questions about driving in Germany

Mar 5th, 2018, 05:22 AM
  #1  
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questions about driving in Germany

As I finetune my road trip in Germany I do have a few questions I wasn't clear on and would appreciate some clarification:

1. Road food: I understand that Germany's autobahns have rest areas similar to the US. What could I expect in terms of quick meals when covering long distances? I was informed that there are next to no fast food restaurants. There will be times when I'll want to grab something quick/lite and not have to stop and eat inside a restaurant.

2. Vignette: I'll be dipping into the following countries briefly while driving in Germany: Austria, Italy, Switzerland, & Czech Republic. If I'm correct Italy does not require a vignette? Is Switzerland included in the one for Austria or will this be a separate purchase? If not what is the best way to acquire it? What about Czech Republic?

3. What tip(s) would you give to an American driving in Germany? (besides suggestions to use trains or which places to visit) I've previously driven in Mexico and Ireland with no issues and look forward to this trip.

4. GPS: Many rental cars already include GPS so why would someone pay the $8 daily fee for this? I declined this when picking up my rental in Dublin and saw that my brand new car had a shiny new interface complete with GPS. Would you recommend a hand held unit (Garmin or similar) or will your smart phone work fine? I'm the kind of traveler that will want to plot my points of interest in ahead of time.

Thanks!

Last edited by tailsock; Mar 5th, 2018 at 05:26 AM.
tailsock is offline  
Mar 5th, 2018, 05:58 AM
  #2  
 
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1. Czech road food is barely existent beyond McDonalds; pack some sandwiches or be prepared to eat horrible food from the petrol stations.

2. There are purchase points for the Austrian and Czech vignettes before you reach the borders; though, your rental car may have an Austrian vignette? No, the Austrian vignette does not cover Switzerland. On our last trip across Switzerland a Vignette-person at the border will happily take your cash and slap a sticker on your car--you don't even have to exit your vehicle! Italy does not have vignettes, but they do have tolls (cash and plastic are both accepted).

3. As an ex-pat American who often drives on German autobahns, I respect the left lane as the passing lane and otherwise drive with the flow and generally within the speed limits.
fourfortravel is offline  
Mar 5th, 2018, 06:29 AM
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Stay the heck out of that left lane. I love the places to eat on the autobahn. You have to go inside but go to the bathroom, stretch your legs. Good food but you can pick something simple or get a large meal. Sort of cafeteria style.
Macross is online now  
Mar 5th, 2018, 07:12 AM
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The Swiss rest areas that I have visited all charged for use of the toilets. However, in return you got a voucher which you could spend at the shops or restaurants there. Both Swiss francs and euro were accepted by the machines which conrolled the access barriers. This is something you need to be prepared for, mentaly if not in terms of ready cash. The rest area we visited outisde Lucerne was very impressive, with a large shop selling a wide range of food, a restaurant, children's play area and picnic space.
chartley is offline  
Mar 5th, 2018, 08:12 AM
  #5  
 
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In the last couple of years I have eaten at highway rest stops in Austria, Germany, and Italy. They were all very pleasant and had pretty good food including salads in a cafeteria setting. Much better than fast food!
elberko is online now  
Mar 5th, 2018, 08:21 AM
  #6  
 
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The most comprehensive information (in English) on driving in Germany is Brian's guide to getting around Germany: https://www.gettingaroundgermany.info/index.shtml
Swabian is offline  
Mar 5th, 2018, 08:30 AM
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Many guides mention staying off the left lane on highways without explaining the real reason behind it. It is ILLEGAL to pass on the right. http://www.german-way.com/travel-and...-the-autobahn/.

The BAC rules are also different. There are two aspects different from the U.S. 1. The absolute limit, which is familiar to the Americans, is lower. 2. There is a secondary lower contributing limit, not familiar to the Americans, from which you get penalized harsher if you get involved in a accident.

When I go out with German friends in Germany, the driver never drinks to stay clear away from either of the BAC limits.
greg is offline  
Mar 5th, 2018, 08:59 AM
  #8  
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this is very helpful stuff!! thank you everyone
tailsock is offline  
Mar 5th, 2018, 09:18 AM
  #9  
 
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1. In Germany, most Autobahn food is fast food in one way or another.
If there is no McDonalds or BK, most restaurants have a "free flow" cafeteria system.
"On-line" autobahn rest areas with restaurants are signed as "Rasthof" or "Raststätte".
Most McD or BK restaurants are not directly attached to the autobahn, though.
Like in the US, they are either close to exits or part of "offline" truck stops. The latter are designated as "Autohof" on autobahn signage.
An Autohof will typically feature a large gas station (cheaper than on-line autobahn gas stations), convinience store / coffee shop, car wash, and a (mostly fast food) restaurant and also often one or two motels.
Unfortunately exit advertising (food-gas-lodging) is not allowed in Germany, the fast food chains usually have really tall signs so you can see them far in advance - usually.
Or download the app and search while you go.

3. The infamous passing lanes.
This is getting more and more a "seasoned traveller's adventure story" than a real issue.
All lanes except the right one are passing lanes only.
Passing lanes are not reserved for Porsche or BMW drivers going 160 or 250kph.
There is no minimum speed for passing another vehicle - you should go reasonably faster, that's all.
It's perfectly okay to pass a slow car going 100kph with 120kph.
Just use caution when changing lanes - the cars in the center or left lanes may approach faster than you expect.

Speed limits exist everywhere (almost). Almost all are enforced by cameras.
Don't "go with the flow". Go with the posted limits.
No sheriff will hunt you down and engage in a lenghty conversation to write a speeding ticket.
Speed limits (especially on regular highways) are often posted by no recognizable logic whatsoever.
It's not untypical that there are only few hundred yards in between limits going down and up and down again.
City limit signs double as 50kph speed limits - unless the limit is higher or lower than 50kph, you won't see an extra sign.

