In Germany fines are lurking around every corner. No, I am not going to tell you how fast you can drive on the Autobahn or how easily you can get caught on traffic cameras. Instead I’m giving out a few tips how to avoid getting fined in everyday life.
In Germany it’s possible to commit a crime just by sitting on your own couch, even without knowing you’re doing anything wrong. I had absolutely no idea of these few things before moving to Germany, and it could be that they come as a surprise for you too. I survived half a year in Germany without fines, but many of my friends didn’t.
Surfing online might get pricey
Downloading movies, music and other media is probably illegal in most countries, but how can it be controlled? That’s a good question, because in Germany it really is controlled automatically, by a company called Waldorf Frommer (at least). It’s highly recommended to wipe off all downloading habits you have had before, as this company might surprise you with a nasty letter, a fine for 800 euros. At first.
Oh no, that won’t be all. A friend of mine, who got caught (this might happen by accident as well, so keep on reading) illegally downloading, knew that they first fine you for less downloads than you actually used. By contacting the company you admit you are guilty as charged and after they have your confession they can keep milking you for a long time.
My friend most probably saved a fortune by hiring a lawyer for 300 euros to clear up the mess. According to my friend, the company might have kept sending fines worth 1 000–1 500 euros monthly. If you don’t pay, you’ll get sued. This is how things work in Germany. So watch out what you are downloading. How can this happen by accident?
Protect your internet connection
You shouldn’t only be careful with what you’re downloading, but also make sure your internet connection is password protected. If not, you might be accused of the same crime, in case someone downloads illegal stuff online using your connection. According to German law a password is enough to protect your connection, or at least to protect you, so that you won’t get fined for other people’s crimes.
Public transport without a ticket: 60 euros
You might want to think twice before stepping on the tram or U-bahn without a ticket. One time ticket costs something around 2,60 euros, for sure less than 3 euros at least. It’s a lot cheaper option than a 60 euros fine that you’ll get in case you’ll get caught not having a ticket. The fine used to be 40 euros but it got up quite heavily during the spring of 2015.
How often do you then see inspectors on trains in Germany? Well, it’s hard to tell, because in Düsseldorf at least the inspectors don’t always use the uniform. Instead they are wandering around the train wearing just normal clothes, jeans and t-shirts. So it might be a bit difficult to spot them on time. Also remember to stamp your ticket in local trains. If your ticket is not stamped when the inspector comes, the situation will be handled as if you didn’t have a ticket at all.
In case you are visiting friends in Germany, don’t forget to benefit from the German ‘friend ticket’. With a German travel card you can use public transport 2 for 1 during evenings and weekends, which is a great advantage. Sometimes even a complete stranger might tell you that he has a travel card, so in case of an inspector you can be ‘his friend’. At least this happened to me a few times.
Breaking the biking rules: 10 – 100 euros
Cycling side by side with a friend AND on a pavement? You shouldn’t do that in Germany! The girls in this photo probably didn’t get fined. It’s a stock photo from Pixabay. And I think the photo is taken in Belgium…
Biking is not only fun but also a great and fast way to get from one place to another. However, when biking in Germany, you should remember to follow a few rules in case you don’t want to get fined. The police is actually controlling bikers and you might have to pay at least if breaking the following rules (the amounts are directional):
Biking wearing headphones: 10 euros
Biking through red light: 45–100 euros depending on how long the red light has been on
Biking on a pavement or not using the cycle path: 10–20 euros
Biking without lights: 20 euros – notice that you need to have light also on the back of the bike
Biking wrong direction on a one way street: 20 euros
Biking drunk: you most probably get fined and might lose your driving license
It’s also forbidden to bike side by side with another cyclist, biking with a friend on the back of the bike and talking on the phone while biking, without a hands-free. Happy biking!
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