Germany by car

Last Updated on 11/05/2023

In this post about Germany by car: main signs on the highways, ecological zones and the prohibition of diesel, parking signs.

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Highway in Germany (Autobahn)

The speed, of course, is not limited according to the general rule, but in tunnels there is a limit of 100 km / h (sometimes less), 100-120 (or less) at the intersections of autobahns, on descents, and other difficult sections (there are often radars behind these restrictions).

If you are braking in front of a traffic jam or unexpected deceleration, it is better to turn on the car alarm, as at high speeds it is not always clear that the cars ahead are suddenly slowing down. Driving at full speed to the end of a traffic jam is a typical severe fatal accident in Germany.

On the highways, it is allowed only to stop at parking lots, which are quite common. On the side of the road, you can stop only if there is a breakdown or feeling unwell, immediately call for help, get out of the car, put an accident sign, wear a reflective vest and wait for help behind the road fence.

Parking lots with cafe and gas station (Raststätte)

They meet every 30-60 km. But if you are driving around a large city, be prepared for the fact that the next such parking will not be met soon. On the sign indicating a parking lot with a gas station, below they write how many kilometers the next one will be.

Another option, Autohof, means that the gas station and food are near the Autobahn, but you must exit at the next exit.

Sanifair toilet system operates as follows. You pay for the toilet, get a voucher (pictured) for 50 cents (the price can change) and then pay it in a cafe right here. The coupon can be spent in another cafe where this system operates.

Traffic jams and detours

Traffic jams on the autobahns are quite common due to repairs and general congestion of the highways. Particularly large traffic jams occur on Friday afternoons and at the start of school holidays. The radio regularly reports on the condition of the roads. It is worth listening, because even without knowing the language, you can understand where the problem is. If you are stuck in a slowly advancing traffic jam and an exit is close by, it is sometimes advisable to take a detour (Umleitung).

The most convenient detour route is indicated by the letter U followed by a number. You just have to follow the signs. You can build your route taking into account current repairs on the website In general, the site of the German Automobile Club can be very useful (unfortunately only German). For example, from the Verkehr section, you can download the annual forecast for traffic jams or see the forecast for the week.

Repairs are warned by signs a couple of kilometers away indicating how many meters / kilometers the repair will take. At the beginning of the renovation, there will be signs indicating its length and changing road markings. Road markings are changed with yellow stripes. As a rule, the right lane remains the normal width for trucks, the left is very narrowed, and not every car fits on it next to the truck. It is most comfortable to drive along the lane, which is transferred to the separation barrier during repairs.

What is Rettungsgasse

In the traffic jam, you must create the Rettungsgasse escape route. To do this, the leftmost lane is shifted to the left as much as possible, the rest are shifted to the right, while remaining in their own lane, so that a space for emergency vehicles is formed between the first and second left lane. Failure to comply with this rule, and even more so, attempts to quickly drive along this lane or along the side lane are fined.

Local roads

As in other countries, the highway is just a way to shorten the time to your destination. You will not see the country from it. And given that during the war all more or less large cities were bombed, and some of them were completely destroyed, they should not be included in the trip plan. Therefore, you will inevitably get to know the local roads.

Depending on the importance and, accordingly, the size of the road, they are designated B, L and K.

The first – Bundesstraße (B) – are the most important and have a great length. They can bypass cities, have two lanes and dividers (but the speed is still a maximum of 100 km/h), but they can also enter cities with all the consequences in the form of traffic lights and speed limits.

LLandesstraße – roads connecting cities. Depending on which cities / villages are connected, it can be busy and almost empty. The main disadvantage of these roads is that they are not wide enough and do not have side lanes, and local reckless drivers and trucks often enter the center line. Particularly unpleasant can be meeting in turns with motorcyclists, who not only like to cut turns in the opposite lane, but also very often exceed the speed.

K – very local roads. They are narrow, overly winding and may have poor coverage and steep descents / ascents.


The general restriction for settlements (entry into a settlement is indicated by a yellow sign with the name) – 50 km/h. The limitation of 30 km/h is not uncommon: in relatively large cities – in the center and residential areas, in small ones sometimes throughout the city. If residents are very tired of the noise of the road, they can achieve the 30-kilometer zone even on major road like the Bundesstraße.

One of the most unpleasant rules for foreigners, since it is not in all countries, is valid in 30-kilometer zones at intersections without signs and traffic lights – the driver on the right has an advantage over the driver on the left. You are driving along the main street, as you think, and the driver, turning into it from the right, cuts you off – and he is absolutely right.

When cornering on roads with cycle paths, you must first make sure that the cyclist is not going straight.

Gas stations

Gas stations in Germany are often exemplary: the automation works when filling gasoline, there is a toilet, and the prices are tolerable. First you need to pour gasoline, then go to the cashier.

In small towns, there may be a self-service system: first pay at the machine, then pour gasoline.

You can find the best price in Internet: type “diesel (benzin) Preise”, for example here:

Germany driving signs

Descritions of some Germany driving signs.


