Renting a car in Germany is a great solution for solo travelers, families with children, couples and all those who travel with close friends. A shared car is a wonderful way to independently experience beautiful Germany, and to stop at any point you want, and every time – when you want! Germany is a very large country and the distances between the sites and the points of interest there are great. Getting around with a rented car, unlike with public transportation that doesn’t necessarily stop at every corner, is an opportunity to learn quite a bit about it and also get to particularly attractive places.
Renting a car in Europe, including in Germany, requires the renters to present a valid driver’s license from their country or province. Although the legal driving age in Germany is 18 or older, usually drivers who rent a car in Germany are required to be over 21 (sometimes even older). Visitors to Germany, Switzerland and other European countries need an international driver’s license, which is, in fact, the official translation of the local license from the driver’s home country. However, in Germany the car rental companies do not always require an international license and you can be satisfied, when renting the car, with the original Israeli license (in the case of drivers from Israel). In any case, check this in advance with the specific rental company.
Familiarity with the European and German traffic laws in particular is necessary, whether you are planning a short vacation in Germany or a long one. It is important to learn the international road signs and the meaning of each of them, as these may be, to a certain extent, different from what you are familiar with (none of us wants to receive a traffic report with a large fine in the mail or when returning the car to the car rental company by surprise …).
While in Israel most drivers drive vehicles with an automatic transmission, the opposite is true in Europe, including in Germany itself. Most Germans, and Europeans in general, learn to drive with a manual transmission and therefore most of them also drive on the road in this type of vehicle and less in automatic ones. This is also reflected in the car rental companies, which offer, by default, vehicles with a manual transmission. Those interested in automatic vehicles should make sure to request this in advance and take into account higher rental fees compared to renting a manual car, and also higher fuel costs (important to know: the cost of gasoline in Europe is considered relatively high). For those who are used to driving a car with an automatic transmission, it is recommended to rent such a car even if the final cost is higher. Convenience, as well as safety, is what matters in the end.
Although the number of parking meters is relatively small, both in Germany and in other European countries, this does not mean that you do not have to pay for parking. You can pay with the automatic parking meters, the Parkscheinautomat, with coins or with a special card – FC, but it is not always possible to pay with a credit card. When parking the vehicle in an urban parking area (whether adjacent to a business or a residence), look for a sign that says “Parkscheine” (parking tickets) and the machine where you pay. It must not be assumed that this is free parking. Upon finding the parking meter, insert the coins into it to pay for the relevant parking time and place the ticket, provided by the machine, on the vehicle’s dashboard, so that it can be seen from the outside (just as is done in Israel).
In several cities in Germany: Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg, Wiesbaden and other cities, you can pay for parking using your mobile phone (Android or iPhone). There are dedicated apps, such as Pango and EasyPark, that allow quick and very convenient payment for that parking. The parking fees are charged to the same phone account and the owner of the device even receives a warning/indication message about 15 minutes before the parking time expires.
Navigation in and out of cities
It is highly recommended to use navigation apps, whether driving a car in busy cities or on highways or local roads. You can rent a mobile GPS device through the car rental company with the addition of a fixed fee for each rental day. It is important to order the device in advance as it is not installed, by default, in the rented vehicle. Another option is to use the well-known navigation apps, which warn of blocked roads, of slowing down and show the easiest and most convenient route to the destination. For those who have a GPS device, you should make sure, before you go on vacation, that you also have up-to-date maps of the destination you are traveling to.
Similar to other countries in the world, in Germany too there are quite a few speed cameras, which require extreme caution and great attention. At the same time, there is less enforcement activity on the part of the police and compared to the United States for example, their presence is not felt relatively on the road. However, this does not mean that it is permissible to be disrespectful and it is recommended, and even highly desirable, to be careful to drive carefully and in accordance with all existing traffic laws. In Germany, as well as in other European countries, speed cameras are used that are based on radar, automatic cameras that are activated by measuring radar. These detect the speed of the vehicle and its license plates and know when its speed exceeds the speed limit. Tourists, who are not residents of Germany, Those found by these cameras driving above the speed limit will usually receive the traffic report through the car rental company through which they rented their car in Germany, which will also take care of charging them for the fine. The speed limit on the road you are driving on can be seen on the existing signage.
Starting in 2010, special laws regarding winter driving came into force in Germany. These are especially strict in regards to the correctness of the car’s tires (which should be tires adapted to driving in the snow) and the winter driving itself. These laws also apply to rental cars. The winter period, officially, as far as winter driving is concerned, is between October and Easter (O To O). Make sure that the rented vehicle also includes snow tires, if you rent it after the month of October, and that these are removed from it if the vehicle is rented after Easter.
Drivers must carry a warning triangle (Warndreieck) and a first aid kit in their vehicle (in rented vehicles it will usually be found in the trunk). It is important to make sure that the rental car insurance offers all the required coverages, which can save you hundreds and possibly even thousands of shekels at the moment of truth.