Germany: motorway paradise
Germany is such a vast and diverse country that it is possible to write about it forever. Historic buildings, modern metropolises, charming towns, multiple entertainment parks, highlands, forests, rivers, and lakes make the country suitable for almost all types of activities. There are good reasons why Germany is in the forefront of most eagerly visited countries in the world - owing to a plethora of attractions, hotels, fine dining spots, and various amenities, every traveller will find something special and return from holidays with wonderful memories.
Germany is famous for a very dense road system. They have almost 650 thousand kilometres of roads, out of which 13,000 km are motorways. These are considered one of the best not only in Europe, but also around the world. Additionally, they are toll free and aren't governed by any speed limits. However, it doesn't mean that drivers can act with impunity. If you decide to explore the country in a rental car and you'd like to avoid unpleasant surprises, you should definitely familiarise yourself with the traffic regulation prevailing on German roads and the requirements for hiring a car at particular car rental companies.
Drivers who would like to rent a car have to be 21 and have at least 2 years of driving experience. At some car rental spots, the motorists who are younger than 25 are required to pay the inexperienced driver fee.
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Berlin and other attractions
Germany has so much to offer for the visiting tourists that pursuing all options is practically impossible. What's worth seeing and what to pay special attention to?
In the forefront, you'll surely find Berlin which is able to delight almost everyone, even the most demanding tourists. As the largest German city, it offers travellers multiple possibilities of spending their free time. Shopping, relaxing in a park, a tour around the museums and art galleries, or a stroll among historic landmarks - these are only a few of the plethora of options available in the city centre. You can also pay a visit at the nearby Potsdam, which is equally interesting.
While travelling around Germany, you shouldn't limit yourself to a tour around the capital. Cities such as Hamburg or Frankfurt are as attractive as Berlin itself. Each of them is characterised by magnificent architecture, well-groomed urban greenery, and well-developed road and tourist infrastructure.
Cologne, a city located on the River Rhine, gained its popularity owing to Europe's biggest Gothic cathedral. It was constructed in the period between 1248 and 1880 and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A big advantage is the fact that the most important urban attractions are located next to one another so you can see the whole area on foot.
Each lover of motorisation should visit Stuttgart, where you can find the famous Mercedes-Benz Museum that can boast more than 1,500 exhibits. While travelling around Baden-Württemberg, it's also worth visiting Hohenzollern Castle which overlooks the nearby towns. Located at an altitude of 855 metres above sea level, it is visible from a distance of several kilometres. At a stone's throw, you'll also find Heidelberg, with an extensive Old Town, and Konstanz, where the popular Konstanzer Seenachtfest festival takes place on an annual basis. The festival is combined with a firework show by the Bodensee.
Probably all travellers heard of Bavaria, the largest and the best developed federal state of Germany. It is here where you can find such cities as Munich, Regensburg, or Nuremberg which can boast stunning landmarks that are proofs of their eventful past. A slightly more humble place is Lindau, which in turn enchants travellers with its scenic location near the Bodensee. If you want to see a fairy-tale edifice, you should travel to Schwangau where you'll find Neuschwanstein Castle, visited by around 1.3 million people on an annual basis.
What other towns to include in your travel plan? Koblenz, with the famous German Corner, Dresden, full of grandly castles and palaces, Lübeck, dominated by 4 Gothic churches, and Schwerin, with a bastion constructed at the turn of the 10th and 11th centuries.
If your thirst for adventure hasn't been quenched yet, you should definitely head for Bremen, which will enchant you with charming narrow streets, or for Münster, which is considered one of the most attractive cities of Westphalia. However, don't forget about the smaller cities such as Wismar or Bamberg, which also have their own charm and unique ambiance that you won't experience even in the most developed metropolises.
Most important traffic regulations in Germany
Motorists travelling around Germany are approached with great trust by the authorities. It becomes evident in the fact that there are no speed limits on motorways. However, it doesn't mean that German streets are governed by insubordination and that you can break the rules with impunity. It's the other way round. The rules are meticulously enforced. Failing to maintain an appropriate distance during taking over may lead to a ticket amounting up to a few hundred Euros!
Speed limits depend on the road type as well as driver's experience and car weight. Speed limits for vehicles weighing less than 3.5 tons are 50 km/h (in built-up areas), 100 km/h (in rural areas), and 130 km/h (on expressways). Motorists who have less than 2 years of experience mustn't exceed the speed of 90 km/h on expressways and 100 km/h on motorways. Note! Built-up areas are marked with yellow road signs displaying the town or city name.
A similar situation can be encountered in case of breath alcohol content. When it comes to motorists with small experience who are younger than 21, there is zero tolerance to any breath alcohol content. More experienced drivers are allowed for a greater leeway; however, they will have to face strict consequences if they exceed 0.05%.
Using a mobile phone during driving is forbidden, but this problem can be solved by using hands-free sets. If your youngest passengers are shorter than 150 cm, remember about a special child seat. Never park your vehicle on the pavement. You can leave your car only in parking lots and on the right side of the street.
Germany: required documents and car equipment
In case of a road check, you'll be asked to show such documents as your ID or passport, driver's licence, liability insurance, registration document, and vehicle inspection certificate.
The obligatory car equipment includes a first aid kit, a fire extinguisher, and a warning triangle. Only professional drivers are required to carry a reflective vest. Vehicles that are heavier than 3.5 tons should also be equipped with a portable lamp that the driver should use to illuminate the warning triangle if need be.
Toll roads in Germany
Even though using German motorways is free of charge, the situation changes in case of some of the tunnels and cities that are part of the so-called Umwelt Zone, that is the green zone. Before entering the zone, you need to purchase a special vignette with information on the amount of exhaust fumes emitted by your car. The sticker can be bought for a few Euros at an authorised car workshop, motor vehicle diagnostic station, or in the department of traffic and communication.