On-street parking, especially in larger towns or cities, is almost always paid parking or otherwise restricted.
Often signage is confusing - with many signs on one sign pole. When in doubt, use a parking garage.
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Mar 5th, 2018, 09:57 AM
  #10  
 
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What I struggled with when I was in Canada (I believe it's the same in the US) is the way how crossroads without traffic lights or traffic signs work. In Canada it was "first come, first drive". In Germany it's "the car on the right road can drive first, the car on the left road has to wait".

Another issue that I know UK drivers have in Germany: in Germany, if a car drives around a corner, and on the road they are driving into, a pedestrian crosses the road, the car has to stop. To me that makes sense, as it's very difficult for the pedestrian to know what's happening around the corner. I was nearly run over a few times in the UK and honked at by cars, as over there the pedestrians are required to look to all possible directions. Took me a while to figure this out, for a long time I thought those drivers were incredibly rude and didn't know how to drive. If a foreign driver in Germany runs over a pedestrian in that case, it's clearly the drivers fault, no matter the rules in your country.

so it makes sense to review some general rules - I never did this as it seemed so obvious to me, and in the end felt really stupid a few times...

There is a lot of fast food on Autobahns. Often McDonalds or Burger King these days. If not, it's independent fast food restaurants, the usually have good fries and sausage.
TravelThoughts is offline  
Mar 5th, 2018, 10:20 AM
  #11  
 
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Originally Posted by tailsock View Post
As I finetune my road trip in Germany I do have a few questions I wasn't clear on and would appreciate some clarification:

1. Road food: I understand that Germany's autobahns have rest areas similar to the US. What could I expect in terms of quick meals when covering long distances? I was informed that there are next to no fast food restaurants. There will be times when I'll want to grab something quick/lite and not have to stop and eat inside a restaurant.

4. GPS: Many rental cars already include GPS so why would someone pay the $8 daily fee for this? I declined this when picking up my rental in Dublin and saw that my brand new car had a shiny new interface complete with GPS. Would you recommend a hand held unit (Garmin or similar) or will your smart phone work fine? I'm the kind of traveler that will want to plot my points of interest in ahead of time.

Thanks!
1. Italy has Autogrills chain, which isn't too bad. Usually on the Autostrada, which are toll roads.

2. I never pay for GPS in rentals but once in France I used the built-in GPS on a Volvo. If you're used to Google Maps on a phone, most car GPS UIs are poor. If you use Google Maps with a Google account login, you can save places you plan to visit as favorites. Then open the Google Maps app. with your same login and you will get the places you saved on a desktop browser in that app.

That's how I do some of my trip planning, by saving locations like hotels, restaurants, etc. ahead of time. But I also use Google My Maps so these can be customized maps of your locations. If you use regular Google Maps, you can just save favorites or star a location you find.
scrb11 is offline  
Mar 5th, 2018, 05:26 PM
  #12  
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Originally Posted by scrb11 View Post
1. Italy has Autogrills chain, which isn't too bad. Usually on the Autostrada, which are toll roads.

2. I never pay for GPS in rentals but once in France I used the built-in GPS on a Volvo. If you're used to Google Maps on a phone, most car GPS UIs are poor. If you use Google Maps with a Google account login, you can save places you plan to visit as favorites. Then open the Google Maps app. with your same login and you will get the places you saved on a desktop browser in that app.

That's how I do some of my trip planning, by saving locations like hotels, restaurants, etc. ahead of time. But I also use Google My Maps so these can be customized maps of your locations. If you use regular Google Maps, you can just save favorites or star a location you find.
I thought about Google Maps (which I'm very used to) but had a bad experience when I was in Ireland with mobile reception. Plus the cellular roaming data fees would eat me up alive. A friend offered to loan me his European Garmin from when he lived in Germany a few years back. Thanks for telling me about AutoGrills...I'll keep a lookout

Last edited by tailsock; Mar 5th, 2018 at 05:28 PM.
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Mar 5th, 2018, 05:31 PM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
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You can expect freshly made sandwiches, meals cooked to order, good selection and excellent quality.
Expect higher prices than those charged at roadside North American slop houses.

Get a bigger car, something like a Passat or an Opel Insignia, cars with bigger engines and six speed transmissions.
You will travel at higher speeds, the smaller eco boxes are geared for city driving, at highway speeds their small engines and higher gear ratios make for a buzzy drive.

There is more of a difference in speed between trucks and cars.

The further east you go , the dirtier it gets. A lot of the rest areas are used as makeshift camps by European nomads (if I use the ethnic qualifier someone will get on my case).

Driving in Germany requires a higher level of driving intelligence than it does in NA.

Last edited by cdnyul; Mar 5th, 2018 at 05:45 PM.
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Mar 5th, 2018, 07:53 PM
  #14  
 
Join Date: May 2010
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Originally Posted by tailsock View Post
I thought about Google Maps (which I'm very used to) but had a bad experience when I was in Ireland with mobile reception. Plus the cellular roaming data fees would eat me up alive. A friend offered to loan me his European Garmin from when he lived in Germany a few years back. Thanks for telling me about AutoGrills...I'll keep a lookout

Recent thread about using cell phones in Europe. Not the same countries but a lot of it would be applicable.

Cellphones in Europe [Italy, France, Spain]
scrb11 is offline  
Mar 6th, 2018, 03:22 AM
  #15  
 
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There are enough restaurants you will be fine!
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