Here's a little list of tips we've compiled for living on the road in Germany.
Germany’s official national language is German.
Germany’s official currency is the Euro. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted. Be prepared to use cash in smaller towns and some petrol stations.
Drinking water is easy to find, particularly in mountainous areas. Some water fountains may have signs on them to indicate that the water is uncontrolled. “Trinkwasser” means drinking water. Check out our map of water points here.
You can get post delivered to Deutsche Post post offices in Germany by addressing it as Postlagernd, but it should be addressed to the Hauptpost or main post office of the location. You have the option of using a password instead of, or in conjunction with, your name on your post, which you will give when collecting your mail from the post office. Your post will be held for a maximum of 7 working days.
The address format is as follows:
Kennwort: [Password] (optional)
Street name, number
Post code, town
Post office addresses and more information about Postalgernd can be found at deutschepost.de.
Petrol: Benzin (Bleifrei)
There are few supermarket fuel stations in Germany, the majority are companies like Shell, Total and Aral. We found Jet and Total to be among the cheapest, although there is often little difference in price.
All supermarkets are closed on a Sunday, but fuel stations and tobacco shops are usually open.
clever-tanken.de can be used to check fuel prices in any area of Germany, and although it does use pop up adverts we’ve found it to be fairly accurate.
Rubbish bins and recycling facilities are generally easy to find on the streets. Alternatively you can seek out one of Germany's recycling areas called Recyclinghof, where you will find containers for just about every type of recyclable material.
• Built-up areas 31 mph (50 km/h)
• Outside built-up areas 62 mph (100 km/h)
• Dual carriageways 80 mph (130 km/h) (recommended maximum)
• Motorways 80 mph (130 km/h) (recommended maximum)
Certain autobahns have derestricted speed limits.
In bad weather (visibility below 50m) or if you’ve got snow chains fitted the maximum speed limit is 31mph (50 km/h).
In a traffic jam, all vehicles must move to the sides of the road to form an emergency lane (Rettungsgasse) to allow emergency services through. If on a road with more than two lanes, the emergency lane must be created in the middle of the two leftmost lanes.
There is a law in Germany that you are not allowed to leave your engine idling, but according to the Germans this is not strictly enforced, as truck drivers are often required to leave their engines on for heating and recharging batteries.
The general condition of the roads in Germany is good to excellent.
There are no toll roads in Germany apart from the Herrentunnel and the Warnowtunnel.
Some German cities operate low emission zones, marked by signs which read Umweltzone which display a green, yellow or red vignette called a Plakette. A Plakette can only be obtained from technical inspection centres or approved garages for a fee.
Compulsory items to carry in your vehicle always:
Winter tyres must be used in winter weather conditions.
Recommended items to carry in your vehicle (these items are compulsory for German vehicles but not for visitors, however your vehicle must be signalled in case of a breakdown):
First aid kit
Spare bulb kit
Wild camping in Germany - as in many countries - is a legal grey area. There are mixed opinions on wild camping here but according to the Germans it is allowed, even in areas such as the Black Forest, but only for vehicles and not for pitching tents.
As a general rule if you are out of the way, not on private property or in densely populated tourist areas you will be okay to stay in your van overnight. Just look out for signs and restrictions. Police tend to look differently at the situation if you have chairs out and awning up etc., so just keep it discreet and move on regularly and you should be fine.
Germany is a huge country with a lot to see, from vast forests and imposing mountains to cities rich with culture and history. We spent just a week in its South Eastern regions exploring the Black Forest and its mountains on our way to Eastern Europe. The climate is similar to that of England, mild and often rainy but with times of snow.
The only place we've seen that we can recommend is the Black Forest, which is so big and dark you could easily find yourself lost in it. Climb up to its highest point, the Feldberg mountain, to behold its entire beauty at once, particularly around sunrise. Saying this, we'd been invited to Berlin, a hotspot for people living in vans, which we were eager to check out but didn't make it on our trip.
The frequent police roadside stops are rather annoying, but a fact of life for both residents and tourists.
If you're in the Black Forest make sure to try a proper Kirschtorte- that's Black Forest gateau to you and me. If you're a vegetarian and you don't like beer, there's not much else for you in Germany.