Girl boss guide to the German autobahn

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Today was my first experience driving on the Autobahn in Germany. And let me first say that it was freaking awesome… like, videogame status.

Crossing the border from Austria to Germany was seamless. I was expecting some sort of border patrol… or an authority to stamp my passport *fingers crossed*… none of which existed. The only thing that tipped my off was that every car immediately floored it.

If you’ve never heard of the autobahn, you’re in for a treat. Brace yourself… NO SPEED LIMITS!

The rules are pretty simple. Stay in the right lane if you’re slower than anyone coming up behind you in the left lane. Some people move into the right lane after each car they pass, even if that means switching lanes every minute or so. This is the best way to avoid a a Mazerati blinking its lights at you seemingly out of the blue.

Speed limits do exist, and they seem to appear every 10 minutes or so… depending how fast you’re driving of course. The signs gradually warn of an impending speed limit, decreasing to 80 kph. The limit is usually short-lived, and then it’s back to life in the fast lane.

The freedom of the Autobahn might seem a little cray to those unfamiliar with it. One the other hand, getting a driver license in Germany is very different than America. When I got my license I remember sitting behind the wheel thinking, “I don’t actually think I know how to drive yet.”

The cost to drive in Germany is higher in both time and money. A German driver license can cost up to $3000 and requires 25-45 hours of professional instruction along with 12 hours of theory. So when that Porsche comes zipping up to you flashing its headlights, you can at least relax knowing he knows how to drive.


Guide to Driving Germany’s Autobahn

1. Always Pass on the Left.

It’s illegal to pass on the right unless there is traffic under 20 kph. Once you pass someone move over to the right lane.

2. The Left Lane is for Passing Only

The left lane is for passing, not for cruising. So pass those slower than you then get back into the right lane, unless you see someone slower coming up at a reasonable distance.

3. Only Stop on the Shoulder in Emergencies

Don’t stop on the shoulder unless it is absolutely necessary. Otherwise pull off of the autobahn.

4. Turn on Hazard Lights When Approaching Stopped Traffic

Rather than just slamming on your breaks, turn on your hazard lights when braking hard or coming up to stopped traffic. Just a friendly warning for those behind you to proceed with caution. I’m not sure why we don’t do this everywhere.

5. Flashing Headlights Means the Driver Wants to Pass

It’s now considered illegal, and often rude, to flash your headlights, so I don’t recommend adopting the habit. However, it’s still widely practiced, so I do recommend courtiously changing lanes.

6. The Autobahn’s Recommended Speed is 130 kph (81 mph)

This speed restriction is merely a suggestion. The basic rule of thumb is that you must be going a speed in which you are still in control of the car.

7. The Autobahn’s Minimum Speed is 60 kph (40 mph)

There’s no maximum speed, but there is a minimum speed. It is recommended that newbies just keep with the flow of traffic.

8. If your tires can’t handle the car’s top speed (e.g. snow tires), you need a reminder sticker on your windshield.

A sticker should be placed on the windshield to remind the dirver of the tire’s maximum speed in cases such as driving with snow tires.

Autobahn Traffic Signs

1. Derestriction Sign : Now Entering Unlimited-Speed Section.”

Sometimes the signs include a number painted behind the lines; 130, for example, means the end of the 130-kilometer-per-hour speed limit.

2. Speed Limit Sign : Speed Restriction is In Effect

Germany’s speed limit sign is a simple number, indicating maximum speed, with a red circle around it. When the speed limited section ends, you will see the derestriction sign with the former max speed.

3. No Passing

There are sporadic zones along the autobahn in which no passing is allowed. These zones usually only last a few miles before they end with a derestriciton sign.

Travel Hack

To convert kilometers to miles, drop the 0 and multiply by 6.
Example: Drop a zero off 100 kph leaves you 10 multiplied by 60 equals 60 mph.

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Showing 2 comments
  • Joleen Woods

    My brother lies in Germany, and though I’ve never been, he continues to tell me how cool the Autobahn is. It looks amazing! The road is exceptionally engineered, and so those super high speeds he keeps telling me about are not only possible, but actually quite safe for drivers. Your photos make it look like even more fun!

    • Melissa

      I did feel safer on the Autobahn than I ever have on a US highway! Well… maybe that’s not fair.

      I’ve noticed people seem to be better drivers in many places in Europe because it’s so much more difficult to get a license there. I feel like being able to drive on it with my American license is like a cheat code. lol

      Sounds like you have a free place to stay in Germany. You should definitely pay a visit!

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