Stop needed at French-German border?
November 12, 2005 1:28 PM   Subscribe

When driving from France into Germany, is there a border crossing where you have to stop and speak to an official? Or do you just drive across with only a sign to mark the border?

In other words, is it like driving from the US to Canada, where you must stop and wait in a long line most likely, or is it like driving from Illinois to Indiana?
posted by richg to Travel & Transportation (25 answers total)
It's like driving from Illinois to Indiana. Not even like driving from Oregon to California - nobody asks you about produce.
posted by jedrek at 1:36 PM on November 12, 2005

you certainly don't stop + talk to anyone. i guess maybe sometimes there may be some kind of official office on large roads.
posted by andrew cooke at 1:37 PM on November 12, 2005

I remember back in the mid-1970s we all had to have passports. The border guards would scrutinize everyone carefully, but we didn't have to get out of the car. Amazing to think that's gone.

But here this guy got hit with drug dogs at the border with France and the Netherlands, so if it's the same thing I'm not so sure it's like Indiana to Illinois.
posted by rolypolyman at 1:39 PM on November 12, 2005

These days, it's just a some places, the former controls are still there, but you just whiz through them. There's usually an EU-flag style sign to mark the crossing.

I understand that the crossings between countries can and sometimes are fired up. I think that France and Belgium recently reactivated theirs for a while. Not sure the details.

I'd still be careful if you are wondering because you are in Europe and need a visa for one of the other countries. For example, France used to (and still might) require Aussies to have a visa. These days, especially, it might be worth making sure you're there legally.
posted by sagwalla at 1:39 PM on November 12, 2005

I went by bus between Germany and Netherlands this summer and when we passed the border a couple of officials came aboard and checked our passports. No checks were made during the other border crossings we made.
posted by rycee at 2:04 PM on November 12, 2005

I never went from France to Germany, but I went from France to England a couple of times, and I had more trouble than I expected (from Belgium to the Netherlands it is like crossing a province border). There were passport and luggage checks. They are worried about drugs, smugglers and terrorists. Germany and France are both Schengen countries though. That should be easier, but unfortunately these days you never know.

I would say you are likely not to have a problem, but I wouldn't count on it, especially not if you look foreign. I am ashamed to say that the Turkish/Moroccan people in my company consistently had more trouble than I had, and that was even before 9/11.
posted by davar at 2:33 PM on November 12, 2005

I took a bus from Paris to Frankfurt, and slept right through the whole thing. (2 years ago)
posted by defcom1 at 2:44 PM on November 12, 2005

No official stops, but as others have mentioned if you are of a darker skinned persuasion you may be pulled over for a spot check. I witnessed this several times traveling between Baden Baden and Strasbourg.
posted by Tenuki at 2:49 PM on November 12, 2005

Took a train from France to Spain, and when we arrived my girlfriend and I were singled out and asked for passports. It wasn't an official border stop or anything, just some plain-clothes police guys (who were very good about showing ID badges and explaining who they were).

I guess the big prominent Canadian flags on our gear prestablished us as non-Europeans. Nobody else aboard the train was asked.

We crossed all the other borders (maybe 8 or 9 other borders), without ever being asked for ID.
posted by MiG at 3:14 PM on November 12, 2005

Best answer: It's hard to imagine, and some people refuse to believe it, but welcome to Schengenland! This is a picture I took of the Dutch-German frontier at Glanerbrug, in September. The black car's parked just beyond the border, and I'm standing in Deutschland.

As you can see, it's unattended. (And there's a branch of the Grasshopper a couple blocks down the street, for stocking up, if you know what I mean.) As noted above, though, controls could be reinstated at any time.
posted by Rash at 3:36 PM on November 12, 2005

And I realize it's Germany, not France, and the French have been having some recent troubles with domestic violence... thanks for that link, rolypolyman.
posted by Rash at 3:53 PM on November 12, 2005

Germany to France a couple months ago, nothing but EU flags.
posted by dness2 at 5:16 PM on November 12, 2005

i had no idea it was like this in europe ... amazing
posted by pyramid termite at 6:49 PM on November 12, 2005

France to Luxembourg and Luxembourg to Germany didn't have anything other than signs at the border when I was there last year. I imagine it's the same thing France to Germany. So much for the Maginot Line...
posted by blue_beetle at 10:41 PM on November 12, 2005

