motorhome travel in Germany essential facts

Motorhome Germany – A Complete Touring Guide

A motorhome tour of Germany offers incredible adventures. From the stunning Alps, the Black Forest with it’s gorgeous romantic road to medieval cities, fairytale castles and magical Christmas markets this surprising and interesting country is a must-see road trip destination for campervans and motorhomes.

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Whether you’re planning a motorhome route through Europe with Germany as just one destination, or a longer tour, the country is a popular one with Brit motorhomers. Germany’s ease of access, fantastic driving roads and unexpectedly beautiful landscapes and cities make the country a perfect motorhome destination. Bypass the central industrial belt and head for the Black Forest and Bavaria, or go north for the beautiful islands and tranquility of Germany’s only coast.

Germany Motorhome Resources

German Motorhome Routes

Crossing the Channel

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  • More expensive and quite a bit longer than the Dover-Calais route, the crossings from Harwich, Hull and Newcastle to the Netherlands may prove to be cost effective for your motorhome road trip, but only if you don’t live in the south east of England. 
  • The Stena Line Harwich-Hook of Holland route operates daily at 9am, with the crossing taking around seven hours. 
  • If you cross from Hull to Rotterdam with P&O, their daily crossing departs at 20. 

Getting to Germany

Once you’re on the continent, there are a number of routes to Germany, depending on your destination.

From Calais

From Calais, the quickest routes are the E42 and E411 via Luxembourg, crossing the border near Trier and the E40 and E42 route via Brussels. Both will take around five hours and are cost effective from a toll point of view.  A longer, but more scenic (and more expensive) route, takes you through France on the A26 and A4 via Reims and Metz. From here you can pick up one of the many autobahn routes in Germany, or maybe take the slow road and enjoy the countryside.

From the Netherlands

From the Dutch ports, it’s an easy two hour drive to the German border west of Dusseldorf, although once into Germany, this route does mean negotiating the busy road network around the industrial and built-up cities of the Rhine, before you can continue your onward journey.

Fly & Hire a Motorhome or Campervan

   

When to Visit Germany in a Motorhome

The ideal time to tour Germany is from May to September. Summer will give you the best weather, snow free hiking, and long days – but the roads and sites will be much busier.

Travel during the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn is easier and can be a bit less expensive, with campsite and ferry costs reducing. You’ll find quieter roads and stop overs but still enjoy great weather.

The more adventurous will be happy to visit in winter, for the amazing Christmas markets and dustings of snow creating a fairy tale landscape. The German’s are also good with snow, and their roads and services continue as normal.  You’ll need heating in your van and winter tyres to tour at this time of year.

Driving a Motorhome in Germany

German drivers are confident and assured and generally drive very well, although fast.  The roads are well maintained and without speed limits on much of the autobahn network. German camper vans are popular (Germany is, after all, the home of Hymer and VW) and regularly seen, you will often receive the obligatory wave from fellow van lifers, motorhomers and even caravan towers!

German Speed Limits for Motorhomes

  

Documents You Need to Travel & Drive in Germany

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Vehicle Safety Equipment for Germany

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  • Germany introduced regulations in 2010 requiring all passenger cars and motorbikes to be fitted with winter or all-season tyres in wintry conditions.

  

Information About Driving a Motorhome in Germany

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  • Even though speed is not limited on 70% of the autobahn network, the roads are often so full that a de facto speed limit has been established. The main cause is stop-and-go traffic or congestion around towns, so don’t expect to be barrelling down the German autobahn at 200kph on your motorhome trip!
  • Check your mirrors frequently; if a German driver wishes to overtake you or let you know they are coming up fast behind you, they will flash their lights and indicators to show their intent.
  • If you see hazard lights up ahead on the autobahn, this means there is a traffic jam.  Slow down and activate your hazard lights also, if the person behind you is travelling at high speed they will appreciate this courtesy and be able to stop in time.
  • If you have a GPS navigation system that shows you where any fixed speed cameras are, you must deactivate this function. It’s illegal to carry or use any radar detection equipment when driving through Germany.
  • All vehicles turning right have to give priority to bikes (on their inside) going straight on.
  • Unless you weight more than 7500kg, there are no tolls to pay, making motorhome routes through Germany a really cost effective way to access Italy and most easterly parts of Europe. If you are in a massive motorhome that is over this weight, then head here for more information.
  • The German police are able to hand out on-the-spot fines of up to €55 to motorists who have been caught violating traffic regulations. The motorist must pay the fine during the following week or legal proceedings could commence.
  • Be aware of umweltzonen (low emission zones) in some cities and built up areas. You need an umweltplakette (sticker) on the windscreen to drive into these in your campervan or motorhome,  which shows the level of your vehicles emissions. Green is the best, followed by yellow and then red. If you have a green sticker, you can go into all of the zones, but if you have a yellow or red one, you won’t be able to enter some of them. Click here for more detailed information.
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How to stay safe and legal in your motorhome
Staying Safe & Legal in Your Motorhome

If you live or travel in a motorhome then you need to know how to stay safe and keep on the right side of the law.  You will find everything you need to know here about staying safe and legal in your motorhome.

