General tips for car hire in Germany
In Germany, it's common to drive a manual car as is the tradition in a large part of Europe. If you are coming from the United States or the United Kingdom, you might want to ask at the rental station if you can rent a car with automatic transmission. Keep in mind that this cars are usually more expensive for car hire as there are less of them available. If you are planning to use your car hire in Germany for long trips, it might be worth it to ask for a diesel car as they tend to be more economical for long-distance rides.
When driving on the highway you should drive as fast as you still feel comfortable controlling the car. If you will be overtaking someone and then keep driving on the right lane, don't be surprised if the car behind you will start flashing you. It means that he wants to go faster than you and he wants you to move back to the left lane. Just be sure to always move back as soon as you overtake others and it will be okay.
To support the vast roads network that extends across the entire country, they also have plenty of motorway services set up along the highways. Usually, they are 40-60 km apart from each other and you can commonly find restrooms, as well as picnic places and gas stops there, where you can rest after the drive. If you are interested to read more about the motorway services, you can find all the details here >>
Driving regulations for car hire in Germany
As in most of Europe, you will need to drive on the right lane and overtake on the left one. Slow-moving vehicles must always move to the right side so that faster vehicles can pass on the left.
International driving license
If you are coming from United States or a country outside of European Union, then you will need an International driving license as well as your original one for the car hire.
The legal age for driving is 17 years, which is different than the rest of Europe. Regardless, most car rental agencies only rent the car if the driver is 18 years of age and if they are under 25 years, there is usually an additional young driver fee applied as they consider them a riskier age group.
Speed limits (on highways and otherwise)
Germany is known for its highways with no restrictions regarding the speed limits. That is why many drivers with fast sports cars tend to go there to push the pedal to the metal and see how fast their car hire can go. But even on Autobahn (German expression for highway), there are some speed limits, even if only on parts of it. Usually, that is if there is a sharper turn or an interchange. The limit there can range from 80 to 130 km/h. Also when entering the country, you will see road signs with the speed limits marked for cities, regional roads, and highways. Note that while the limit for the first 2 is strictly applied and in case you break it, they will write you a fine, the limit for the highway is merely a recommendation from the German Government.
In case of low visibility or bad road conditions, you will also need to adjust your speed or you could get a fine even though there is no official speed limit. Be careful to follow the road signs in Germany in case of heavy fog.
Even if the highways are a bit of a Wild West, it doesn't mean that they do not have strict speed limits elsewhere. In the cities, the standard 50 km/h limit still applies as everywhere in Europe. The start of an urban area is marked with a yellow road sign in Germany with the name of the city or village. Keep in mind that when passing that road sign your speed will already need to be under the speed limit, or you can get a fine! If you are driving in rural areas, the default speed limit is 100 km/h.
Traveling with kids
If you are traveling with children under 13 years of age or less than 1.5 m tall (whichever they reach first applies), know that they can only seat in the back seat. In case you are planning a longer ride with your care hire in Germany check out our list of games you can play in the car.
Equipment in the car
It is not mandatory to have any of the mentioned items in the rental car, but they are all highly recommended as they are there to increase the safety of the driver and other passengers.
- Warning triangle. Highly recommended as in case of an accident you should set the triangle 30m away from the car to signal other vehicles of the breakdown.
- Reflective jacket. The same as the warning triangle its recommended as it increases your visibility in case you have a breakdown in bad weather conditions or at night.
- First aid kit.
This road signs are written in German!
Due to a large amount of traffic going through Germany on a daily basis, most of the road signs in Germany are written in a way to make it clear what they mean no matter where you are from. However, sometimes you can find a road sign in Germany with something written in German. You might be thinking to yourself, »I don't speak German, what should I do!«, well no worries, we compiled all the most common road signs in Germany, together with their translations below.
- Ausfahrt - exit
- Umleitung – detour
- Einbahnstraße – a one-way street
- Parken verboten – parking is forbidden
- Parkhaus – parking garage
- Tankstelle – gas station
- Benzin – gas
Besides this kind of road signs in Germany, you could stumble upon some that don't have anything written on it, they just have color markings. Here are a few examples:
A circular yellow road sign with a green edge and a green letter H in the middle. This one marks a Bus or streetcar stop and it is usually found in the cities. Parking here is not allowed.
In front of tunnels, you can see road signs showing a car with headlights turned on and Licht an! or Licht aus? written on it. It is there to remind you to turn on headlights before entering the tunnel and to switch them off when leaving it.
Road signs in cities
When driving your car hire to a city you will see a yellow road sign with the name of the city, marking the start of an urban area where the speed limit is 50 km/h. Likewise, when you will be leaving the area there will be the same kind of road sign but crossed over in red, meaning that you are leaving the area and that the speed limit is now 100 km/h.
If you will be parking in a smaller street, you might see a red and white ribbon marking wrapped around the street light. That means that this light does not stay on the whole night, therefore its not advisable to leave your car there over the night as its more likely to attract unwanted attention.
If you decide on car hire in an airport, there is a triangle road sign with a plane on it that you might notice nearby. It warms you to be prepared for unexpected noise and if driving at night the glare of landing lights.
Sometimes you might come across a road sign that is only in effect under certain conditions. For example, if you see a road sign marking a speed limit, and underneath a square black and white road sign with a car on waves and bei Nasse written. This means that the speed limit above only applies if the road is wet.
With more and more emphasis being put on protecting the environment, it's not uncommon to see road signs regulating the type of vehicle allowed in certain areas in bigger cities. These road signs are made of 2 parts, the upper one has a white circle with a red edge, with Umwelt written on it. Underneath you have a road sign with a red, yellow and green circle marking that only vehicles with this kind of sticker are allowed in this zone.
Toll roads and tunnels
Freie Fahrt für freie Bürger! - Free driving for free citizens! Its a popular saying in Germany when it
comes to discussing toll roads. The country does not charge any tolls for vehicles under 3.5 tonnes, which means that you will not need to worry about paying any fees when using their highways (unless you have an incredible amount of luggage).
They also only have 2 tunnels where you will need to pay a fee to use them. One is Warnow Tunnel (Warnow-Rostock) where you will need to pay 2.36 € to 3.60€ depending on your car. The second tunnel is Herren Tunnel (Lubeck-Travemunde) where you will be charged 0.75€ to 0.90€ for its use.