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Tips for a 1st time driver in Germany? Anyone?

Tips for a 1st time driver in Germany? Anyone?

Jan 31st, 2005, 08:32 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2004
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Tips for a 1st time driver in Germany? Anyone?

We leave for Germany in 10 days, yeah It will be our first time to drive outside the US, as we have always used public transportation before. We decided to try it in Germany before our Italy trip in May, hoping that it would be a good (albeit calmer) intro.

Any tips or things we should be aware of?

TexasAggie is offline  
Jan 31st, 2005, 08:40 AM
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I would avoid the autobahn unless you want to drive 90+ miles per hour, and in any case, make sure you stay in the right lane except to pass. Many U.S. drivers seem to have forgotten that rule, at least in California.
Michael is offline  
Jan 31st, 2005, 08:47 AM
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Have a good map--German signage tends to concentrate on immediate towns ahead rather than route numbers. If you don't know town names and where they are in relation to your destination, it can be tough to navigate. Not a problem on the Autobahn, but it takes some getting used to and close attention on other roads.

Off the main roads, don't expect to be able to find a place to eat just any time of the day. Most places have set opening hours, and there are very few places open in between hours.

In smaller towns, signs can be stuck anywhere due to space limitations. Keep a sharp eye out for directional signs or no parking signs on the sides of buildings and such--maybe way up or way down on the wall, or nicely hidden by a tree or shrub.

Driving very fast on the Autobahn can be fun for a short while, but it takes intense concentration, and the driver certainly can't even take a glance at the scenery. Much of the Autobahn system does have speed limits.

In some areas there can be monster backups on the Autobahn.

On rural roads, some of the passing zones are very dicey. Passing was permitted on curves and hills where I would never attempt a pass, and I'm not usually shy about passing a slower car.

Overall, driving was easier than we thought it might be, and Germans are pretty good drivers. But watch out for cars and trucks from other countries, and there are a lot of trucks from other countries. Some of them are not as consciencious as the Germans in their driving technique.

We found some lovely countryside and villages and had some great experiences by getting off the main roads and wandering around a bit.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Jan 31st, 2005, 08:49 AM
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When I was cited for Following Too Closely in California, the CHP pointed out that it was not the responsibility of the driver in front of me to get out of the way if he was driving at or above the speed limit.
Robespierre is offline  
Jan 31st, 2005, 08:57 AM
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We drove from Amsterdam to Munich with stops in Paris,the black forest, Zurich,
Innsbrook, and Salzburg with no problems
at all. You will not have to drive 90+
miles per hour on the autobahn ( unless you want too? ) In all the countries we
drove in, they all had no speed limits
on the major highways most of the time just like the autobahn. What you want to look out for is how to get off the freeway and back on going the right way.
In Germany just because there is a off ramp it doesn't mean there will be an on ramp for the direction you're going!
Yes, people do drive very fast on the highways in Europe so stay to the right
and enjoy your trip. Good Luck.
jeffwill4you is offline  
Jan 31st, 2005, 08:59 AM
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Just take it easy and enjoy!

A few basics: NO right on red (unless posted by a green arrow - not common!).

At unmarked smaller intersections the person coming from the right has the right-of-way. Be careful with this, as it will be completely your fault if you don't follow this and cause an accident (most people will not pay attention to what's going on their left).

Signage is different, especially for "no stopping" "no parking" "no passing" etc. so you may want to glance at that before you leave.

have fun!
chtiet is offline  
Jan 31st, 2005, 09:05 AM
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Driving the autobahn is a bit stressful for me. Even though my husband did the driving> I am not used to him going 100mph. What looks like a "dot" on the horizon behind you will be up on your ass in a matter of a couple seconds. That unnerved me. Drving the regular roads..... is just fine.
Have fun!
annesherrod is offline  
Jan 31st, 2005, 09:06 AM
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And on those rare occasions when you do find it necessary to pass someone going slower than you on the Autobahn, do it smartly and get back over. That's particularly true if you should happen to notice some flashing lights in your rearview mirror while you're out in the passing lane, even though they may be a long way back - it's likely some big Mercedes going 200 kph and you really, really want to get out of his way.

That said, I find it a real pleasure driving in Germany and in Europe generally because the drivers are noticeably more competent, in addition to being more courteous and respectuful of traffic laws.
FlyFish is offline  
Jan 31st, 2005, 09:29 AM
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We will be driving in Wurzburg, from Wurzburg to Rothenburg, up and down the Romantic Road a bit, and from Rothenburg to Bamberg.

I have printed maps off michelin, but (and forgive me if this sounds like a dumb question!!), how do we know what roads are Autobahn as opposed to just roads? Also, should we buy a map in addition to the maps we have printed off the internet?