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Motorhome Services in Germany

    Use an app like Park4Night to locate motorhome and campervan services.

 

  

motorhome germany camping
Wild camping near Friedberg, Bavaria

Motorhome Stopovers in Germany

Stellplatz Germany

Aires in Germany are called stellplatz. Not all stellplatz offer a service point, their primary objective is to provide somewhere to sleep. Some are free, others cost much less than a campsite. It’s normal to pay for additional services, such as showers and electricity, if they are provided. 

Use the Reise Mobil Bord Atlas to find stellplatz stops by region and map. Also check out our top motorhome apps for finding stopovers.

There are over 3,600 stellplatz so the chances are there will be one for every place to visit in Germany. If you use a stellplatz there will usually be a set of rules displayed. If this is not the case, follow the usual rules of courtesy regarding noise, waste, washing and so on. Many stellplatz will only allow you to stay for a minimum period. If this is not displayed, then you should stay no longer than 2-3 nights.

Autohof

A good alternative to motorway service stations (not recommended) and stellplatz are Autohof, a network of private-run service stations. Autohof are not directly accessible from the autobahn, but always very close to an exit and usually signposted from the autobahn. 

Most of them allow overnight stays, a growing number also offer sanitary stations for motorhomes and even electric hookup. Their parking areas are fenced and guarded with CCTV. Autohof’s do charge a fee, but this will sometimes be refunded when buying something in their shops, restaurants or petrol stations.

Wild Camping in Germany for Motorhomes

Overnight parking in Germany in a motorhome is permitted. This means you must not place anything outside your vehicle, or you will be ‘camping’ and this is illegal. Use Park4Night or other free motorhome apps to find good spots and always follow the tips and guidance about wild camping in general, which you can find here.

Motorhome Campsites in Germany

If you are looking to stay on a site, ACSI EuroCampings have over 1,100 member sites in Germany.  Usually the standard is very high, with modern and clean sanitary facilities and well managed restaurants and site shops, although this is also reflected in the cost.

Landvergnügen

Similar to the France Passion scheme, Landvergnügen helps you get off the beaten path into rural Germany and discover over 1,100 idyllic places in nature where you can stay in a campervan or motorhome on a farm.  You must buy the book and vignette to be able to use the scheme and handy app.

WinzerAtlas

Another such scheme is WinzerAtlas or Wineegrowers Atlas. Billed as a connoisseurs scheme, WinzerAtlas covers over 200 winemakers and taverns in the wine growing regions of Germany, Austria and Alsace. You’ll also find lots of information about wine, grape varieties by region and things to see and do near each stopover.
motorhome wild camping Germany
Wild camping near Hamburg

German Motorhome Routes & Destinations

From Calais, you can be across the German border and into Trier in around five to six hours, making this a perfect start point for a motorhome tour of Germany.  These are some of our favourite destinations which you can explore if you head south.

Trier

Try and arrive arrive with enough time to explore Trier, Germany’s oldest city and a treasure trove of Roman ruins, so much so, it’s known as “Rome of the North”. A very walkable town, most of its key sights are within easy walking distance of the altstadt, or old town.

Don’t miss Porta Nigra, the landmark “black gate” which is the only one of the original four city gates still standing, and the Hauptmarkt, the main market square and the city’s lively and colourful centre.

St Peter’s Cathedral is also a must-see, with more than 1,700 years of history under its belt, it’s the oldest in the country. Destroyed and rebuilt many times, including by Allied bombing during WWII, the cathedral is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

To end your day, raise a glass of perfectly poured local Reisling to toast the start of your German road trip. We stayed at Reisemobilpark Treviris, a basic city stellplatz on the Mosel and a ten minute walk from Trier’s altstadt. 

Cochem

Take the stunning Mosel Valley drive to Cochem along routes 53 and 49, where you’ll meet up with the river again. If you have time, stop in Cochem to explore, but this part of the trip is really about the surrounding countryside and drive.

Motorhomes camping on the Moselle

Heidelberg

Continue on to Heidelberg, an historic university town, surrounded by forests. Heidelberg is renowned for its Baroque old town, beautiful riverside setting and evocative half-ruined hilltop castle which draws over 11 million visitors a year. 

For the best views of the city and easiest route to the castle, take the funicular railway that set off on its first journey back in 1890. The historic funicular connects four stations in Heidelberg, and is one of the best ways to arrive at Heidelberg Castle.

