Driving on Autobahn
This page contains following topics:
- What is Autobahn?
- Important Rules and Tips for driving on Autobahn
- Actions Prohibited on Autobahn
- German Autobahn Signs
- Autobahn Map
- Routes on Autobahn suitable for highspeed (above 120 kph/75 mph)
- To see the general traffic rules and laws in Germany please visit Traffic Laws and Regulations
- To see the important road signs in Germany please visit Important Road Signs.
- To see right-of-way rules, right-before-left rules, and other priority rules in Germany please visit the page Right of Way.
1. What is Autobahn?
The simple answer is the German word for highway or motorway is Autobahn. All three German-speaking nations, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland use the word Autobahn for highways or motorways. The only thing that makes the German Autobahn famous is NO SPEED LIMIT.
No speed limits: Contrary to popular belief, there are only some sections on Autobahn that have no speed limits. No speed limit section starts with sign 282.
After this sign on the Autobahn, there would be no speed limit and end of all previous restrictions for passing / overtaking.
Passing / overtaking restrictions can be following:
This sign prohibits passing motor vehicles other than two-wheeled vehicles (for example, motorcycles).
This sign indicates the end of a no-passing zone for motor vehicles.
This sign prohibits vehicles with a gross weight of over 3.5 tons and trucks or tractors pulling trailers to pass motor vehicles, except for two-wheeled motor vehicles.
End of no passing zone for trucks.
2. Important Rules and Tips for driving on Autobahn
2.1 Autobahn Speed Limit
There are certain sections on Autobahn which have no speed limits. Though they have an advisory speed limit (Richtgeschwindigkeit) of 130 km/h (80 mph). This "no speed limit" condition does not apply to all types of vehicles. It is only applicable to vehicles with a gross weight under 3.5 tons. Passenger cars and SUVs are however an exception even if they are above 3.5 t, and can avail the "no speed limit" luxury if there is no speed limit sign.
The maximum speed limit for motor vehicles with a weight of more than 3.5 tons (excluding passenger cars), for passenger cars with trailers, trucks alone or/and with trailers, motor homes alone or/and with trailers, and for buses without trailers is 80 km/h (50 mph).
The maximum speed limit for motorcycles with trailers, for trucks with two trailers, and for buses and coaches with trailers or full of passengers, is 60 km/h.
On Autobahn sections with no speed limits, it is hard to estimate the speed of an approaching vehicle in rearview mirrors. A person driving at 200 km/h may think that he/she is driving very fast on Autobahn but there can be vehicles approaching at a faster speed. High-speed Autobahn driving is part of driving school training. German driving schools teach their students in such a way that drivers should be on alert and be ready to recognize typical errors caused often by other drivers and be able to cover those errors.
2.2 Minimum Required Speed on Autobahn
Only motor vehicles are allowed to use Autobahn. Vehicles, which are not capable of maintaining a speed of 60 km/h (37 mph) are not allowed on the Autobahn. For example, agriculture machines, tractors, mopeds, electric scooters, or quads with top speeds of less than 60 km/h are not allowed on the Autobahn. Walking is also not permitted along the Autobahn. Driving slower than 60 km/h due to any reason is not permitted. If for example, a vehicle has some mechanical fault and can't attain the speed of at least 60 km/h, it must leave the Autobahn on the next exit and use other roads.
2.3 Use of Hard Shoulders on the Autobahn
Autobahns have hard-surface shoulders. Traffic is not allowed on these shoulders under normal road conditions, also in case of traffic jam. The only reason to drive on these hard-surface shoulders is mechanical trouble in a vehicle. In some special conditions, sign 223.1-51
Shift to the right hard shoulder
Lanes shift to the right. One lane shifts to the right hard shoulder.
This sign permits the use of the hard shoulder as a driving lane.
No more use of hard shoulder as a driving lane permitted
Leave the hard shoulder and merge to left lane.
2.4 Important Rules to Remember while Driving on Autobahn
Whether on Autobahn or any other road in Germany, drivers must have a warning triangle and a first aid kit with them in vehicles. The absence of any of these can cause a fine.
