If you’re taking a road trip across Europe, Germany is definitely at the top of your destination list. In all honesty, you’re probably going to have some of the most beautiful views as you drive along: from towering castles to stretches of grassy meadows, there is always something captivating just outside your window.
As you might expect, driving in Germany is different from driving in other countries. From the infamous autobahn in Germany to environmental stickers, the regulations might not be what you’d expect. If you want to learn more about driving in Germany but not sure where to look, then worry not! You’ve come to the right place -- this blog is going to break down all the information you need to prepare for your trip along the German motorway.
Does Germany have toll roads?
The history of toll roads in Germany is a little unclear. They tried to introduce toll systems which German citizens could get reimbursed for. However since this means only foreigners would pay toll fees, the proposal was scrapped recently before it could be implemented.
That doesn’t mean that there are no toll roads in Germany. If your vehicle has a gross weight of 7.5 tonnes or more, you’ll have to pay some fees. If not, then you’re free to drive around without the worry of paying toll fees!
Should your vehicle weigh more than 7.5 tonnes, you can prepay your toll fees in a few different ways:
1. Log-in via a toll station:
Germany has some toll terminals scattered around the country at truck stops, service areas, and service stations. You don’t need to log in or be registered to use any of these terminals.
The system is easy to navigate -- you pay for the roads you will take. There is also an English option, so you don’t need to worry about the language barrier!
If you’re not sure where to find toll stations, you can locate toll stations on the Toll Collect website!
2. Online via Toll Collect:
Toll Collect is the official website to pay your toll fees. One of the easiest ways to pay through their website by “booking a route”. You’ll be redirected to a payment page where you fill in information about your route and vehicle. There, your fees will be calculated and you can pay without needing an account.
However, if you wish to have different payment methods to choose from, such as credit card or fuel cards, you should sign up for an account.
3. Toll Collect application:
If you want to have easy access to your route information, then download the Toll Collect application. The process is similar to the webpage, just adjusted to fit your phone’s smaller screen!
To quickly break it down, Germany has designated environmental zones to limit air pollutants in nearby communities. They’re scattered around the country, and you cannot drive in those areas without having an environmental badge. Failure to have one can result in a hefty fine of roughly £73.00, including additional charges for entering, stopping, or parking in an environmental zone!
Chances are, your vehicle will qualify for a Green environmental badge. You can purchase this online (for the cheap price of £12.00) in just a few short steps. It is worth double-checking which badge your vehicle qualifies for, and look into detailed steps on how to purchase your environmental badge.
Autobahn Driving Rules:
When you hear about the autobahn in Germany you probably think of lawless highway roads where cars can speed along as fast as they please. That couldn’t be further from the truth -- there are several driving rules in place to ensure everyone has a safe journey. Familiarising yourself with these rules is important before you start your road trip:
1. Always drive to the right
Like most countries, the left lane is typically reserved for people who want to test the limits of speed. If you’re not planning to drive at a high speed, then it’s best that you stick to the right lane. It is also important to remember to never pass a car by driving on the right lane.
2. Headlights from the car behind you
Should you end up in the left lane and slow down, the car behind you may flash their headlights to indicate that they’re coming close. Although it may seem stressful at the moment, there is no need to panic! Simply slide to the right lane when possible, and all will be fine.
3. Hazard lights from the car in front of you
If the car in front of you flashes its hazard lights, it doesn’t mean you’re in immediate danger. It simply means that the car in front of it has slowed down or stopped suddenly, and you should slow down or move to another lane.
4. Speed radars
Although you might think that there are no speed limits on the autobahn, that is actually quite far from the truth! Some parts of the autobahn in Germany have speed limits, and they definitely have traffic speed cameras along the road. You’ll see white signs with black numbers in a red circle to indicate the changed speed limit. Just because you can’t see the cameras though, that doesn’t mean they won’t catch you, and if they do you’ll have a very hefty fine.
5. The Rettungsgasse
The Rettegunsgasse refers to an emergency vehicle lane that should be formed from when traffic is backed up on the autobahn in Germany (and similarly in the Austrian autobahn). Drivers are required to move to the far right or the far left lanes so there is an open middle lane for emergency vehicles to pass by.
Check out more driving rules in Germany!
Just because Germany doesn’t have extensive toll roads, it doesn’t mean that no one else does! The autobahn extends through Austria and Switzerland, and if you decide to venture across the border, make sure to be prepared for your journey.
You need to purchase a vignette to be able to use the autobahn. There are 10-day, 2-month, and annual vignettes. These stickers must be visibly stuck to the front windshield.
You can purchase vignettes online on the ASFINAG website. Alternatively, you can buy a vignette from gas stations in Germany.
Switzerland also requires drivers to purchase a vignette to use Swiss motorways. However, unlike Germany, the vignette is valid for a calendar year, without the option to buy daily, weekly, or monthly vignettes. Make sure that it is applied properly, or else you’ll face fines.
You can purchase Swiss vignettes online, or on the border. Although there is a booking fee if you buy it online, you do get to skip the long lines if you purchase a vignette at the border.
And just like that, you’re ready to take on the German motorway! If you want to drive a motorhome, but don’t know where to look, then be sure to check out the wide variety of motorhomes Goboony has to offer. In just a few short clicks, you can embark on the road trip of a lifetime. Will you visit a festival in Europe? Or take the ultimate European road trip?