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Driving in Germany and low emission
October 9, 2012 4:42 AM   Subscribe

What's your advice for a driving holiday across Holland into Germany, particularly regarding low emission zones in cities?

So, Dr Girlfriend and I are going on a driving holiday in a week: partly to catch the Essen game fair, partly to celebrate her birthday. We're catching the ferry from the UK to the Hook of Holland, making our way to Essen (where we have a hotel booked for a few days) and then have a bunch of unplanned days before catching the ferry back.

The auto and driving sites have been useful in finding out how our car must be equipped (country sticker, first aid kit etc.) but we still have a few questions about driving and touring:

* A large number of cities on the continent are now labelled as Low Emission Zones, which means your car needs a sticker to be used within them. Fortunately, Essen doesn't adopt this until next year, but the scheme seems very confusing. If I understand right, our car (a Ford KA) would be eligible for a sticker, but the registration schemes are run by each individual city - meaning we would have to find a garage in ecah city to register our car. Surely this can't right, or do we have to actively avoid low emmission zones?

* Essen, Spieletage asides, seems a little ... dull? Guidebooks and tourist advice for the region is a bit light on. What can be done around there? My partnet is a mad cyclist, so cycle paths or trips around there would be good.

* General tips for driving in Holland and Germany? I've driven on the continent before (and on the right side) and looked at overviews of driving laws.

* Where to go on our unplanned days? We've thought about south to the French/German border and Luxembourg or north to Bremen. Caveat: I don't want to spend too long driving each day.
posted by outlier to Travel & Transportation around Germany (14 answers total)
 
A large number of cities on the continent are now labelled as Low Emission Zones, which means your car needs a sticker to be used within them. Fortunately, Essen doesn't adopt this until next year, but the scheme seems very confusing. If I understand right, our car (a Ford KA) would be eligible for a sticker, but the registration schemes are run by each individual city - meaning we would have to find a garage in ecah city to register our car. Surely this can't right, or do we have to actively avoid low emmission zones?

In Germany, at least, you just need one green, level 4 sticker, and it will apply to all of the zones. It's definitely not done on a city-by-city basis. You can order one online.

General tips for driving in Holland and Germany? I've driven on the continent before (and on the right side) and looked at overviews of driving laws.

Only pass on the left, don't speed excessively, and make sure to check very carefully for cyclists when you're not on the autobahn and turning a corner. Don't extend your middle finger to other motorists (you can be fined quite a lot for that), be polite to police officers (again, you can be fined a lot if you aren't), and keep some small change around for using the toilets at rest areas.

Where to go on our unplanned days? We've thought about south to the French/German border and Luxembourg or north to Bremen. Caveat: I don't want to spend too long driving each day.

Cologne isn't far, and you can certainly fill up as many spare days as you have there.
posted by cmonkey at 5:05 AM on October 9, 2012


Here is the info in English, about the emission sticker that you need. Seems easy; search around on the main page for maps and additional info.

(And thanks for bringing this to my attention, I had no idea).
posted by Namlit at 5:10 AM on October 9, 2012


I will not use the edit button for this, but: listen to cmonkey. Same sticker - better fee.
posted by Namlit at 5:13 AM on October 9, 2012


Whew. Thanks Namlit. I was looking at a different site (lowemissions.eu?) that was a showing a dizzing array of regulations. One sticker makes it much easier.
posted by outlier at 5:44 AM on October 9, 2012


And thanks to cmonkey - for some reason I saw namlits answere before yours. Strange how the same sticker can get sold for such a different price.
posted by outlier at 7:02 AM on October 9, 2012


Well I happen to have lived in Essen - there's certainly enough to do around Essen to fill a couple of days: I'll give you a few keywords:

Biking: there's the Baldeneysee - very nice for biking (16 km, or taking a long walk). You can follow the Ruhr (the river that feeds the Baldeneysee) both upstream and downstream by bike.

There's a bike tour planner available for longer tours

Close to the Baldeneysee is the "Villa Hügel". The gigantic mansion of the Krupp Family (they lived there up to the 1950s) + a museum + a huuuuge and very nice parc.

If you are in the mood for some heavy duty industrial culture go to the Zeche Zollverein. A UNESCO world heritage site with a design museum, a very nice museum on mining history - and most of all: a couple of square kilometres of old industrial installations both functional and in a state of decay.

