towns of all sizes. The extensive highway and railway network ensures convenient travel throughout the country.

Seatbelt Laws

Seatbelts must be worn by both the driver and passengers at all times—failure to comply results in fines. Children under three require a car seat, and those aged three or older must sit in the rear seats. It's advisable for all passengers, including those in the back, to wear seat belts for safety, especially on busy roads.

Traffic Road Signs

Understanding road signs is crucial when driving in Germany. Familiarize yourself with warning, priority, mandatory, and informational road signs to ensure a safe and informed journey.

Right of Way

Germany follows a hierarchical system for right of way at intersections. Police officers directing traffic take precedence, and roundabouts operate based on clear signage. Right-of-way signs guide traffic, and overtaking is permitted following specific rules.

The legal driving age in Germany is 18, and a local driver's license is mandatory. Carrying your license while driving is essential to avoid fines.

Laws on Overtaking

Overtaking is allowed but must adhere to specific rules, avoiding pedestrian crosswalks with solid white lines and being cautious on multilane roads.

Driving Side

In Germany, people drive on the right side of the road, following the standard practice in Europe and most countries worldwide.

Driving Etiquette in Germany

Unforeseen circumstances can arise, from car breakdowns to police stops. Explore the nuances of driving etiquette in Germany, offering insights into handling car issues, police interactions, asking for directions, and navigating through checkpoints.

Car Breakdown

Even with advanced vehicles, car breakdowns can still occur. If your car faces issues on the road, move it out of the travel lane as much as possible and promptly call for assistance. If safe, exit through the passenger-side door away from traffic, stand a safe distance away, and, ideally, behind a guardrail.

Stay in the car on highways, contact emergency services, turn on hazard lights, and keep your seatbelt fastened. Remember, well-traveled highways are often patrolled, ensuring timely help.

Police Stops

During police stops on German roads, lower your speed and stop promptly if signaled. Respond to officers' questions politely and inquire about the reasons if asked to accompany them. Police stops can be for road rule violations or random checkpoints. Avoid speeding to prevent trouble and fines.

Asking Directions

Germans are generally well-mannered, and seeking directions or assistance while driving in Germany is usually a positive experience. Approach locals politely, as raising your voice or displaying frustration is generally rude.

Feel free to ask anyone for directions, and be respectful. If corrected, take it in stride, as it's a common aspect of German culture.


When approaching a checkpoint, reduce your speed, as personnel may be cautious in security-targeted areas. Whether legal or not, it creates a non-threatening impression. Stay polite and alert when interacting with checkpoint authorities, as they may check your driver's license and required documents. If a dog is used for a search, stay in your car, thank the officer after inspection, and continue your journey.

Driving Road Conditions in Germany

German drivers show commendable discipline on the roads. Contrary to any perception of heightened danger, driving in Germany is safe and often considered less hazardous than in other European countries.

The locals adhere rigorously to driving rules, contributing to the overall safety of the roads. Embracing discipline is key; adhering to road rules ensures a safer driving experience and minimizes the risk of accidents.

Accident Statistics

In 2018, Germany's Federal Statistics Office reported 3,275 road accident fatalities, marking a concerning increase of 95 from the previous year. This upturn signals a departure from the positive trend of the preceding two years.

Furthermore, 396,000 individuals suffered injuries in traffic incidents in 2018, reflecting a rise of 5,706 cases. Despite these figures, it's essential to note that Germans place a high value on road safety. They prioritize adherence to rules and avoid distractions often observed in other countries.

Common Vehicles

Germans have a strong affinity for luxurious cars, considering driving as a symbol of freedom. With over 46 million registered cars in Germany, it's no surprise that two-thirds of adults own a car. Volkswagen holds the top spot, with 15.9% of the German population driving their vehicles. SUVs, economy cars, and minivans are popular German road choices.

Toll Roads

Tolls are applicable exclusively for the Herren Tunnel and the Warnow Tunnel. Payment methods include both manual and automatic options. For manual payments, you can utilize toll collection terminals in designated car parks, a mobile application (Toll Collect), or the internet via the Toll Collect website.

On the other hand, automatic payments are facilitated through the onboard unit Toll Collect and Toll2Go (a system integrated with Toll Collect).

Road Situations

Road conditions in Germany are generally excellent, but caution is advised on old roads. Traffic congestion is expected due to half-day schools and work schedules. Narrow streets, preserved buildings, and congested roads in Berlin (B96, B2, A100) require patience, especially on Thursday evenings and Fridays.

Driving Culture

In Germany, driving is commonly viewed as a leisurely pastime. Given the nation's serious approach to driving, Germans consistently adhere to road rules, fostering a culture of confident and responsible driving.

German driving tests are strict, making people more attentive to signals, pedestrians, and cyclists. This is also why Germans are skilled at driving manual cars and understand driving etiquette well, exceeding standards in many other countries.

The Top Road Trip Destinations in Germany

Germany is renowned for its top-class architecture, boasting around 25,000 castles. The country is famous for its stunning landscapes, cuisine, culture, and history. It's a must-visit destination with many tourist spots for travel enthusiasts. Explore and enjoy all that Germany has to offer with a rented car.


Munich, renowned as the host of the annual Oktoberfest, stands out as a prominent tourist destination in Europe, offering a blend of the old and the new. Whether in architecture or attitude, the city beautifully encapsulates the convergence of tradition and modernity.


The city boasts striking architecture that seamlessly weaves historical and modern designs. Beyond its architectural charm, Stuttgart is celebrated for its lush greenery and delightful festivals, adding a vibrant touch to its appeal.


A visit to Germany wouldn't be complete without a stop in Berlin. It stands out as the ideal destination for a city break in Europe, offering a wealth of rich history, delectable local cuisine, renowned beer, and some of the world's most stunning museums.


A charming town situated on the Neckar River, Heidelberg is renowned for its historic charm and the iconic Heidelberg Castle. The city offers a blend of medieval and baroque architecture, making it a picturesque destination for history lovers.

The Romantic Road

For a truly scenic route, consider the Romantic Road (Romantische Straße), a picturesque journey through medieval towns and villages. Stretching from Würzburg to Füssen, this road trip takes you through vineyards, charming countryside, and fairy-tale castles, providing a quintessential German experience.

Experience Germany Like Never Before with an IDP

Ready for an unforgettable, self-driven journey through Germany? Equip yourself with an International Driver's Permit from the International Driver's Association. It's your gateway to an effortless and comfortable driving experience in Germany.

Don't hold back; initiate your application today! Get your International Driving Permit here.


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