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11 replies
American wanting to drive on German Autobahn
mrmatt
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My friends and I will be heading to Europe next summer. On our itinerary, we are scheduled to travel from Frankfurt to Munich. I think it would be a good idea to travel this route by car (autobhan) instead of train to experience the autobahn for ourselves and to get a break from trains.

That being said, what does an American need to do to be certified/able to rent a car in Germany? Also, the high speed limit of the autobhan obviously is one thing we want to safely enjoy (being 22 year olds), but is it worth it? Moreover I think it would be a nice scenic route, but if the Munich —> Prague drive would be a nicer ride then maybe we should do that (which is the next leg of our trip). Or the one before (Amsterdam to Frankfurt).

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It’s just a highway system with, to Americans, an exotic-sounding name. You only need a driver’s license to rent a car, but should you pulled over you’ll need an international driver’s license that you can get at AAA (really just a translation of your U.S. license). You’ll also have to find a company that rents to under 25’s, and will likely pay more than if you were older.

Don
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If you’re planning to drive from Frankfurt to Munich, check the drop off fees at a location other than where you pick up the car. They can be exorbitant.

If you just want to drive fast through beautiful country with low risks, then try Montana.

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Quote:
If you just want to drive fast through beautiful country with low risks, then try Montana.
Montana put in speed limits. Rumor has it they got tired of scraping the visiting Germans who could no longer drive flat out on the Autobahn off the highway.

I think most of the real concerns have been covered, but…

Driving the Autobahn in a Smart Car, sub compact or even a compact won’t be fun and can be terrifying. You’ll need to upgrade to a much more expensive rental if you want to enjoy it.

Covering more than 1 driver on the rental contract significantly increases the expense.

You absolutely must have your valid US drivers license with you. You may need the international driving permit, too.

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Low risks.

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I’ve not driven overseas in years, but the Autobahns had a reputation as a high enforcement area, and my experience is that few Americans know their rules of the roads. I.e., we think we can drive in the passing lane; they think its only for passing. We think nothing of backing up on the berm if we overshoot our exit; they think that warrants a citation, at least. In most rental cars, you will be overloaded and lack the power to even get near the passing lane; you’ll be holding up a row of trucks.

The scenery is on the secondary roads, and if you are driving, you won’t be watching it, but you can always pull over to enjoy a view. I can’t recall if Germany requires a sticker on your car to drive on the Autobahn; I know Switzerland does for the equivalent type highway.

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mrmatt
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Well you all make it sound like this endeavor is not worth it…

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oldlady
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Depends on what it’s worth to you — particularly financially. I wouldn’t spend the time and money if I couldn’t afford a fairly high performance and comfortably large (since it seems like there are more than 2 in your party???) car — at least not a compact or subcompact. It can be fun, but driving for drivings’ sake in Europe isn’t my thing. If it’s what you want to splurge on, then go for it. I like to splurge (if the budget allows) on a comfortable rental car to explore a particular non-urban area.

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Autobahn is like any other North American Highway. “No speed limit” is great if you’re driving a Porsche and are in a hurry, not so great if you trying to drive 100 mph in a rental fiat full of people (you’ll have Porsches and Mercedes riding you ass, honking their horns and laughing at you as they whizz by.

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list”

oldlady
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honking their horns and laughing at you as they whizz by.
Don’t they still flash their lights instead of honking?

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oldlady wrote:
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honking their horns and laughing at you as they whizz by.
Don’t they still flash their lights instead of honking?

They do both, and often wave, too, but perhaps not with their whole hand.

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The Autobahn is simply a four lane (sometimes six lane) highway. The only interesting things about German highways is that there is no speed limit and that they have sharp turns on the off-ramps.

They RECOMMEND 130 km/h (80 mph) but it’s not illegal to drive faster – you won’t be fined, it’s just that it’s YOUR SOLE responsibility not to hurt yourself or anyone else when you drive faster than that. But driving 170 km/h requres a good car, and 200 km/h requres a superexpensive car.

Since many German highways are very old, some were even opened by Hitler himself, careful with descending from the highway through the off-ramp. As speeds were generally lower in 1930s, the right turn on the offramp may be very sharp on those highways.

If you have any questions about Prague or Czech and Slovak republics, ask me.
If you only want to search train or bus connection within Czech&Slovakia and/or to neighboring countries, use www.cp.sk or www.idos.cz search engines. For domestic transport, they also show prices.