Not Schengen (then), but when passing between Sweden and Norway back in the 80s, we pulled over at customs and asked what we needed to do. They laughed and waved us on.
posted by dhartung at 11:01 PM on November 12, 2005

There have been no passport checks on the borders between Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark since 1957.
posted by lazy-ville at 12:22 AM on November 13, 2005

This is so different from the four hour wait at the border between Romania and Moldova on the Bucharest-Chisinau train (which is 12 hours by itself). They have to change the train-wheels because former USSR countries (such as Moldova) use a different gauge--not to mention the nervous glances and slow immigration officers. Although I've been to Europe several times, I've actually never travelled between two EU countries.

In hindsight, that is pretty odd, I guess.
posted by vkxmai at 12:26 AM on November 13, 2005

Best answer: It will depend on exactly where you are crossing. There are still some restrictions on what can be transported across borders between Germany and France. Thus occasionally there will be someone watching a prominent crossing and stopping the occasional car to check. But, if you need help, I know and used several small crossings outside of towns and villages just north of Switzerland in the Alsace. (Never carrying anything illicit, just mainly to save a bit of time on the way home to Zurich.)
posted by michswiss at 3:11 AM on November 13, 2005

The scariest border crossing I ever encountered was going from Czechoslovakia to Austria in the mid 70s. The Czech border police pulled two people off the train (supposedly for currency violations) and we never saw them again.

I felt like I was was a character in a Cold War spy drama.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 4:11 AM on November 13, 2005

Great question, great answers. Once again, AskMe has educated me.
posted by languagehat at 7:32 AM on November 13, 2005

A couple details I thought to add, about my photo: I assumed the vacant blue-and-yellow building was the Dutch border control office; but there was nothing similar on the German side. And that sign in the median is advertising a cafe just to the left of the picture, perhaps that was the office, but it didn't look anything like one. And this was a minor, out of the way crossing point (the nearby German town is Gronau).

Since the Schengen agreement I've ridden that Köln-Amsterdam train several times, both ways, and never seen any check at the border. Good to know they occasionally happen.
posted by Rash at 8:59 AM on November 13, 2005

I've crossed the border at Appenweier, Kehl and a number of the other borders around Strasbourg - heading to or from Frankfurt, and NEVER seen anyone actually at the border. I've seen plenty of German police cars AFTER the border...but the actual crossings are often deserted.

One thing I did notice is that the speed limit signs often bring you down to 20km/h, and CCTV films you - so maybe they do their 'profiling' this way.

Never got I'm glad they never found the 'stash'.
posted by mattr at 9:43 AM on November 13, 2005

vkxmai -- Interesting that you should mention the difference in wheel gauge between former USSR and other countries. My grandmother used to tell us how, when she and her sisters were escaping from Auschwitz, they boarded a train that they were told was heading back to their hometown in Hungary. At some point, she became suspicious of the train's ultimate destination when she noticed that the wheel gauge was different than what she was used to, having learned about the USSR in school, I guess. They got off the train in a hurry. Who knows where they would've ended up.

posted by greatgefilte at 12:04 PM on November 13, 2005

I never got stopped in crossing between France and Belgium. Not certain if I crossed directly to Germany. The French are snippy about the Netherlands though, for the obvious reasons.

Holland to Germany I never got checked. Good thing! The last time I did this by train, a guy in the seat in front of me was checked very carefully. I pretended to read while quietly freaking out. They didn't check anyone else. Thereafter, I only went via car.

They were careful about passports when passing between Austria and Hungary, a few years ago. But that was before Hungary became a member of the EU. I don't know if Shengen now applies there, or not. They are mostly concerned with economic refugees, and Americans aren't yet poor enough to be of concern.
posted by Goofyy at 2:36 AM on November 14, 2005

Holland to Germany I never got checked. Good thing! The last time I did this by train, a guy in the seat in front of me was checked very carefully. I pretended to read while quietly freaking out. They didn't check anyone else. Thereafter, I only went via car.

Sounds to me like he just fit the description of a wanted person or something. Why did you start using a car after that? Oh and the newest EU-countries have not joined Schengen yet.
posted by lazy-ville at 4:09 AM on November 14, 2005

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