There is a very strict rule on Autobahn and other roads in Germany, called Rechtsfahren (always stay in the right lane). The left lane is only used for overtaking / passing, except in special situations (for example, traffic jams, accidents). It is legal to remain in the left lane if you are waiting for the vehicle ahead to finish the passing maneuver. Even if you are traveling at a very high speed, there would be vehicles traveling faster than you. So, be aware and alert. While you are passing another vehicle, sometimes drivers behind you insist to leave the lane through the blinking of headlights (it's called Lichthuppe in German). Just ignore them and complete your passing course.
Under construction areas of Autobahn are marked with yellow road markings. These yellow lines have priority over normal white road lines. These are temporary lines just marked to regulate traffic in areas under construction. To see more details about road markings in Germany, please visit the Road Markings page.
Temporary road markings in a construction area
Vehicles using exit lanes at Autobahn intersections may drive faster than vehicles in the lane to their left after reaching the broken white line, which designates the exit lanes have begun (significantly wider traffic lane marking shortly before restricted area).
Autobahn have dividing strips in the center next to guardrails. Crossing dividing strips is illegal.
Emergency vehicles have the right-of-way and other vehicles must yield to emergency traffic. During congestions on Autobahn, emergency vehicles normally approach from the middle of the road. Other vehicles must move right and left respectively to clear their way.
3. Actions Prohibited on Autobahn
- Running out of gas. Drivers may be fined for stopping if their vehicles run out of gas.
- Making U-turns or backing up.
- Stopping or parking.
- Driving in the left lane to prevent vehicles from passing.
- Tailgate and flash headlights to force other drivers to the right lane.
- Getting out of the vehicle when stuck in a traffic jam.
4. German Autobahn Signs
Following are common signs found on the Autobahn.
This sign marks the start of an Autobahn. From this point on, all rules and regulations governing the Autobahn must be obeyed. Hitchhiking beyond this point is prohibited.
End of Autobahn. This sign is installed just before the end of the Autobahn. This sign may also indicate the distance in meters to the end of the Autobahn.
This sign marks the direction to the nearest Autobahn entrance and nearest city via respective Autobahn.
This sign is installed at Autobahn exits. Exits marked by this sign are the only authorized exits from the Autobahn.
"Ausfahrt" means "Exit"
Exit board on an Autobahn (Indicates exit to the mentioned city/cities. Mainz and Wiesbaden are names of cities).
The number at the top shows the route number if a driver continues on the Autobahn and the next major city that can be reached via that route. Below that, are the names of the first two towns that can be reached via the next exit. The nearest town is shown at the bottom.
This sign shows directions to other Autobahns with city names and route numbers. The yellow-colored name indicates the federal highway route to the mentioned city.
Autobahn sign showing distances to major cities. Below the line are major cities via intersection along with their respective motorway number. The green-colored number indicates a European highway route.
This sign indicates an Autobahn exit or a motorway interchange. The number in the circle indicates the interchange number.
This particular example sign means the next exit from Autobahn to the city of Düsseldorf-Berath is 1000 meters away.
Autobahn interchange / exit number. Each exit and interchange on Autobahn has a unique number, whether it's an exit to a rest area, another federal road, or another Autobahn route.
Noticeboard indicating a 24-hours service area.
"Autohof" means "Service Area".
This sign indicates the Autobahn route number.
Direction signs in a city or on the Autobahn. Here, showing the direction to Autobahn, Messe (fair), and the two nearest cities with their respective highway number (if applicable). Yellow signs represent German federal highways and white signs are used to indicate a local area and small roads. Autobahn signs are always in blue.
Autobahn exit marker: installed at 100 meters before exit. Each diagonal white stripe indicates 100 meters.
Autobahn exit marker: installed at 200 meters before exit.
Autobahn exit marker: installed at 300m before exit.
Autobahn kilometer marker. These markers are installed after every half kilometer. They can be used as location reference in case of emergency.
The left sign indicates exit number 32 ahead. The right sign indicates junction number 33 ahead. The yellow pole in the image is an emergency telephone post.
4.1 Road Sings and Markings in the Construction Areas or on the Routes having danger of traffic congestion
The general warning / danger sign. This sign warns of an approaching dangerous area. A supplementary sign may explain the danger.
Sign indicating construction work in progress. Be aware of workers and machinery.
This sign warns against a narrow passage ahead.
This sign warns of a possible traffic jam (Stau) ahead.
