The German Autobahn

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The Autobahn in Germany is about speed and very stressful

German Autobahn
German Autobahn

It sounds fantastic: no speed limit? Going as fast as your car can go?
YES, that’s the German Autobahn.

Germany’s highway system, called Autobahn, is famous around the world. Due to the high population density in Germany the Autobahn has meanwhile become a quite crowded race track and on many stretches the government felt obligated to limit the maximum speed which is allowed. This was necessary in order to maintain a certain safety.
However, there are still many stretches where is no speed limit and you can hit the pedal as hard as you can. If you are not used to high speeds please read ahead in order to have a safe journey.

German Autobahn Signage
German Autobahn Signage
German Autobahn Signage
German Autobahn Signage

Driving high speeds means that certain rules must be obeyed in order to have a safe ride.

You must drive on the right lane if not passing (“slower traffic keep right” rule).

You MUST pass other vehicles on the left lane! Never pass others on the right lane(s) unless you are in a traffic jam (or stop-n-go traffic). That guarantees that you should expect faster vehicles (which pass you) always on your left side. Image a situation where you are on a 2 or 3-lane Autobahn and driving in the left lane with 125 mph (200 km/h). You might think you are fast but many German cars can go well above 125 mph (200 km/h) up to 155 mph (250 kmh) or even faster. Porsches go easily 180 mph (290 km/h) and their fastest model goes 205 mph (329 km/h). It is not only about Porsches, BMW, or Mercedes: those and other cars can often also go at that speed.
If you see a little ‘dot’ in your left rear mirror then always try to verify how fast that car is moving. Sometimes it’s a matter of seconds that that car is next behind you.

Be always ready to hit the brakes because if you are driving fast then you must expect other slower vehicles on the further right lane to start their passing process by entering your lane. Speed differences might be substantial: remember, there are not only fast cars in Germany. Many are also slow or their drivers just do not race. If they go 80 mph (130 km/h) and you are passing with 40 mph speed difference you will see how fast you approach that car.

That said, driving on a German Autobahn can be dangerous if you do not take the time to get accustomed to high speed. Expect also some reckless drivers in other vehicles; people who have fast cars but are way too aggressive and do not keep enough distance to others.

Driving fast on the Autobahn can be fun but you must be highly concentrated and be ready to react to anything at any time. High speeds mean that you sometimes have only very few seconds or split seconds to react.

Note: Drive responsible.

“Raststätten”

German Rest Area at the Autobahn
German Rest Area at the Autobahn
Pay-to-Pee / German Rest Area at the Autobahn
Pay-to-Pee / German Rest Area at the Autobahn

That is the German word for ‘rest areas’. There are rest areas with and w/o gas stations, with or w/o food service but the Autobahn signs will always announce when to expect the next rest area and which services are offered. Gas prices at Autobahn gas stations are usually higher than at gas stations close to exits. If you are on a tight budget it might help to take an exit heading the nearest town/village and try your luck there. Often it’s just a mile or two drive to such off-Autobahn gas stations.