You’ll also find one of the longest shopping streets in Europe in Heidelberg …who knew? Hauptstrasse is a lively mile of cafes, bistros, shops, ice-cream parlours and bars and is always buzzing with life, well into the warm summer evenings.

The best place to stay is a little way out of town, so a scooter or e-bikes would be helpful. 

Baden-Baden

Leave Heidelberg and head for Baden-Baden, an elegant art nouveau town known for its curative waters and air of old-world luxury. This Black Forest town boasts open-air cafes, independent boutiques and pristine gardens along the Oos river. With its gorgeous thermal baths – which put the Baden (bathe) in Baden, this timeless town is a must-see on your road trip.

The Black Forest Ridgeway

As you leave Baden-Baden for this great campsite, ignore your sat nav and take the Schwarzwald Hochstrasse, the Black Forest Ridgeway. From Baden-Baden take the Bundesstrasse 500 south-east to Freudenstadt, for 60km of fabulous road and uninterrupted panoramic views of glorious mountain ranges, valleys and meadows. 

Explore the Black Forest

With the ‘capital’ of the forest, Freiburg im Breisgau to the west, the medieval town of Hornberg just a few kilometres away, and any number of quintessential Black Forest villages nestling amidst the trees, you’ll get a sense of the region quickly.

Visit a cuckoo clock workshop to watch a craftsman making a traditional clock; eat the deliciously rich cherry, chocolate, schnapps and cream Black Forest gateau which you’ll find in all bakeries; pop to Triberg for the Triberg Falls, the highest waterfall in Germany; find one of the forests’ crystal clear lakes and go for a dip; ride a summer toboggan down a mountainside; follow the Badische Weinstrasse …you get the idea, there’s lots to do here!

The Bodensee

Head further south, leaving the Black Forest for the Bodensee, or Lake Constance, which borders Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Fed by the Rhine river, the beautiful lake is ringed by lively resort towns and campsites, and is perfect for sailing, windsurfing and swimming in the summer months. The Bodensee-Radweg cycle path is 26km long and encircles the entire lake, if you’re up for a challenge!

Neuschwanstein Castle

Otherwise, take the road east to the incomparable Neuschwanstein Castle, the turreted fairytale schloss built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria in 1869. If you want to skip the inside of the castle (which is ok but nowhere near as good as the outside), then head for Marienbrücke, the Bridge of Our Lady. The beautiful bridge spans a deep gorge across the river Pollat and has amazing views across to the castle.

Depending on where you decide to stay, you may cross briefly into Austria, before coming back into Germany again. Take the 179 from Fussen and set your sat nav for tonight’s stop to avoid any Austrian motorways, for which you need a vignette (toll sticker).

motorhoming in Germany

The Zugspitze

It’s all about the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain at 2962m. You don’t need to be an expert climber or even a hiker to get to the summit. Take the traditional cog-wheel train or uber-modern cable car right to the top, for the most incredible views across the Alps (and pretty good hot chocolate too!)

The Romantic Road

The Romantic Road was once a Middle Ages trading route and today winds through picturesque landscapes and quaint medieval towns bursting with culture, cuisine and castles.

Stop at Augsburg for its well-preserved historic town hall complete with a a Golden Hall, so named because of its guilded wooden ceiling. At St Mary Cathedral you’ll find five Romanesque stained glass windows dating back to 1065, which are believed to be the oldest glass painted series in the world. Finally, stop by the oldest social housing in the world, The Fuggerei. Built in 1521, these 140 flats remain and residents pay just 88 cents a year in rent – although they must pray for the founder three times a day!

Continue on to the next major stop on the Romantic Road, Dinkelsbuhl. The streets here are lined with nearly-unspoiled medieval German architecture, including colourful gatehouses in the old town, as well as its own wall with prominent towers that have survived some 800 years and all its wars. There’s a perfect overnight stop here just a few minutes from the old town.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Continue north, taking route 25 and making sure to set your sat nav to non-motorways, or you’ll be routed onto the autobahn, missing much of the beautiful landscape and villages as you drive.

Rothenburg is probably the most perfect medieval town in Europe, Rothenburg ob der Tauber. With cobbled squares, winding streets, ramparts and painted houses, Rothenburg is like something from a film set, except it is an authentic historic town.

Rothenburg is always busy, and you might want to stop here so that you can enjoy the town once all the tour buses have departed in the late afternoon and evening.

From here, Germany is your oyster. Continue north-west for Cologne and the low countries, north for Hamburg and Norway, or north-east for Berlin and Eastern Europe.

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German Life

Culture

German’s place a high priority on structure, privacy and punctuality. The German people embrace the values of thriftiness and hard work; life in Germany is well organised and German’s are usually very compliant with the rules. Although this may sound constraining, it means that everything works as it should; life is peaceful, the environment clean and you know what to expect, when to expect it and how to deal with it!

