1. Driver's license
USAREUR driver’s license - As a U.S. service member under the SOFA Agreement a USAREUR driver’s license and a stateside driver’s license are necessary to be eligible to drive in Germany. With that said, if your stateside driver's license is about to expire, it is a good idea to renew it before PCSing to Germany.
Driver's Test - In order to obtain the USAREUR driver's license, you will need to participate in an approximately 2-hour long driver’s class with a subsequent driver’s test. Therefore, it is important to study the German traffic rules and signs before taking the test. Click on the link to the official U.S. Forces Driver’s License Test for Germany to find the needed study material.
International Driver’s License - If you are planning on visiting other countries by car during your stay in Germany, you have to obtain an international driver’s license. The reason being that the issued USAREUR driver’s license is only valid under the SOFA Agreement inside of Germany.
Find some introductory information on which documents you will need when applying for an international driver’s license at the Kaiserslautern County Administration. If you reside in the KMC area, you can also contact the German-American Community Office for assistance.
And remember: Owning a GPS will prove invaluable when traveling by car in Europe!
Helpful Links - For further information on USAREUR driver’s license, driver’s testing, vehicle registration or driving in Europe, visit the official websites of the USAREUR Registry of Motor Vehicles and Installation Management Command Directorate - Europe. Additional information sources for vehicle inspection and registration are the websites of Ramstein Air Base and Spangdahlem Air Base.
Keep in mind to carry your stateside and USAREUR licenses, insurance card, and vehicle registration in your car at all times!
Buying a car - Now that you finally arrived in Germany you will probably need a new ride to get around. Go to FindItGuideCars and search conveniently on the internet for a car that suits you perfectly.
Traffic in Germany – First thing that comes to mind is the Autobahn and the speed at which Germans drive. If you are driving for the first time in Germany, it may be a good idea to keep right. Left lanes are for passing only. The speed limit in town is 50 kilometers per hour (km/h) and 30 km/h in designated areas. On country roads, the limit is usually 100 km/h. Although there is no general speed limit effective for the Autobahn, a speed limit of 130 km/h is always recommended for safety reasons.
Despite the rumors that the German Autobahn is completely unregulated, on many stretches speed is indeed regulated, so please beware and drive safely!
Fines and penalties - Did you commit a traffic violation? Don't worry, it happens! Now you are probably anxious to know what the penalty will presumably look like. The German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure will give you the sought answers through the official schedule of fines and penalties.
Roadside Assistance - A membership with a roadside assistance will prove invaluable in the case of a car breakdown. ADAC is the German equivalent of AAA (American Automobile Association) and gives you emergency assistance throughout Europe with their Plus package.
ADAC offers towing and breakdown/road service in almost any EU country and is authorized to assist on U.S. installations. The benefits of a basic package membership include breakdown and accident assistance anywhere in Germany up to 200 Euro, vehicle transport to the closest car repair shop, assistance with accidents involving animals up to 300 Euro, and a 24 Hour hotline is available. Visit the ADAC for more information on the benefits of an ADAC membership.
Accident Assistance - In case of an accident, drivers in Germany have a responsibility to render aid and leaving the scene is considered a hit-and-run and a serious criminal offense under both German law and U.S. military law. According to German law, there is a duty to help in case of an "accident or common danger or emergency" if help is necessary and appropriate, and the helper is not significantly endangering him or herself or violating other important duties. Violating this duty to help constitutes a criminal offense.
Winter Driving – When warm weather gives way to cold, you should consider preparing your vehicle for the harsh road conditions in the winter season. According to German law, the use of winter tires under icy conditions is mandatory. In general, winter tires should be put on in October and remain on until April. Take a look at the fact sheet by the U.S. Army Europe.
Particularly in the winter time, you will need information about the road condition on your installation. For an up-to-date status of your installation visit the IMCOM-Europe Road Conditions and School Closures website for:
- Ramstein Air Base
- U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz - KMC and Baumholder
- Spangdahlem Air Base (under Roadcons)
Residents of the KMC area can also check this official pamphlet for more information on how to react when dangerous driving conditions emerge.
To get more information on German Road Rules, how to use your Fuel Ration Card, what German Road Signs look like, and much more we encourage you to take a look at the Stars & Stripes Road Guide or the U.S. Embassy in Germany website.
3. Bicycle and public transportation
Bicycle - Riding a bicycle is highly recommended for health reasons and is particularly pleasant in Germany because of the dense network of separate bike paths.
German law does not make distinctions between driving and biking. As a result, the same rules and penalties apply, no matter if you are biking or driving. This also means that drinking and driving is prohibited when riding a bike. Lastly, it is important to ensure your bike is in proper condition and that you comply with applicable traffic rules.
Public Transportation - Using public transportation instead of your POV is not only eco-friendly but also a convenient way to travel in Germany since the public transport network is in general very advanced.
Traveling by train is a fast option, especially when traveling to cities in Germany or other European countries. When purchasing a ticket for the train or bus from the automatic ticket machines, look for the little country flags on the screen before you start to set the machine in English.
Train tickets online - Do you want to purchase a ticket on the internet? No problem! Visit the Deutsche Bahn website in English to buy tickets online. The Deutsche Bahn (DB) is the largest railway operator and a focal point when using public tranportation in Germany. Even more convenient: Download the DB App and have it on your cell phone at all times.
USO Train Classes - If you prefer a hands-on course to learn how to ride the German train, the USO provides recurring DB Orientation classes. Find out when the next train trip is taking place by consulting the USO website.
Bus - Are you considering taking the bus? Find more detailed information about timetables, ticket prices, and bus routes on the online platforms of the respective public transport networks covering your area:
- KMC/Ramstein: Visit the Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Neckar (VRN) website or download the handy VRN App you can use while on the go.
- Baumholder: Go to the Rhein-Nahe Nahverkehrsverbund (RNN) website or download the timetable app in English RNN Companion.