When moving from city to city in Germany, the country’s rail system makes for delightfully easy and fast travel. Some trains reach speeds of 200 mph and it’s great to let someone else do the “driving.” But if you want to really see the countryside, the small towns and villages, the “real” Germany, you must rent a car.

Having heard about high speeds on the Autobahn in Germany, many North Americans are apprehensive about driving there. While it’s true that portions of the Autobahn system have no speed limit, you’ll find posted limits, usually 60 to 130 kph in sections of consistently high traffic volume, or when there is construction or adverse weather conditions. In truth, there are not a lot of really long stretches of highway anymore where drivers can go flat out. The idea of going 200 kph per hour from Frankfurt to Munich is a myth. There may be portions where really high speed are attainable but most of the way will be much slower.

But don't forget Germany's complex network of scrupulously maintained (and often scenic) back roads. On these highways and surface streets, speeds are pretty much the same as they are in North America. Most country roads are in better condition than those in North America and it is our view that Germans are better drivers. They are more predictable, they move to the right lane to let faster vehicles pass, and in general are more tolerant of other drivers—though you can expect to be tailgated if you don’t keep up with the flow of traffic. Good information in English about driving in Germany can be found at HowtoGermany.com. For how to survive on the Autobahn, read Driving the Autobahn.