The Aalto Theater (Opera) and the Philharmonie Essen (concerts) are both very renown in their fields!

For fancy shopping go to Düsseldorf...

Have fun on your trip! The games fair is awesome.
posted by mathiu at 7:50 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Biking between Essen and Duesseldorf is very pleasant. The paths are fabulous. (I lived in Duesseldorf. Go through the woods, through Angermund) I also think Duesseldorf is a beautiful city. And be sure to drink 'Altbier', the local traditional ale. (seek braueri/brewers in the altstadt/old-city).

Closer to Essen is Movieworld, an amusement park formerly part of the 6 Flags chain (Which sold all it's European parks). If you like that sort of thing. (I like coasters).
posted by Goofyy at 8:48 AM on October 9, 2012


mathiu already covered a lot, so I just came in to add this place.
posted by MinusCelsius at 12:28 PM on October 9, 2012


Thanks to all. Just what I was looking for.
posted by outlier at 1:43 AM on October 10, 2012


I don't know if you were also enquiring about Low Emission Zones in the Netherlands, but here's the answer: you don't need to worry about it. The Dutch LEZs are for industrial vehicles only, and it is not enforced on foreign vehicles.

Some tips on driving in the Netherlands that I wish I had heard before I moved here:

- Compared to the Brits, the Dutch drive very, very close to each other. On both local roads and on motorways at high speed. This is not aggressive driving and you're not being cut off… that's just the way it is.

- Be aware that cars on the right have priority at junctions (unless there are road markings indicating otherwise). I've almost had an accident here: yes, you're on the main road; no, you don't have priority. Cars coming down the smaller road on the right have priority and you must stop for them.

- As cmonkey said: be aware of cyclists when turning as they are everywhere. However, be extra careful of this when using roundabouts: cyclists usually have priority and you may have to come to a stop to allow cyclists to pass before exiting.
posted by fakelvis at 2:47 AM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Joining in about the left-yields-to-right rule at unmarked junctions and crossings. It can be confusing, since the amount of marking varies between countries, and hence the drivers' expectations. In fakelvis's example, since the junction is unmarked, there is strictly spoken no main road, that's the whole point. It only looks like one to people who expect it to be one.

Another thing, about driving on highways in Germany: even though there are more speed limits now than there used to be, many stretches are still without a limit, and some people drive as fast as their car goes. Before you enter the left highway lane, and during your stay there, keep an extra eagle eye in your mirror; you have no idea how little time a car needs that's going 200km/h, in order to become a menace when you're just going 120. Slower traffic keeps to the right, obviously (no passing on the right allowed).
posted by Namlit at 10:52 AM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


A post-trip report, for later readers and as thanks:

- The TUV sticker turned out to be easy. We found a TUV station on our way into Germany and bought one for a whole 5 Euros from a bemused mechanic. And now we're covered for the entire life of the car.
- Holy crap, do the Dutch drive close. Was it not for the above advice, I'd swear they were trying to intimidate us. And rushhour in Holland seems to envelope the whole country.
- The locals usually stick to speed limits, except for local or backroads where presumably they knew the area and that there were no speed traps about. We were content to stick to the right-hand (slow) lane and well within limits as others blew by us at car-rattling speeds.
- You absolutely need to keep an eye out for cycle paths intersecting with roads in Holland
- Road signage was plentiful but sometimes overly complex or unfamiliar. Even with a satnav, we missed a few exits because lanes divided in unexpected ways or two exits were close together.
- Much biking was done around Essen. Initially, the city seemed a bit non-descript, but Spieltage was awesome, Zollverein was a sight and we had some good food. Cologne was also nice and we wanted to stay there longer.
posted by outlier at 5:40 AM on October 25, 2012


Ah great, you're still living.

And rushhour in Holland seems to envelope the whole country.

When you fly into Amsterdam at 7:00 a.m. on a clear day in the winter, it's actually beautiful, a bit like utterly stationary miles-long Christmas decorations.
posted by Namlit at 6:44 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


There were a few scary moments when massive trucks came charging up from behind and whipped around us, covering us with water. And when we saw trucks drifting slowly towards the shoulder, one set of wheels in the lane, one off the road. Is there about to be a really bad accident that I don't want to be near?

One thing for driving on the continent: there's a lot more (and convenient) rest areas and services than the UK. I'd gotten used to 44 miles until next petrol ...
posted by outlier at 7:18 AM on October 25, 2012


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