How to pay a parking fine in Germany: The frustrating tale of a 15 euro ticket. (2024)

How to pay a parking fine in Germany: The frustrating tale of a 15 euro ticket. (1)

I admit it - we did the wrong thing! I am the third most law-abiding person on the planet. Only the Dalai Lama and the Pope are ahead of me in the queue. If a sign says don't do something I absolutely do not do it. I don't swim outside the flags (you have to live in Australia to understand that particular piece of lunacy), I don't litter, I don't speed and I don't park where I am not supposed to. Nor does David, while I am around at least. Except on a recent trip to Germany we did and with all the hassle and grief it caused us we are never, ever doing it again.

Three weeks ago we arrived at a holiday house in Nonnenhorn, on the shores of Lake Constance. You probably know the sort. Booked through Home Away,the more upmarket version of Airbnb, the apartment looked perfect on the internet. It wasn't cheap, but it had a view of the lake and it looked clean and modern. There was a catch, of course - there always is. The apartment was on the third floor of the building, the carpark was below ground - and - the elevator wasn't working. The three flights of steep marble stairs, 48 steps in all, between the parking garage and our front door looked perilous.

Nonnenhorn is a quiet little village, the sort of place your grandmother might live. The street outside the building was wide enough to accommodate our car without blocking the road. There were no 'No Parking' signs or other street signs of any kind. We were tired, we were distracted and our sole focus was to get ourselves and our luggage into the welcoming confines of our apartment. We decided to put the car in the street while we unloaded. That way we could at least avoid one of the flights of stairs. It took us 15 minutes at most. In that 15 minutes Nonnenhorn's parking inspector swooped and we received a ticket.

It didn't surprise us that we weren't supposed to park in the street, no-one else was parked there - but hey we weren't parking we were just unloading. I have my suspicions that the inspector lived nearby and pouncing on unsuspecting tourists was his favourite past time. Be that as it may we accept that Nonnenhorn must get its revenue from somewhere and if that means stinging guileless visitors for the price of a parking ticket we accept it. 'Nonnenhorn 1: Lindfields yet to score'. After all the ticket was only for 15 euros, not much more than the price of a couple of coffees. We were mildly irritated but that was it.

UNTIL, that is, we tried to figure out how to pay the ticket. The ticket was in German - fair enough. David and I speak three languages between us. One, our native language and two others well enough to understand road signs and get by in holiday situations. None of those languages is German. Google Translate to the rescue - we hoped. Using the little instant translation/camera thingy on my phone we discovered the ticket made even less sense in English than it did in German. It described itself as a 'caution'. Apparently German parking fines only get nasty and turn into tickets if you are foolish enough to dispute them. Provided we accepted our guilt and played the game the 'caution' promised to stay benign. We had two weeks to pay. Absolutely nothing on the ticket gave instructions on how to pay. I took to Google which, unusually, turned out to be no help at all.

In response to my query 'How do I pay a German parking fine?', I got -

'At some point, most of us who own cars here are probably going to get slapped with a speeding ticket or a parking fine. The latter are especially common with often confusing signs and parking regulations'

That was hardly news to me. The advice went on with -

'So you’ve received a fine for a minor parking offence?
Naughty naughty. What do you do now?

The simple answer in most cases is you have to pay up. It might sound harsh but it’s not the ... officer’s fault that you don’t know the applicable law. He is just doing his job. Those fines pay his salary, right?'

After a fair bit more tut tutting and moralising the advice came down to - 'pay the fine'. Yeah right but HOW? There was also a nice little kicker along the lines of 'failure to pay within 14 days will result in the fine increasing significantly'. The one useful piece of information I did manage to garner was that German traffic fines are usually paid by bank transfer. To do that we would need an EU bank account. Needless to say, we don't have one.

I abandoned Google and put my trust in Facebook instead. One of the best things about being a travel blogger is that I am part of a community - a community of warm, friendly and helpful fellow bloggers who will go that extra mile to help a colleague in need. Some of the best holiday experiences I have had since the beginning of my blogging career have been meeting up with fellow bloggers, either showing them around my home city of Sydney, or meeting them in far flung destinations. My fellow travel bloggers came out in force with advice and offers of assistance.

German speaking Silke Elzner of 'Happiness and Things' offered to translate the ticket for me. Shandos Cleaver ofTravelnuitygave the advice that her husband received a similarly small German fine. Like us, without an EU bank account, he was unable to pay it. In the end he mailed the cash and that worked. Rachel Heller of Rachel's Ruminations very generously offered to pay the fine for us through her Netherlands bank account and suggested I could reimburse her via PayPal. Other bloggers suggested we let the car rental agency deal with it. We know from experience however that can be expensive. Earlier this year we incurred a small toll on a stretch of road in Florida. There was no cash payment option. The car rental company charged a US$9.00 administration charge to pay a 30 cent toll for us. That's a fee of 3000%. At that rate our 15 euro fine would increase to 450 euros. While we didn't expect an administration fee quite that high we knew it would be several times greater than the fine. The one thing everyone agreed on was that without an EU bank account paying the fine was going to be tricky.

