5 tips for parking in Germany
I was extremely excited for our first trip to the mall in Kaiserslautern. We had no problem getting there with our GPS. As luck would have it, I found a parking spot about a block away. I could practically smell the bargains in TK Maxx, and there was a fabric store right in front of me calling my name. I read the parking sign, or so I thought, to indicate parking was permitted on certain days and hours, which we were within. I was proud that I understood as much … so proud and ready to spend money that I didn’t bother to continue to read below the blue parking symbol.
My husband had cautioned me about parking in that spot. I chalked it up to him being overly cautious. However, when we returned to our car, I found a mustard-yellow slip of paper below the passenger side wiper with Verwarnung (warning) in large letters. I did catch his brief but distinct “I told you so” expression.
Here are some tips to help you avoid the same side eye look and parking woes.
What to expect
Parking areas are indicated by a blue square with a white “P.” Be sure to pay attention to the white sign below the parking symbol. It has additional requirements when using that parking area: parking meter/voucher, parking disc or residents only.
Parking meters (Parkscheine) are not usually individual stands next to each parking spot. In Germany, there will be one or more large gray boxes located near entrances and/or exits of the lot, or along the sidewalks of paid street parking. Be sure to keep euro coins in your vehicle at all times, as many of these machines will not accept anything else.
Parking discs (Parkscheiben)
Whether in your rental or your own vehicle, you need a blue cardboard or plastic parking disc (Parkscheibe). The white movable disc indicates the time you parked in the spot (Ankunftszeit) rounded to the next half hour. For example, if you parked at 9:08 a.m., the time indicated should be the short mark between “9” and “10.” Afternoon times are not indicated separately on the disc. They are in smaller numbers printed like military time. For example, “14” for 2 p.m.
There is a time limit to these spaces. For example, if the sign reads “2 Std.,” you can only park for two hours.
This is a parking area for residents (Bewohner). They are required to have the proper permit with permit numbers.
In the city, there are directional signs to indicate where parking lots and garages are located. The number on the sign is the number of available spaces. Sometimes signs will only say Frei (available spaces, not free of charge) or Besetzt (occupied or full). At the entrance, you will take a ticket from the machine. Hold onto this ticket. You can use it to pay at one of the kiosks (Kassenautomat), usually near the pedestrian entrance, or at the machine when you’re leaving. If you use the kiosk, you will be given a validated ticket to insert into the machine at the exit.
Paying your ticket
Hopefully, you will not need this information. However, in the Kaiserslautern area, you can go in person during the hours indicated to pay the fine. If you are tech savvy, there may be a QR code at the bottom of the ticket, so you can scan and pay using PayPal on your smartphone. Your other option is to go to your financial institution and have the money wired using the IBAN and BIC codes printed on the ticket. For any questions, you (or one of your more versed German friends) can call the phone number listed.
City parking usually comes at a cost, so pay close attention to the parking signs. If you cannot locate a meter or a sign, ask a local. Germans are often willing to assist or point you in the right direction. For a more complete list of parking signs, visit ADAC’s Traffic Signs in Germany.