Mobility: Convenient ways to explore Germany

Germany is well known throughout the world as a country of cars. But you can easily travel by plane, bus, train or bicycle as well, thanks to our well-developed network of airports, roads, railways and bike paths. The next section explains how to travel in Germany and abroad using your preferred means of transport.

Mobility: Convenient ways to explore Germany

Is your driving licence valid in Germany?

Is your driving licence valid in Germany?

Citizens of the EU, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland: Hop in and go, it’s that simple. Your driving licence is valid in Germany, just as it is in your home country. There is no need to have it converted to a German licence.

Citizens of other countries: You can drive for six months with your existing driving licence, starting with the day you register your residence in Germany. At the end of that period, you will need a German licence. Whether or not you will have to take a test depends on the country where you obtained your driving licence.

Mulema from Cameroon
During my first few months in Germany, I drove using my international licence. I could also have used my driving licence from my home country of Cameroon, but that requires a German translation. You can get that from the Consulate or from sworn translators. But the important thing is that whether I had a national or an international driving licence, after six months I had to get a German driving licence. At that time, I really couldn’t speak German very well. Luckily, it was possible to take the theory in my native language. The practical exam was a more difficult matter. I swotted up my German and got to grips with typical German driving jargon, such as “Wechsellichtzeichen” and “Einsatzhorn”. And it was worth the effort, because I passed the driving exam!

Registering and testing your car

Registering and testing your car

All cars in Germany need to be registered, and you can do this at the nearest car registration office. You will need your vehicle title (proof that the car belongs to you) and your motor vehicle insurance policy.

If you are bringing a car with you from another country, find out from the car registration office what additional documents are required.

After they are registered, all cars in Germany need to pass a general inspection. This means that a mechanic must confirm that your car is safe and meets the official emission standards. A vehicle inspection sticker will then be affixed to your car’s number plate. The general inspection can be performed by an authorised workshop near you, for example. Inspections need to be repeated at regular intervals. There is a charge for both the general inspection and for registering your vehicle.

Please note that in many German cities, low-emission zones have been created to reduce the quantities of particulates and nitrogen dioxide in the air.

To drive into one of the these low-emission zones, you need a sticker (Umweltplakette) showing that your vehicle has sufficiently low emissions. This can be obtained for a fee from the licensing authority or other approved agencies.

Driving in Germany

Driving in Germany

Cars drive on the right-hand side of the road in Germany. The speed limit in cities is generally 50 kilometres per hour, 30 in some areas. The limit is usually 100 kilometres per hour on country roads. Unless signalled otherwise, there is no general speed limit on motorways, but a limit of 130 kilometres per hour is recommended. However, there are special limits on certain portions of the motorways, particularly on dangerous or heavily travelled sections.

You must always have your driving licence and vehicle registration with you while driving, since you may need to show them to the police if you are stopped.

There are often specially designated parking spaces for disabled people. These are located in key positions in car parks. Women will also frequently find specially designated parking spaces for them in multi-storey and underground car parks. These are usually under video surveillance, making them safer.

More and more people in Germany are making use of car-sharing. To be able to make use of these services, you have to register with a car-sharing service provider. After than, you can hire a car at short notice. Car-sharing can be worthwhile if you drive only a few kilometres a year but still want to be mobile. There are a variety of car-share service providers in numerous towns and cities (vehicle manufacturers or independent providers) with different concepts and vehicle fleets.

Riding a bicycle

Riding a bicycle

Germany has a dense network of bike paths. Remember that you are subject to the same rules and penalties when biking as when driving a car. It is therefore important to make sure that your bicycle is in proper condition (especially its lights) and to comply with the rules of the road when riding your bike.

Travelling by bus or train

Travelling by bus or train

Public transport is a convenient option for travel in and between cities. The public system includes buses, trams and the underground, as well as the trains run by German Railways and its competitors.

  • Buses, trams and the underground: Within easy reach of your home, you will find a stop where a bus, tram or underground departs several times an hour during the day, in large cities every few minutes. Tickets can be purchased from a machine at the stop, from the driver or at a sales outlet of the transport association that operates the buses or trams. If you use public transport regularly, it is a good idea to purchase a weekly, monthly or annual ticket. The longer the ticket’s validity, the lower the price for each trip.

    Prices are lower for children. Certain groups, such as students or the disabled, receive a discount upon showing their identification. Many transport associations have special offers for senior citizens.

  • Travelling by train: Trains are a good option when travelling to other cities in Germany or abroad. German Railways, formerly a state-owned enterprise, is the primary provider. It owns all of Germany’s rail network and leases certain routes to regional competitors. Train tickets can be purchased at a ticket counter, from a German Railways machine at the train station or on the German Railways website. Trains are a comfortable and rapid means of transport in Germany; on some segments long-distance trains reach speeds of up to 300 kilometres per hour.

  • International bus lines: Buses are another good option for travel from Germany to other parts of Europe. International bus lines stops in every large city, at least at the main train station.

Another possibility is air travel

Another possibility is air travel

If you need to travel quickly from one part of Germany to another, or to another country, a plane is a good alternative to a train or car. Depending on the distance, national and international flights may be available for less than 100 euros if you book far enough in advance.

Complete Guide to "Living in Germany"

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Information on this portal

How to prevent the most serious risks

A bike ride or a football game – Ideas for your leisure time

Much more than Goethe: Discover Germany’s culture

Information on the World Wide Web

Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development

Information on the validity of foreign driver’s licences (German, English)

German Railways

Information about travelling by train: schedules, prices, booking (German, English, Spanish, French and other languages)

Driving licence and driving test

Information about the theoretical test on PC (German, English)