Driving and public transport
You must be 18 to drive in Germany. Make sure that you drive on the right hand side of the road and that you always carry your driver’s licence, insurance and vehicle documents, as well as written permission from the registered owner if the vehicle does not belong to you. In the event of a road accident dial 110 for the emergency services.
Traffic can be faster-paced than in Ireland, especially on the motorways (Autobahn), and traffic laws, speed limits and driving customs are different.
Inner city areas of certain German cities are designated as environmental inner city zones (Umweltzone) into which only vehicles bearing a low emissions’ sticker may enter. The website of the Environmental Protection Agency (Umwelt Bundesamt) has information in English.
There have been a small number of reports of scams on motorways in northern Germany in which individuals claiming to be Irish have stopped motorists, said they were involved in an accident and asked to “borrow” money. If you are stopped by someone claiming to have been in an accident, contact the police on 112 with your location and a description of the individuals seeking assistance and their car registration number. Do not hand over money.
The Embassy has no involvement in driving licences. If you lose your Irish driver’s licence, you will need to contact the National Driver Licence Service in Ireland. If your licence is subsequently handed into the Embassy, the Embassy will return it to the NDLS.
If you’re hiring a vehicle, we strongly advise against giving your passport as a form of security. If you allow your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times. Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged). The Embassy cannot provide legal advice if your deposit is retained due to damage. We can send you a list of English-speaking lawyers and consumer rights organisations should you wish to pursue the matter privately.
German public transport operates on an honour basis. This means that you are trusted to have the correct ticket but you must produce that ticket immediately if asked to do so by a ticket inspector. Ticket inspectors are often dressed in plain clothes and will not make an exception for non-German speakers. If you are caught without a valid ticket or pass you will have to pay an on-the-spot fine which could be €60 or more. The Embassy of Ireland in Berlin cannot assist you to avoid paying a fine. We can send you a list of English-speaking lawyers in Germany should you wish to pursue the matter privately.
Certain tickets, such as a day pass (Tageskarte) or a 7-day pass, have an open date or time and must be validated before boarding public transport to show at which time and date you began to use the ticket. Tickets are validated by inserting them into a validating machine (Entwerter). Validating machines (yellow or red in colour) are usually located on under- and over-ground platforms and inside trams and buses. Make sure that you have a ticket that is valid for each zone in which you are travelling. Transport prices and rules vary between cities so make sure to check the transportation authority of the city you are visiting. At the time of writing, a day pass on the Berlin public transport system expires at 3am the day after validation (i.e. not 24 hours after validation) and a 7-day pass expires at midnight on the seventh day of validation. In Dresden a day passes expires at 4am, in Hamburg 6am and in Frankfurt at close of operations or the last journey of the day. Ask the ticket office which rules apply. Anyone caught without a valid, or validated, ticket can face an on-the-spot fine.
When booking a Deutsche Bahn rail ticket online you will be asked to designate an identity card (passport, passport card, credit card etc.) which you must present to the ticket inspector on the train to show that you are the person named on the ticket. Make sure to bring the same card/identification document with you on your journey. If your ticket is for a specific train and time it may not need to be validated. If your ticket is open make sure to validate it before boarding the train at one of the red validating machines located on the platform. Failure to validate your ticket can result in an on-the-spot fine or in your being removed from the train.
It is illegal to cross German pedestrian crossings when the red pedestrian light is on. Offenders risk a fine and payment of all costs in the event of an accident. While the Embassy cannot provide legal advice if you wish to challenge any fine, we can send you a list of English-speaking lawyers should you wish to pursue the matter privately.
Thu, 02 Jun 2016 12:21:54 BST