It was Friday afternoon, we were supposed to be on holiday, the whole parking fine thing was beginning to stress us out. We put it in the 'too hard' basket until Saturday. On Saturday we would go to the local Tourist Information Office, confess our guilt, throw ourselves on their mercy and ask them how to pay the fine. Saturday came and went and we got no closer to a solution. The young girl at the tourist office looked at the ticket as if she had never in her life seen such a thing - 'You mean you can get fined just for parking your car?' She zeroed in on the word 'Wasserburg' printed part way down the ticket, and suggested we might try there.

Wasserburg was the next small town along our otherwise idyllic stretch of Lake Constance coast. We inspected the ticket again. There was the name of a bank 'Sparkasse' followed by what appeared to be BSB numbers. (In Australia, a BSB (Bank-State-Branch) number is an identifying code used to transfer money to another person's bank account.) This was clearly the identifying information for the account into which we would transfer our 15 euros if we were the owners of an EU bank account. There was a branch of Sparkasse in Nonnenhorn. It was clear now - all we had to do was visit the Sparkasse and pay the fine directly into the nominated account. We had no idea where the money might go after that but frankly, we didn't care. Being Saturday the Sparkasse Bank was closed. We would have to wait until Monday.

On Monday we rode our bicycles to the Sparkasse, confident our German parking ticket dilemma days were behind us. The lady behind the counter looked at the ticket with only slightly less mystification than the young girl at the Tourist Information office.

'You can't pay directly into this account. Do you have an EU bank account?', she asked
'No, we are Australian tourists.'
'Do you have a friend in Germany who has an EU bank account and can pay the fine for you?
'No we live in Australia, we don't know anyone in Germany.',

The conversation continued for a while in this same frustrating, circular manner. She wanted to be helpful but there was nothing she could do. She suggested we go to the local Rathaus (Town Hall),in Wasserburg and try to pay the fine there. The address of the Rathaus was on the ticket. We had half an hour before it closed for lunch and we were still on bicycles. We weren't risking any more parking fines by taking the car. With 10 minutes to spare we fronted up to the Rathous where the Burgermeister's secretary joined an ever-growing list of locals who couldn't help us. She did however direct us to the cashier where she was sure we could pay the fine - at last!

The young cashier looked at the ticket as if she had never seen such a thing in her life. This was beginning to feel like Ground Hog Day. She clearly did not want to take our money.

'Nonnenhorn', she said. 'This was issued in Nonnenhorn. You must pay there'.

Like Vesuvius about to erupt, David had had enough. Steam was starting to escape from his ears.

'It has your address on it. Look! We can't pay it in Nonnenhorn? There is no Nonnenhorn address, only your address in Wasserburg.'

With great reluctance she took his point and FINALLY accepted our money - 15 euros in crisp clean 5 euro bills!

'I will send it to Nonnenhorn for you', she said and returned the ticket to us with a bright shiny blue 'paid' stamp - at least we thought at the time it was a 'paid' stamp. Looking at the ticket now we are not so sure.

We began to walk away. A few feet down the corridor the penny dropped. She had taken our money, she had stamped and returned the ticket as if it were a receipt but she not taken down a single detail of either the fine or its payment. No-one, least of all the Nonnenhorn parking authorities, would ever know we had paid the fine. We turned around and headed back to the window just as she realised the error herself. She took the ticket and popped it in a photocopier. Then she returned it to us again.

'You will send it to Nonnenhorn', I said hopefully, exhausted and defeated by the entire saga.
'Yes', she replied.

At last! But somehow I doubt that will be the last we hear of our 15 euro German parking fine!

How to pay a parking fine in Germany: The frustrating tale of a 15 euro ticket. (2)
Does this say paid? I have no idea.

Have you ever received a traffic ticket in a foreign country? Did you pay it - and if so how?

Epilogue

It is now 2019. We got the ticket in mid-2018 and we have never received any follow up notices either from the local municipal authorities or our car rental company. I think I can safely say we managed to pay the fine to the satisfaction of the parking gods. Perhaps I will have our 'blue-stamped receipt' framed or perhaps I will tuck it away with our passports and take it with us as proof of payment should we ever get stopped at the EU border for having an outstanding fine!

I have since read that you can pay a fine through international money transfer companies such as TransferWise or Currency Fair. I am not recommending either since I know very little about them - but if you need to pay a German find they might be worth a try.

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How to pay a parking fine in Germany: The frustrating tale of a 15 euro ticket. (3)


How to pay a parking fine in Germany: The frustrating tale of a 15 euro ticket. (2024)
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