Campervan Rental in Germany
The Ultimate Guide (Part 2)
On The Road Tips
Everything you need to know for a motorhome road trip in Germany.
This is the second part of our ultimate guide to ensuring you have an unforgettable campervan tour.
Click here for Part 1 - Planning Your Trip
Guide to Driving a Motorhome in Germany
You will be delighted to discover that Germany is one of the most motorhome-friendly countries in Europe. Even novice campervan drivers will have an easy time getting around and the landscape is nothing short of spectacular.
But before you head out on Germany’s motorways, make sure you familiarise yourself with some of the basic rules and regulations.
Height restrictions are rarely an issue here, making driving a dream for campervan lovers. Parking is a breeze, especially in well-touristed areas where you’ll find parking available specifically for motorhomes, with overnight stops permissible in most villages, towns and cities. However, if you are headed to a major city such as Berlin then you may want to leave your vehicle outside the city to avoid the hassle of driving in heavy traffic.
The minimum age to drive is 18 years but some rental companies have further age requirements as well.
Driving in Germany requires that you have these Items:
- Drivers Licence (your home country one will suffice)
- Vehicle registration
- Insurance documents
- Reflective jackets
- Warning triangle
- Headlamp beam deflectors
- First aid kit
Germany's Rules of the Road
- If you are driving during the winter months, note that all vehicles (without exception) must be adapted to winter road conditions using either winter tyres or all-season (mud and snow) tyres. Driving can mean dealing with slick conditions including ice and snow so drive with care, especially in mountainous areas. Snow chains are only allowed where the road is fully covered by snow and/or ice and the road surface will not be damaged by the chains.
- There are many service areas in Germany for you to stop and take a break during long driving sessions. But there is zero tolerance for drunk driving and very low blood limits so don’t press your luck when you shouldn’t be getting behind the wheel. Traffic offences such as speeding are often expected to be paid to the police officer on the spot. If you don’t have enough cash, then you can usually use a debit or credit card. For serious incidents, the police are allowed to confiscate the vehicles of foreign motorists.
- You may be surprised to know that there are no automatic tolls on German motorways. There are low emission green zones (umweltzonesn) located in most major cities and many smaller towns across Germany, however, and your campervan will need to have a green sticker (umweltplakette) on the windshield (certifying it meets the environmental standards required for driving in green zones). Check online to see whether or not your campervan model falls into this category or ask the rental depot before you depart.
Parking in Germany
A vehicle is considered to be parked if it remains in the same place for more than three minutes.
- Parking is restricted in some areas (especially in urban places) so familiarise yourself with the laws before you depart. These can easily be found online and you should keep the basics in mind.
- If there is a parking meter, drivers can park free for the first half hour unless otherwise indicated.You will do a lot of parallel parking!
- Residents' parking zones are indicated by sign C,18 on a white square accompanied by the words “Anwohner mit Parkausweis Nr. ... frei” (except for holders of parking permits No. ...)
- Areas popular with tourists often have designated campervan parking with oversized slots.
- Failure to pay for traffic violations (citations for parking in clearly marked “no parking” zones or parking in a handicap space and other relatively small infractions) can land you in jail.
Understanding Germany's Road System
While the system can seem complicated for those new to driving in Germany, you will quickly get the hang of things.
- Traffic volume is very high due to Germany’s central location in Europe, and the country has approximately 650,000 km of roads with major roads covering 419,000km. While it was the world’s first highway system to be built, don't let the high speeds on German motorways (autobahnen) fool you into believing that there are no reduced speed zones. In fact, many sections do have speed limits, prominently posted in heavily travelled areas around cities. Watch out, too, for speed limit signs on autobahnen in the countryside.
- The main autobahnen going all across Germany have single digit numbers. Shorter highways of regional importance have double digit numbers. East-west routes are usually even-numbered; north-south routes are usually odd-numbered.
- The national roads in Germany are called Bundesstraßen (federal roads). Locals know them well as they are shown (with black digits on a yellow rectangle with black border) on direction traffic signs and in street maps.
- Visitors are advised, however, to rent a GPS unit if one does not come with your vehicle, as it’s otherwise all too possible you’ll get lost.
While you can always get along with just a traditional map you will want to spend a little extra to lease a GPS system for your trip if it does not come standard with your campervan. The time, energy, petrol and patience that it will save you is well worth the money spent. If you wish to use your phone for directions, that will work fine in the majority of the country. However, be aware that there are large zones without mobile service at higher elevations and in remote areas, and mobile roaming fees can be excessive.
Always have your passport, driver’s licence, proof of insurance and registration handy. Also required if you are behind the wheel is a certified breathalyser. Single-use certified breathalyzers are now available in many supermarkets, chemists and garages throughout Germany, at a cost of about 1€ or 2€ each.
Fuelling up in Germany
Understand what sort of fuel your vehicle requires and never put petrol into a diesel engine! Most petrol stations are open 12 hours a day, from 8am to 8pm. In large cities, some are open 24 hours a day. On motorways, service stations are open both day and night. At some stations, you can “pay at the pump” with a credit card.
What to do in the Event of an Accident
Should an accident involve injury or should there be serious damage to vehicles, the police must be called. Under German law, accidents involving personal injury have to be reported to your insurance company within three days. Accidents with material damage only have to be reported within a week.
Be sure to take photos of your vehicle and get a copy of the police report. You may want to get your own estimate for repairs before returning the damaged vehicles to prevent outrageous charges.
If there is another driver involved then exchange information (including passport details if they are foreign), insurance contact information and their driver’s licence information.
The Definitive Guide to Campervan Rental in Germany
Planning Your Trip
Ensuring your camper van tour of Germany is the very best...
On The Road Tips
Everything you need to know for a motorhome road trip in Germany...
Information about key motorhome brands in Germany...