Understand the different types of roads in Germany and the rules which apply to each of them...

Types of Road in Germany

  • The motorway network is the Autobahn with blue road signs
  • There are also express routes Kraftfahrstraßen
  • The regional roads are Landesstraßen with yellow road signs

Autobahn/motorways

Motorway police are Autobahnpolizei

Tolls: German motorways are toll-free for cars at present. However, it is likely that tolls will be introduced at some point in the future to fall in line with other European countries. Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) pay a per-Km fee which is collected electronically.

Speed limits and recommendations: There is an advisory speed limit of 130 Km/h and 80 Km/h for HGVs, coaches, trucks and vehicles with trailers attached. Certain buses and vehicles with trailers are permitted to travel at 100 Km/h on the Autobahn and will have an official sticker attached indicating this. In roadwork sections the advisory speed limit is often lowered to 60 Km/h. Vehicles with a top speed of less than 60 Km/h (for example, mopeds) are banned on the Autobahn. The advisory speed limit is also often reduced in hazardous weather conditions

Heavy traffic: Many sections of the Autobahn have electronic traffic monitoring and warning signs. It is customary for motorists at the rear of a traffic jam to switch on their hazard warning lights to warn oncoming traffic.

In stationary traffic on the Autobahn, cars in the left lane are required to move as far to the left as possible and cars in the centre or right lanes must move as far to the right in their lane as possible. This is to create a gap for emergency vehicles to pass through.

During peak times traffic jams (Staus) occur frequently on the Autobahn. Signs along the motorway indicate the name and frequency of the local regional radio station for current traffic reports (in German) called Verkehrsfunk, Verkehrsmeldungen or Verkehrsdienst.

In exceptional circumstances, traffic is sometimes permitted to use the hard shoulder to ease congestion and a blue sign with four arrows (one in the hard shoulder) will indicate this.

Emergencies: Emergency telephones are located every 1.5-3 Km along the hard shoulder and are marked by arrows on white posts in the direction of the next nearest call box. In case of a breakdown or accident, pull over to the hard shoulder and place the warning triangle (Warndreick) 200m away to warn oncoming traffic. Call the breakdown services from the next nearest phone.

It is illegal to stop unnecessarily on the Autobahn and this includes running out of fuel which is deemed an avoidable occurrence by the motorway police (Autobahnpolizei).

Motorway services: Motorway service areas (Rasthof or Raststätte) are usually every 40-60 Km and have filling stations, restaurants and accommodation facilities.

  • For information in English about motorway services: Click here

In addition to the service areas there are parking areas alongside the Autobahn with toilet facilities.

  • There is a motorways website with up to date information on motorways including roadworks and planned extensions (Baustellen): Click here (in German)

Main trunk roads

  • Dual carriageways have a speed limit of 100 Km/h for cars and 80 Km/h for cars with trailers and lorries/trucks weighing less than 7.5 ton
  • For HGVs over 7.5 tons the speed limit is 60 Km/h

Rural and secondary roads

Speed:

  • Speed limits are 50 Km/h in built-up areas such as towns and villages. This is depicted by a sign with a yellow background, a black border and black writing bearing the name of the place
  • On leaving a town a similar sign, this time with the place name crossed out and the name and distance to the next town above, indicates that 100 Km/h applies once more
  • Residential areas often have a 30 Km/h speed restriction (Tempo 30 Zone) which will be signposted
  • There are also designated zones to protect children playing (Spielstrassen) which have a speed limit of 5-7 Km/h known as Schrittgeschwindigkeit (at a speed which barely registers on the speedometer)

Rail crossings: Give way to rail traffic at railway crossings. Some crossings may not have a barrier. Driving across a railway crossing once the warning lights start flashing is punishable by a fine and points on the licence.

Mountain passes: closed in extreme weather conditions.

Priorities at crossroads

At unmarked crossroads priority is given to the vehicle approaching from the right. Failure to give way can is punishable by fines and licence points

  • For a full explanation and illustration of traffic signs giving right-of-way: Click here