Autobahn detour sign. This sign is normally installed along with a white color supplementary sign that indicates the distance to the detour.
These signs give directions of Autobahn detours, indicating turn left, straight ahead, and turn right respectively.
The letter U represents Umleitung (detour). U22 means detour number 22.
Autobahn detour direction signs: these signs give advance information about detour turns ahead. These signs are slightly different than previously shown signs 460. These signs show turn left or right after the sign. While signs in the 460 category show to turn left or right before the sign.
These signs are also installed at Autobahn detours. They instruct to arrange in the left or right lane respectively.
These signs recommend alternate Autobahn routes during heavy traffic or traffic jams. These signs can have supplementary signs indicating specific vehicles to take the recommended routes.
Recommended alternate Autobahn route: indicating straight ahead.
This sign marks the end of an alternate route.
Alternate route map. This sign indicates the route, in solid black lines, to take to get back on the Autobahn after having been detoured.
A layout of the detour route. It indicates road straight ahead is closed. Turn left, follow the route through village A and Village B, then turn right to take the route to the city of Stuttgart.
These three signs indicate shift of traffic onto opposite lanes. All lanes shift to the left of the median. A line with an arrowhead represents a single lane.
This sign indicates return of earlier split lane.
Lane splitting / shifting signs can have different variations. It depends upon the number of lanes on the particular driveway.
Where possible, normal road signs are gradually being replaced by electronic road signs.
An example of digital road signs, at the moment showing the danger of congestion ahead.
5. Autobahn Map
Autobahn's structure is spread throughout Germany. The total length of Autobahns in Germany at the end of 2018 was 12,996 km (8,075 mi). More and more two-lane roads (Two-lane Expressways) are being converted into Autobahns. There are 9 major Autobahns (A1 to A9). Which are connected with the second level and third level Autobahns. The second-level Autobahns have two numbers in their names, for example, A12, and third-level Autobahns are indicated by three digits for example A111. These third-level Autobahns are normally ring roads, connecting two cities or two longer Autobahn routes.
Following is the map of 9 major Autobahns, from A1 to A9.
Below image is the spread patteren from Autobahn 10 to Autobahn 999.
For see more detailed numbering of Autobahn, please see this map.
6. Which Autobahn sections are without speed limits?
The exact answer to the above question is not possible because speed limits are not permanently implemented. Speed limits are constantly changing on different sections of an Autobahn.
Generally, Autobahns of former East German states have relatively low traffic. The best time for high speeding is during weekdays and in the night hours especially after 12 A.M to 5 A.M.
The best time to enjoy the high speed on German Autobahn is when the German national soccer team is playing. The whole nation enjoys the soccer match and Autobahn are free for high speeds.
6.1 Routes on Autobahn suitable for highspeed and with relatively low traffic
As per December 2018 update, the following unrestricted (without speed limit) Autobahn sections are still noticed with relatively low traffic and are suitable for high speeds (above 120kph or 75mph).
A1: from Hamburg to Lübeck, between AS Bargteheide and Kreuz Lübeck
A1: from Schweich to Wittlich
A14: from Dresden to intersection with Hannover
A2: from Bad Oeynhausen to Bielefeld Ost
A2: from Halle to Magdeburg
A20: from junction with E251 to Rostock
A23: in Schleswig-Holstein from Pinneberg Nord to Itzehoe Süd and from Itzehoe Nord to Heide Süd
A24: the section between Hamburg and the Wittstock / Dosse intersection
A261: from Buchholzer Dreieck to interchange Hamburg-Südwest (both directions)
A27: between Bremen and Bremerhaven, from Ihlpohl to Stotel
A28: from Oldenburg Wechloy to the parking lot in front of Westerstede
A28: from Raststätte Hasbruch Nord to Kreuz Oldenburg Ost
A28: from Westerstede West to Dreieck Leer
A3: Oberhausen direction Cologne (direction south), between intersection Kaiserberg and intersection Breitscheid. Only in this direction. The opposite direction has speed limit of 120kph (75mph).
