Munich in English - selected by independent Locals for Cosmopolitans, Newcomers and Residents - since 1989

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April 2007

How to Hit the Road

Cycling is idyllic, but there’s no better rush than a countryside drive on a gorgeous spring day. Even though the Autobahn is known to have no speed limit, there are a host of other regulations you’ll have to consider if you’re aching to head out on the highway.

Drivers with an EU license do not require any other documentation to drive legally in Germany. Visitors from non-EU countries may drive with a valid license from their home country for up to six months after entering the country. If planning to stay less than a year, however, one may apply for a six-month extension at the registration office (Führerscheinstelle, Eichstätterstr. 2, Tel. 23 39 60 90. Open Monday through Friday, 7 am to noon and Thursday 12:30 pm to 4:30 pm as well.). A translation of the US license (available from the ADAC automobile club for € 40. Tel. 0 180 510 11 12) and proof that the applicant will leave Germany before a year has passed are both required. For all those staying longer than a year, a German license is a necessity.

Americans with licenses from the following states can simply convert their license without taking any tests: AL, AZ, AK, CO, DE, IL, IA, KS, KY, LA, MA, MI, NM, OH, OK, PA, SC, SD, UT, VA, WV, WA, WI, WY, and PR. Applicants from South Africa, New Zealand, Australia or any of the following states must take a written test only: CT, DC, FL, ID, MS, MO, NE, NC, OR, and TN. Contact your Führerscheinstelle to register for the written test, which costs € 40 and can be taken in English. (It does, however, include a separate test of driving-related German vocabulary.) License holders from all other states or countries must take all tests, but are not required to take theory or driving lessons. If none of this is completed within three years after establishing residency, however, drivers must take the same number of lessons and tests as German citizens, at significant expense.

If you haven’t succumbed to the German passion for auto-owning, it’s still relatively easy to get out on the road with a rental from any of the several local chains. To rent a car in Germany, you must be at least 21 and have had a valid license for at least two years. Most companies allow rentals to travel to Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, and Spain. Due to occurence of theft, drivers renting in Germany may not take autos made by Audi, BMW, Mercedes, VW, Porsche or Jeep to the following countries: Estonia, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slo-vakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Some additional security costs may apply for renters traveling to these countries with other makes.

To cut down on travel time, consider making a leg of your journey on the Deutsche Bahn Autozug (car train). Cars or other vehicles of most dimensions can be transported on the double-decker compartment, while passengers ride in a separate car. See for information (in English) about dimension requirements for your destination country. Trains leave Munich Ostbahnhof for Italy (Bolzano, Livorno, Naples, and Verona), France (Avignon, Frejus, Narbonne), and Austria (Innsbruck, Salzburg, and Villach). Trains from Dortmund, Frankfurt, and Hamburg also go to Rijeka in Croatia. From any of these spots, it’s just a short drive to many of Europe’s most scenic roads: along the Adriatic, la Costa Brava, French vineyards and more. Yet if you’re taking your short drive à deux, remember that the “Romantic Road” is just down the highway, beginning in Landsberg.

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