  • If you stay in a small rural town or village, you may come across strange rules; no hanging your washing out or vacuuming on Sundays, and no loud music between noon and 3pm on any day, for example. If you are motorhome wild camping rurally, make sure you know the local rules. German people are not known for holding back when you have done something ‘wrong’!
  • In Germany, it is considered rude to stand too close to another person; one to two metres would be a good distance. This unwritten rule applies to people you know and also strangers, for example when you are queuing in a shop. Do not gesticulate too much when talking, this invades personal space even more!
  • Public transport in Germany will be on time, every time. Do not allow yourself to run late or you will miss your bus or train. Oh, and once you’re on public transport, any conversation louder than a whisper will earn you stern looks, tutting and shaking of the head!
  • German people rarely admit fault, even jokingly, and don’t usually hand out compliments. This attitude may seem unfriendly, but there is a keen sense of community and social conscience in Germany; self-containment is just part of their culture. Take the time to make contact and chat with locals and you will be rewarded with friendly, kind and helpful interactions.
  • Jaywalking (crossing the road where there is no crossing or where the lights are not green) is illegal in Germany and whilst unlikely, you may get fined if caught.
  • Shops and many bars and restaurants do not open on Sundays, even in tourist destinations. If you need a pint of milk or loaf of bread on Sundays, the only places where you will find a grocery shop open are train stations, airports and petrol station forecourts. 
  • Despite Germany being a first-world developed country and at the fore-front of the banking world, cash is king here.  Lots of smaller places still don’t accept credit cards, especially if you are travelling rurally in Germany in your motorhome. Visit the cashpoint regularly.
  • If you go to any type of beer festival, you will be charged a pfand (from pfenig, the equivalent of a cent prior to the euro currency). This is the deposit for the glass, which will not be returned until you give the glass back; if you are a typical beer festival goes this will mean a huge collection of glasses!
  • Germany is very open about their war history and younger people especially, are happy to discuss how it has affected their recent history. However, using the Nazi salute, shouting “heil Hitler” and displaying the swastika or other symbols of the Third Reich is a criminal offence, punishable by up to five years in prison.
  • Do not be disrespectful at concentration camps or Jewish memorials by taking selfies or climbing on memorial stones or buildings. Such places should be visited if possible; they do not always make for the most comfortable of tourist attractions but nevertheless, the holocaust and its victims should not be forgotten.

Food & Eating Out in Germany

German’s love rich, hearty food. Pork is the most commonly eaten meat and any type of wurste (sausage), of which there are over 1500, is extremely popular. Beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage, with brandy and schnapps following closely.

  • Beer is taken very seriously; Germany is known as the birthplace of a number of beer varieties, including Pilsner, Weizenbier (wheat beer) and Alt. These beers are crafted according to Reinheitsgebot, or the “Purity Law,” a 16th-century Bavarian law that decreed that beer could only be brewed from barley, hops and water.
  • When visiting a restaurant or bar, don’t wait to sit, order or pay! Germans are efficient and like to get things done, so find a seat and don’t linger over the menu too long. Asking the waiter to return several times whilst you chat is considered rude and a waste of everyone’s time.
  • Don’t ask for tap water, this is considered stingy and a bit weird. Mineral wasser (sparkling water) or stilles wasser (still water) should be ordered instead.
  • German meal times tend to mirror the UK, with mittagessen (lunch) being between noon and 2pm and abendessen (dinner) being taken between 6 and 9pm. 
  • If the food and service has been good, then you should tip somewhere between 5 and 15%. If the restaurant does take credit cards (not all do), it is easier to leave the tip in cash otherwise you have to tell the server the amount (awkward!) and tips taken this way do not always end up in the right pockets.
  • If you are looking for fast food, other than McDonalds et al, find a schnellimbiss (quick snack) for a bratwurst mit pommes (sausage and chips), be sure to have the chips with mayo not ketchup, as is the local way. Germany’s favourite fast food, the döner kebab, is a flatbread filled with grilled meat, onions, tomatoes, salad and various sauces. The meat can be lamb, beef or poultry, but never pork. There are over 16,000 kebab restaurants in Germany, and altogether they sell 30 döner kebabs a second. The döner arrived in Germany from Turkey at the beginning of the 1970s and has become a staple over the years. 
  • Try sauerkraut (pickled cabbage).  Yes, I know the name doesn’t do it any favours, but it really is delicious …who knew cabbage could taste so good?

If you have found this post about touring Germany helpful, then check out our other essential country guide blog posts for detailed information on driving, motorhome stops and much more. If you’re interested in motorhome journeys and road trips, then head here.

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