A3: between Straubing Autobahn entry / exit number 106 to Rosenhof entry / exit 103 in both directions and A3 till border of Holland
A3: from Siegburg direction Frankfurt – Westerwald
A3: shortly after Regensburg until shortly before Nuremberg
A30: from the Dutch border to the Lotter Kreuz (just before Osnabrück), exception: Schüttorfer Kreuz (interchange A30 / A31)
A33: on the section between Dissen / Bad Rothenfelde and the interchange Osnabrück-Süd
A38: whole section has low traffic
A39: Coming from Hamburg until just before Lüneburg Nord
A4: from Bucha to Klettbach
A4: between Gerstungen and Erfurf in both directions
A42: from the end of Oberhausen direction Dortmund to Herne Wanne
A42: from Herne Crange to Duisburg until beginning of Oberhausen
A43: from AK Münster Süd to the exit Recklinghausen / Herten
A52: from exit Marl Frentrop to AK Marl Nord
A44: from Düsseldorf-Nord to Flughafen Düsseldorf (Duesseldorf airport) in both directions
A45: between Gambach intersection (Gambacher Kreuz) and Gießen south intersection (Gießener Südkreuz)
A46: from Heinsberg to intersection Wanlo
A485: from Gießener Südkreuz to the junction with the B3 in direction north
A49: from Neuental to Baunatal-Süd
A5: between Basel (Swiss border) and Bad Bellingen
A5: between between Autobahn exit number 37 Heidelberg and 26 Darmstadt intersection (Darmstädter Kreuz)
A5: between Karlsruhe and Walldorf
A5: from Grenze Weil am Rhein to Höhe Bad Bellingen
A52: From Elmpt to Mönchengladbach höhe Wolfskull, and vice versa A52 from Mönchengladbach-Neuwerk to Kreuz Kaarst
A524: in Duisburg, between Kreuz Breitscheid and Duisburg Rahm
A57: from Kreuzung Kaarst to interchange Neuss-West
A59: from beginning A46 to exit Rheindorf
A6: Between Kreuz Weinsberg (~ 500 meters after the driveway) and Bretzfeld
A6: from Bischmisheim to just beyond Waldmohr
A6: from Frankthaler Kreuz to Grünstadt
A6: from Hockenheim to Sinsheim
A60: between Bingen Ost and Heidesheim
A60: from Wittlich to the end of the extension at Prüm
A61: from Dannstadt until shortly before the exit on the B9 to Speyer
A61: from intersection Mönchengladbach to the border of Holland
A63: Between Mainz (Saulheim) and Kaiserslautern
A65: between Haßloch and Landau-Nord (only this direction)
A66: between Wiesbaden-Nordenstadt and Frankfurt Zeilsheim (both directions)
A671: Mainz-Wiesbaden in both directions from the Mainbrücke bei Hochheim to the junction with A66
A7: between HH-Waltershof and Maschener Kreuz (only in direction south)
A7: in the direction of Kassel from the Göttingen exit until shortly before the intersection Drammetal
A7: north of Kassel-Nord crosses the Ellenbachstraße on the highway. From this bridge to the border of state of Lower Saxony is no speed limit.
A70: from the intersection Schweinfurt / Werneck to the exit Bamberg / harbor with the exception of the tunnel Schwarzer Berg. Tunnel has speed camera.
A71: between intersection Südharz and intersection Erfurt-Nord
A73: from Lichtenfels to Bamberg and vice versa. You can drive fast here from Höhe Bad Staffelstein.
A8: from junction A623 / A8 to Heusweiler
A8: from Luxembourg border to Tunnel Pellinger Berg (in both directions)
A8: from Merzig to exit Rehlingen-Siersburg (in both directions)
A8: from Wurmberg to intersection Leonberg
A9: from berlin to A4 Leipzig
A9: from Halle to Leipzig
A9: from Marktschorgast to Berg/Bad Steben (This section of A9 is famous for high speeding.)
A9: from Marktschorgast to Berg / Bad Steben
A92: only the section from Moosburg Nord to Landshut (Altdorf) has speed limit of 120kph (75mph), otherwise no limits on A92.
A93: from Weiden to Regenstauf in both directions
A96: from Lindau to interchange Memmingen
B15: in direction north
B15: in direction north from Kläham / Ergolsbach up to the intersection Saalhaupt
B9: in the Rhineland-Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz), from the junction Germersheim to Karlsruhe. Though it's two lane Autobahn, but often empty.