Wednesday, July 9, 2014

How to Drive Germany's Autobahn and Live to Tell About It

Parking is indicated throughout Europe with a white "P" in a blue square.
I've easily driven in five countries in Europe with no problems except one--a flat tire in France (You can read about that mini-disaster here.)--but I was nervous about Germany.  For the most part David and I would be sticking to two-lane roads, but what about the autobahn?  There's no speed limit on many autobahns (Some do post a limit).  Cars would be whizzing past us at a hundred miles an hour!

What if David and I couldn't figure out where we were going and got stuck on an inner autobahn lane, missing an exit and going miles out of our way with no hope of finding our destination?  What if we were going so slowly that we got a ticket for holding up traffic?  How would we figure out where, or how, to pay the fine?  What if we tried to go fast and, not being used to such high speeds, crashed?  How would we explain broken ribs to the ambulance guys when we couldn't speak German? Would our insurance really come through or would we be paying off the totaled car for the next twenty years?
Rest Area Facility Sign
I had so many concerns it's a wonder either of us ever opened the car door let alone worked up the courage to slip behind the wheel!
That's kilometers, not miles!
But I needn't have worried.  Once David, a.k.a. Parnelli Jones, had a taste of driving our VW GTI beauty with black leather upholstery and red stitching, there was no getting him back in the passenger seat.  This car had such get-up-and-go and handled so beautifully that David was only half-kidding when he wondered if we could ship it back to Tucson.  We loved that car and we loved driving in Germany!

So, here, are suggestions for driving successfully in Germany.

First of all, get a global positioning system, GPS, as it will rescue you from innumerable road construction messes, traffic snarls, and general ineptitude (Our ineptitude, not Germany's).  Constance (never Connie) provided us such peace of mind she was worth far more than her €33 price tag (total for ten days.)

International road signs are symbols any ten-year-old could understand.  Even if you don't know the words that may accompany the signs, you will be able to figure them out.

On the autobahn you  w i l l  be passed by drivers going over 100 mph, but, if you stay in the right lane except to pass, you won't have any problems.  And you may be surprised to find yourself driving just as fast as they are!  Parnelli David got the hang of it very quickly.
This rest area had everything and let us know in three languages.
There are elaborate rest stop areas where you can do everything imaginable--picnic, stay in the motel, eat, shower, play on the playground, camp, or just use the toilet, called the WC in Germany, (for a fee, of course).  We spent a happy hour at this rest area.

Getting gas is easy, much like it is in the States or Canada; first you pump the gas and then pay for it inside.
We noticed many overpasses with lots of trees.  Maybe these serve as safe passageways for animals.
The roads we encountered in Germany are smooth as butter.  We've rarely seen so much highway that is pothole-free.  Even the golf-cart lane Constance insisted we take once had no bumps.  We concluded Germany must spend all its money on road maintenance.

We're not planning to return to Germany any time soon, but when we do, I assure you I'll be the one clamoring for a rental car--preferably one with black leather upholstery and red stitching.  Now, if only I can get David to let me drive.

Practicalities -
Remember the rule of thumb which is to use public transportation in big cities and rental cars to travel the countryside from village to village.

Make sure your German rental is equipped with a paper dial clock because you use this when you park in a municipal or fee lot.  You'll set the time and leave the clock on your dash so policemen will know how long you've been there.

Only UK countries (Or countries that were conquered by England such as India.) drive on the "wrong," or left side, of the road; all the EU countries on the mainland drive on the "correct," or right side.


  1. Wow, good post. It gives a bright feather.You need to drive like a German – at least like the good German drivers. That means not only knowing the rules. The high-speed autobahn is no place to make mistakes!When I was traveling many places in Auckland through the guide of TT Shuttles Transport service at that time I got some tips of New Zealand drive ideas too.

  2. WOW!!! A world of information. Love to have stumbled upon ur blog :)