Thanks for the very helpful replies so far!!
TexasAggie is offline  
Jan 31st, 2005, 09:35 AM
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Bone up on international road signs, get a good map and a good navigator, stay in the right lane except to pass, when you do pass keep the hammer down then move back over and keep an eye on the rear-view mirror for a fast approaching porsche or audi.
AisleSeat is offline  
Jan 31st, 2005, 10:09 AM
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TexasAggie--I would go ahead and buy a map if I were you. We went a little further afield than you are, so we bought a Michelin road atlas for Germany and surrounding countries. It was great Enabled us to get off the main roads a explore a bit.

As to identifying Autobahns on the Michelin maps, I'm not at home with my road atlas handy right now, but, as I remember, the Autobahns are yellow outlined in red.

How long will you be there? Assuming you're flying into and out of Frankfurt: You might want to consider a bit of a circular route instead of up and down the Romantic Road; e.g., FRA to Wuerzburg to Rothenburg to Fuessen to Munich to Nuernberg to Bamberg to FRA. Or reverse.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Jan 31st, 2005, 10:22 AM
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We love driving in europe - especially in Germany - and have done many road trips. But - you need to be an alert and active driver - not a "rider". (There's a place on 80 in NJ where they have to put a sign on the road instructing drivers to maintain speed up a hill - because there are so many "riders" that are so inattentive that they don;t know enough to step down on the gas otherwise.)

Stay off the autobahn unless you are comfortable with high speeds - and the capabilities of your rental car. (We routinely cruise at 100/110 - and many many cars still pass us.) Also, never, ever ever drive in the left lane - unless you are that minute passing another car - or you will have something very fast and irritated honking and flashing at you.

When doing this type of driving be sure to stop at least every two hours for a little walk around - or better yet switch drivers (we split driving time about evenly - he does a little more since I'm a better mapreader)

And most of all - relax and enjoy it - for us its one of the few opportunites to see what a car can really do (not at all posisble on the LIE).
nytraveler is offline  
Jan 31st, 2005, 10:32 AM
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Good advice here.
Staying on the right whenever possible on the Autobahn will be appreciated by people like me who might get a little aggravated when someone in front is clogging the left lane...;-)

Autobahns are easily identified by blue signs with white letters on them.

Officially suggested speed is about 80 miles/ hour, i.e. 130 km/h when there is no speed limit. Do try to at least get close to that.

Do enjoy the time on the Autobahn. When it's clear, speeds will be considerably faster than in the U.S., but then I tend to find it easier, because in general you will not have to focus on traffic trying to pass you on your right.

Have a safe trip
hsv is offline  
Jan 31st, 2005, 10:35 AM
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Here is a good website that will help you with driving in Germany: http://home.att.net/~texhwyman/verkehr.htm
eurotravler is offline  
Jan 31st, 2005, 10:42 AM
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Wow, great advice. Thanks. Since we are both "directionally challenged" (though my husband would rather die than admit it), I am going to pick up a Michelin atlas before we leave.

RufusT - love your posts on Bamberg. That is actually how we decided to visit the town, by reading your posts.

This is a short 5 night trip. We're not venturing much further south than Dinklsbuhl on the RR, so that is why we shaped our itinerary as we did...

Train from FRA to Wurzburg, pick up car there. See a few sights there, drive down to Rothenburg. Stay in Rothenburg for 3 nights (economical reason - 20% discount for 3 night stay). Venture down to Dinklsbuhl and perhaps a few other RR towns, but nothing too far south. Then on to Bamberg for 2 nights. Turn in car there and train back to FRA.
TexasAggie is offline  
Jan 31st, 2005, 11:12 AM
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Sounds good, TA. Nordlingen and Dinkelsbuhl are both interesting, and many people like little Weikersheim.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Jan 31st, 2005, 12:38 PM
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One thing that helps us is to Mapquest or ViaMichelin our trips from town to to town and we have turn by turn instructions before we go.
AisleSeat is offline  
Jan 31st, 2005, 12:47 PM
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Robespierre is offline  
Jan 31st, 2005, 12:55 PM
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If you train to Bamburg you will only be on the autobahn for a short, (but quick) while!

My map shows me that you can take the backroads from Bamburg. Might be more interesting drive!

Looks like the RT 470 to Bad Windsheim then head south to Rothenburg. Check out your fellow texan www.Bavariaben.com for some nice trip reports on Rothenburg!

bmw732002 is offline  
Jan 31st, 2005, 12:56 PM
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1. If you would mention what cities you're accustomed to driving in/near, we could perhaps be more descriptive.
2. Don't just rely on an internet map. Some of the better maps have shaded areas indicating Scenic/Very Scenic area, as well as symbols for castles, cathedrals, etc. which are helpful for spotting not-famous attractions.
tomboy is offline  

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