Adventure travel: the German autobahn

July 3, 2014 |

Germany’s Autobahn has gained international notoriety for how quickly drivers can go from city to city on its freeways – and because you can drive as fast as you want.

The first stretch of the autobahn ran from Cologne to Bonn and was completed in 1932. Within six years, an additional 1,860 miles was added to the transportation network, according to The German Way.

Inspiration for this freeway came from the Avus experimental highway in Berlin that was built in 1913 as well as the Autostrada Tollway between Milan and the Italian lakes.

If you want to visit the autobahn today, you’ll have 6,800 miles of road to drive down, making it one of the most dense and longest highway systems in the world. Most of Germany is accessible via this freeway but the roads also go into Switzerland, Italy and Austria.

Rules for driving the Autobahn
If you want to stay safe on the Autobahn, be sure to follow some of these rules:

  • When you see a “de-restriction” sign, that means you’re now in an unlimited-speed section and can go as fast as you want.
  • There is a suggested speed limit of 81 miles per hour on the Autobahn, but that’s just a recommendation. However, keep in mind that those recommended speeds are likely there for a reason. Many recommendations and are found in urbanized, accident-prone or under construction areas.
  • If you see a sign with an “X,” that means you’re forbidden from stopping or pulling onto the shoulder unless absolutely necessary. If you need to stop and it isn’t an emergency, get off at an exit.
  • While it’s common practice in the U.S. to flash your headlights at a driver you want to pass, it’s seen as rude in Germany.
  • Turn on your hazard lights to warn drivers behind you that you’re going to brake hard or that there’s stopped traffic ahead.
  • Just like in the U.S., the far left lane is used for passing. Drivers are forbidden from passing others in the right lane.
  • When you see a number on a circular sign with red around it, that means there is a speed limit in effect. Also, cars that have trailers as well as trucks must always follow the speed limit.
  • Tires on cars driving the Autobahn are required to be approved for the vehicle’s top speed. If an automobile has winter tires or the tires are not approved, then a sticker is placed in the vehicle notifying the driver of a permissible top speed.

Visitors to venture along the Autobahn are often there for luxury travel, as they rent Porches and Audis that are fast and able to handle the sometimes curvy roads.