Priceless Parking in Germany

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- This example of a parking ticket shows the date and time of expiration for free parking. Similar tickets are used for paid parking. (Courtesy graphic)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- This example of a parking ticket shows the date and time of expiration for free parking. Similar tickets are used for paid parking. (Courtesy graphic)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Moving to a different country brings up many questions. Sometimes these questions are left to answering on your own. One of the many concerns when arriving here is where to park and how to do so properly. This can be challenging since it can involve finding an open space, finding a space large enough for an American vehicle, and paying for and displaying the correct parking voucher to avoid parking tickets.

Once you know the basics, any Parkplatz (parking lot) or garage will appear much more user friendly on your next parking adventure.

One device you may need for appropriately parking is the parking disc, a blue cardboard or plastic card with an adjustable time dial. The Army and Air Forces Exchange Service Car Care Center and most economy gas stations carry these. Signs indicating the required use of a parking disc also indicate the length of time you can park there. Turn the dial so the arrow points to the time of your arrival, and place the disc on your dashboard. Return to your vehicle within the indicated time period. So, if you arrived at 11 a.m. and the signs states you can park for "2 Std." (two hours) with a parking disc, you would set your disc for 11 a.m. and return by 1 p.m. Many areas only require a parking disc during certain times; be sure to check the signs. Beyond those times, you can usually park as long as you want, but double-check for other restriction signs.

It may actually be free to park in some locations. Depending on the Parkplatz location, time and day of the week, you may not have to put coins in the parking meter to obtain a Parkschein (parking voucher). Occasionally, there is free parking for a limited time, often 15 - 60 minutes. Parking vouchers are obtained from the Parkscheinautomat (voucher machine) often found in the corners of lots, near the entrance or alongside the lot. On some, you may choose English instructions by selecting the British flag on the screen. If not, just push the green button (most of the time it is green) and, if available, a "Kostenlos" free parking ticket will print. The time of purchase will be shown on the ticket, as well as the time it expires. Place the main part of the ticket on your dashboard, certain it is visible through the windshield. You may tear off the smaller part of the ticket to keep with you as a reminder of when to return. Returning past the ticket's expiration time may result in an illegal-parking ticket. For example, the Parkplatz behind the Bitburg Post Office in the Walk-Platz area is one location with limited free parking (30 minutes).

For a Parkplatz that does not offer free parking it is still easy to obtain a parking voucher. At the Parkscheinautomat, determine how much time you'll need, add the correct euro coins, press the green and the machine will dispense a voucher. Place the voucher on your dashboard clearly visible through the windshield.

If a parking meter is out of order, parking is permitted if the driver uses a blue parking disk to indicate the time of arrival and no more than the time allowed by the meter is used. Some areas only require you to use parking vouchers during specific times, check for signs.

When parking vouchers are not required, the machine may issue a free voucher or turn off completely. Be aware there are some machines set to conserve energy and "sleep" between users, so always push the green button to determine the requirements of the Parkplatz.

When using a Parkhaus, electronic signs display Frei (available), Besetzt (full) parking, or the number of available spaces. Parking facilities are numbered to assist you in finding them later. When entering the parking garage, obtain a time-stamped ticket from the entry gate. Park and take this ticket with you. When you are ready to leave, but before returning to your vehicle, find a Kassenautomat (parking payment machine). Insert the ticket into the machine and the amount due will be displayed. Pay and the machine will dispense an exit ticket. If you want a receipt, push the button marked "Quittung." At the gate, insert the exit ticket into the machine and the barrier will open. You generally have 15 minutes to reach the exit gate from the time you pay. If you don't make it within this time period, go to the payment machine and start the process again using the ticket received from the previous payment. If you're going to be out late, make sure that the lot or garage you use will still be open when you return.

Happy Parking!

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