British in Germany

Living in Germany


Driving in Germany

If you are driving to Germany then there are a number of things you need to know:-

Seat belts are compulsory. All front-/rear-seat occupants have to wear seat belts, if fitted.

Driving on the 'wrong side of the road' in a right hand drive car takes a short while to master. Think "right, right, right, right' each time you get in the car, you can even set some navigation systems to remind you. Be especially careful when setting off from service stations or restaurants that are on the left side of the road.

If you can, begin your journey in daylight after a good nights sleep, driving on the motorways (Autobahn) in Germany at night takes getting used to as there are often no cat's eyes.

Take care when overtaking - allow more space between you and the car in front so you can see further down the road ahead, and remember, that car miles behind you in the rear view mirror can be up your back end faster than you can say "Michael Schumaker".

Although many stretches of motorway in Germany have no speed limit, they do exist and when speed limits are shown they are implemented rigorously. Radar traps are frequent, and heavy on-the-spot fines can be levied.

There aren't many roundabouts in Germany, but they do exist. Be particularly careful at roundabouts and junctions - remember that you go around roundabouts anti-clockwise (the opposite way to the UK).

Familiarise yourself with road signs and general road rules. Some of the signs and road markings will be familiar to Brits, but there are some that are different and some are downright unique!

Be especially careful at traffic lights when turning right. Often pedestrians have a green light too and you must give way to them. It's a bit of a shock when you're a pedestrian too, I shouted at the first car that drove towards me as I crossed on green, only to realise that he was on green too.

Petty crime in Germany is a lot less than in the UK. However, foreign registered cars do attract thieves, who look for valuable items left in the car. Be especially careful about where you park your car and avoid leaving your possessions inside. If you do have to leave your possessions in the car, make sure that as much as possible is locked and covered in the boot, but please take valuables with you.

Petrol stations may be pay first, self service or full service. Look for signs in the garage.

Fuel available at petrol stations are unleaded (bleifrei) petrol (91, 95 and 98 octane), diesel and LPG. No leaded petrol is available in Germany (lead substitute additive can be bought).

Payment cards (credit/charge/debit) are accepted at most filling stations, but not all. Check before you fill up. Oh and check with your card issuer about how much usage in Germany may cost you before you travel, some cards are free to use abroad, others aren't.

Make sure you don't run out of petrol on the motorway, there are on the spot fines for being stupid.

There are no toll booths for motorways in Germany, but since January 1 2005 there is a toll for any HGV vehicles called an LKW-Maut. Lorries weighing over 12 tonnes are now charged per kilometre. So, if you are a trucker who's mysterioulsy landed here, you have three choices of how to pay, you can register on the internet, at one of the Toll-Collect stations in petrol stations, service stations etc, and there's also an on-board unit OBU. You can find more information about the system at Toll Connect (in English too).

Do not drink and drive! I mean, you shouldn't anyway, but Germany has strict drink driving laws, only allowing 0.25 milligrams of alcohol per litre of blood - stricter than the UK. You can even lose your driving licence for riding a bike whilst under the influence. You have been warned!

Keep your cool, there are on-the-spot fines for such things as using abusive language or making derogatory signs, although most Germans don't understand the two fingered salute, they just think you're ordering two beers.


Driving Licence

If you drive on the roads in Germany you must have a valid driving licence (Führerschein), and you have to carry your licence on all journeys. Your British driver's licence is valid in Germany, and there's no limit on the amount of time you are allowed to drive here, but if you move here to live and It's your main place of residence, you will have to change your licence to a German one. This is especially important if you are involved in an accident. Carrying a licence that has the wrong address, or that has run out (the UK photo licence is only valid for ten years) can void your insurance.

Getting a German licence is very, very easy. Just go to the local council offices (Ordnungsamt Rathaus).  And visit the licence authority (Fahrerlaubnisbehörde). You can find your local one on the KFZ portal.

If you don't speak German try to take along a friend who does, along with your friend, take your British photo licence and your full licence with a couple of recently taken biometric photos, your passport and most importantly, the registration documents you were given when you first moved to Germany. If you've moved within Germany, you'll also need the new registration documents, but you must have that original, because it shows you moved from the UK. There's no need to do an eye test or anything like that, but you will have to pay for the new licence when you ask for it. It takes about 2 - 4 weeks, and they'll send a letter to pick it up. Take your receipt and they'll swap your old British photo licence for a new German one, you still keep the full licence paperwork. The best thing is, the German driving licence will last you for the rest of your life (if you stay in Germany). If you move back to the UK, you can swap it back just as easily.


Vehicle Registration

If you have your own car, all vehicles have to be registered. If you buy a new or used car from a dealer, they should do this for you. Otherwise you'll need to DIY it at the local motor vehicle registry (Autozulassungsstelle). Take proof of ownership, proof of insurance, safety inspection (TÜV certificate) and, if you bought the car in Germany, the original vehicle registration certificate (Kraftfahrzeugbrief), this document stays with the car throughout its working life. If you move, you have to re-register the car.

You number plates start with letters, which reflect the area you live. F for Frankfurt / B for Berlin / DA for Darmstadt etc. This is followed by a couple more letters and then some numbers. Thankfully you see much fewer personalised number plates in Germany. If you move out of an area you have to get new number plates.

TÜV what we know as an MOT

If your car needs a a TÜV (Technischer Überwachungsverein) you can ask a garage to do all the necessary or take it to the Technischer Überwachungsverein yourself. Cars have to undergo a TÜV (sounds like toof to me) every two years, but you're car is new your first inspection is after three years, and then every two years. In a TÜV the engine, chassis, frame and all other components, including brakes, tires, horn, wheel alignment, windshield, lights and mirrors are checked. Vehicles that fail inspection usually do so because of rust or faulty lights, exhaust, brakes or tires. The basic rule is that if an item is mounted on the vehicle, it must function and be completely serviceable even if it's not essential to the operation of the car. (This means that if you have electronic wing mirrors, they have to work electronically!)


Car Insurance

Third-party insurance is mandatory to drive in Germany. Most gold and platinum credit cards cover standard insurance; otherwise, check to make sure that your regular car insurance will carry over onto your rental car. If you rent, lease, or borrow a car, you will need a green card, or International Insurance Certificate, to prove that you have liability insurance. Obtain it through the car rental agency. If you lease a car, obtain a green card from the dealer.

Verify whether your auto insurance applies abroad; even if it does, you will still need a green card to certify this to foreign officials. If you have a collision abroad, the accident will show up on your domestic records if you report it to your insurance company.

If you belong to the AA, you are eligible for roadside assistance, discounts on some forms of car insurance, and other road services from the German motor club equivalent, Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil Club (ADAC), Am Westpark 8, 81373 Munich ((089) 767 60). All major cities have an ADAC branch.



Living in GermanyHave we forgotten anything? You can contact us on the forum | About Us | ©1999 - 2010 InHand