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Driving in Germany: what do I need to know?

Driving in Germany can be both a dream and a nightmare. The dream is the world-famous unrestricted autobahns, or motorways, easily one of the most popular reasons for driving in Germany. If you have ever wanted to see just how fast your car will go, driving in Germany on the autobahn is one of the few places you can legally find out.

City driving

On the other hand, driving in Germany in the city is a bureaucratic nightmare, as all cars driving in specific cities are required to display an emissions certificate or vignette before they can enter the ‘emissions zones’ marked ‘Umweltzone’. You can buy these certificates from a number of registered garages and technical centres, or you can obtain one in advance by emailing the Berlin Vehicle Registration Authority at with details of your car. Certificates cost between 5 and 10 Euros, plus a 6 Euro administration fee. Failure to display your certificate when driving in the city will result in a 40 Euro fine.

Winter and Summer Tyres

Another important thing to remember when driving in Germany is that summer tyres are prohibited during winter weather. Since most UK cars are equipped with summer tyres, you need to change your tyres if you are likely to encounter wintry conditions. Failure to do so will cost you 40 Euros, plus a further 80 Euros if your poorly equipped car blocks the road. It does not have to be deep snow for these rules to apply, and even a harsh frost can cause you problems when driving in Germany with the wrong tyres.

On the spot fines

On the spot fines are popular when driving in Germany, and can be applied for anything from speeding to swearing at a police officer. If you can’t, or won’t, pay your fine, your car could be impounded, so it is worth carrying a small amount of Euros ready in case you unwittingly fall foul of the law.

Alcohol limits

Drivers under 21 are not allowed any alcohol in their blood, and the same applies to novice drivers with less than two years’ experience. A hefty fine of 250 Euros awaits anyone caught flouting this law when driving in Germany, so alcohol and driving is best avoided altogether.

Speed Camera detectors

As with many other European countries, radar detectors are strictly prohibited when driving in Germany, and speed camera maps and satnavs with speed camera points marked are strongly discouraged.

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