A sign indicating the two nearest exits: at the very top after one, below the nearest

On this site you can meet an animal on the road

Exit sign with indication of its number, name of the nearest city and distance to the exit. Sometimes on such a sign there is also a number of a major local road (in a square, as opposed to the exit number, which is in a circle)

Detour sign with its number. Coming off the highway to go around the traffic jam, remember which number you left and then follow the signs with this number

Sign of the beginning of the ecological zone (read more below)

You can no longer enter this city with a red plaque

Germany driving signs

Park+ride. Park and use public transport (often free or very profitable)

One way street

Under such a green arrow, you can turn to a red light, having previously stopped

If the light is red, stop here

Germany driving signs

Only firefighters and other similar services can drive on the road with this sign.

Autohof – gas station and food near the next exit

Pedestrian zone. If there is no additional white sign, you can drive, but slowly.

Restrictive signs, meaning that only landlords, residents, or a delivery service can enter. Anlieger guests or customers are also allowed to enter.

Designation of the nearest places of interest and the road to them.

Road damage

Traces of oil on the road

Only farmers can ride this road (but locals often do it too)


New signs

The few signs introduced in 2020 may be confusing. Fortunately, they are rare.

No overtaking of bicycles.

Green arrow for bicycles only. The normal arrow for cars also works for bicycles.

Cycling zone – all vehicles travel at a speed of 30 km/h, bicycles must not be interfered with.

High speed bike road

Parking for carsharing.

This rule has not yet been introduced, so the sign can only be placed as an experiment: cars in which several people are traveling can use the bus lane.

Cargo bike parking

Full list here, by ADAC

Do you have any more questions? Use comments ⇓ or private communication form

What is Umweltzone in Germany

Those who travel in their cars should be aware that Germany has a law on environmental zones (Umweltzone). Its meaning is simple. Each car receives a sticker on the glass in accordance with its level of emissions (Plakette). Every city has the right to impose restrictions on the entry of cars without plaques or cars with excessive emissions. Most of Germany’s major cities have already these restrictions. And when you see the sign of the ecological zone at the entrance to the city (see above), then you cannot enter it without the correct sticker on the glass.

On you can see (and download) a map with current bans in Germany. You can order a sticker online and receive it by mail or come to a filiale of the organizations listed below and receive it there.

Order online and addresses where you can get the plaque directly. (order on the Internet and addresses where you can get directly) (order on the Internet and addresses where you can get directly) (order on the Internet) (addresses where you can get directly) (order on the Internet) (order on the Internet and addresses where you can get directly)

Diesel ban

In some cities, there is a ban on diesel cars up to Euro 4 or Euro 5, as well as sometimes 0-1 petrol cars.

Berlin: diesel up to Euro 5

  • Leipziger Straße,
  • Brückenstraße,
  • Reinhardstraße,
  • Alt-Moabit,
  • Friedrichstraße,
  • Stromstraße,
  • Hermannstraße,
  • Silbersteinstraße

Gelsenkirchen: diesel up to 5, petrol up to 2 – Kurt-Schumacher-Straße

Hamburg: diesel up to 5 – Max-Brauer-Allee, Stresemannstraße

Mainz: diesel up to 5, petrol up to 2 – Rheinachse (between Rheinstr./Höhe Holzhofstr., Rheinalle/Höhe Neue Feuerwache

Stuttgart: diesel up to 4 – whole city, diesel 5 – whole inner center. That is, diesel 5 cannot drive through the city. More details map. Stuttgart is the most inadequate city of all, which does not think about those people who are not allowed to enter the whole city. The number of parking lots and their integration into the public transport system are minimal. Therefore, if you have doubts about whether to include Stuttgart in the tourist program, and you have diesel 5 or worse, spend the night in Ludwigsburg, visit the palace and park there and visit Wilhelma by train. Stuttgart itself does not deserve your visit with such car problems it creates.

Darmstadt: diesel up to 5, petrol up to 2 – Hügelstraße und Heinrichstraße

The introduction of the ban is also planned in Cologne, Frankfurt am Main, Essen, Bonn.

Parking in Germany

Covered parking does not cause any particular problems – at the entrance you need to take a coupon, pay for it in the machine before leaving and feed it to the machine in front of the gate at the exit. Rates in such parking lots are usually hourly or half an hour. If you park in a shopping center on weekends or intend to return in the evening, take a ticket with you – the doors can be closed and the entrance will be opened only with ticket.

When parking on the street, you need to carefully look at the signs.

Parking can also be free ( Gebührenfrei), but limited in time. Then you need a parking clock (blue card with moving numbers)

Parking signs in Germany

The restriction applies to days from Mon to Sat at the specified time.

Parking is allowed in designated areas for 2 hours, you must put a parking clock

“you can park on Saturdays and Sundays”

Parking can be only for local residents and other categories (for example, disabled people)

This parking is paid

Sign indicating where the payment machine is

Parking is only allowed in the areas marked in blue. Below is the time when parking is paid

Parking is allowed in designated areas.

A common designation: leave the exit free. It can be simply as an inscription, in combination with a parking prohibition sign or a tow truck sign

Parking payment

Street parking is paid in advance. The coupon must be placed under the glass in a conspicuous place. If the vending machine does not want to take your money, try to carefully consider the tariffs – most likely, this is a weekend or a holiday and therefore free.

Consider the payment process at a street vending machine. Other machines will have a different design, but the principle is usually the same. We study the tariffs (1), study the instructions (3), throw in the required number of coins (2), press the button (4), get a piece of paper, put it under the glass of the car. The instructions show the coins that the machine accepts (5). If the machine does not want to give us anything, press the button (6) – return of coins. Important: the machine does not give change.

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