Driving and cycling

Owning and driving a car

Requirements for owning a car in Germany include:

  • insurance
  • registration at the local vehicle registration authority (Ger. "Kraftfahrzeugzulassung") 
  • technical inspection by the "TÜV" (and an emissions test - Ger. "ASU" - only cars with a green sticker are allowed to drive through "environmental zones" in certain cities!)

International driving licences are valid for six months.  Before this time is up, you must apply for a German licence at the local "Ordnungsamt".  


Here is a list of traffic signs in Germany with an explanation in English published by the ADAC ("Allgemeiner Deutscher Auto Club", German Automobile Club).  Other important rules to remember are:

  • right hand traffic
  • minimum driving age is 18.  Exception: "Begleitetes Fahren mit 17" (accompanied driving at 17)
  • mandatory seat belts for all passengers
  • prohibition of handheld mobile phones
  • children under 12 must use a child seat (Ger. "Kindersitz")
  • speed limit in towns and cities is 50 km/h, on country roads (Ger. "Landstraßen") 100 km/h and where no signs restrict speed, 130 km/h is recommended
  • some breaches of traffic rules result in points being given in the "Flensburger Verkehrssünder-Datei" which may lead to withdrawal of your licence and prohibition from driving for a certain time
  • speed cameras (known as "Blitzer") and radar speed checks (Ger. "Radarkontrollen) are common
  • drinking and driving is not recommended: there is a limit of 0.5% alcohol level as from the age of 21 and being involved in an accident, even with a lower level, will make you liable, irrespective of who caused the accident
  • if you are involved in an accident or witness one, you have the obligation to give first aid (regular courses are offered by the German Red Cross and are mandatory when obtaining your driving licence)
  • in case of an emergency, there are emergency telephones on the motorways or dial 112
  • "Staumeldungen" (reports of traffic jams) are easily accesible on the radio, online or on your GPS
  • watch out for parking restrictions on streets in towns and cities: you may have to use the "Parkuhr Parkscheibe" (a parking "clock" you should always have in your car) when there is a limitation of time or pay for a "Parkschein" (a ticket which should be displayed inside your windscreen and is obtained from a machine).  Otherwise look for a "Parkhaus" or "Tiefgarage" (covered parking). 
  • in most cities you are not allowed to wash your car at home; you must go to a car wash (Ger. "Autowaschanlage")
  • in winter, you must use winter tyres (Ger. "Winterreifen") 

Riding a bicycle

Cycling is much loved in Germany, both as a means of transport and for bicycle tours (Ger. "Fahrradtour").  There are many cycling lanes in cities and in the countryside, for example along rivers.  All traffic laws must be adhered to and bicycles have to comply with technical specifications (brakes, lights, etc).  Children are usually taught the rules in primary school and are given a licence!