|Driving in the Nordic countries|
Denmark • Finland • Iceland • Norway • Sweden
Denmark has good roads, and driving is usually a practical way to get around the countryside.
In Copenhagen (and to some extent other large cities) public transportation is usually the best way to get around; especially since parking is a hassle in central districts. Cycling in Denmark is practical for distances of a few kilometres (or more for experienced cyclists).
|“||Hvis du skal køre mange mile
Da gør du rettest i at bile.
"Should you drive many miles, you should take the car."
—Rhyme from 1902 in Politiken, introducing the word bil for automobile.
Roads in Denmark are divided into three categories: European routes (europavej) are signposted in green, primary roads (primærrute) are signposted in yellow with either one or two digits and secondary routes (sekunddærrute) are signposted in white with three digits. Ring roads (ringvej) can be either primary or secondary with an "O" before the number, and they circumvent larger cities.
When having a look at the map of Denmark, one might think that the Great Belt bridge and the E20-motorway over the Funen island is the aorta of east to westbound traffic and vice versa. And yes, there is a lot of traffic going via that route. When on vacation you might want to explore some of the less obvious domestic routes leading either to the west or east of Denmark. The ferry line Langelandslinjen runs between Tårs on the island of Lolland and Spodsbjerg on the island of Langeland. The ferry connection is part of primary road 9, that crosses the E47-motorway in Maribo to the east and the E55-motorway in Nykøbing Falster further east. Follow primary road 9 from Spodsbjerg to Svendborg N on the Funen island, then primary road 44 to Faaborg and from there primary road 8 to Bøjden. The ferry line Alslinjen runs between Bøjden and Fynshav on the island of Als and is part of primary road 8. Follow this road from Fynshav via Sønderborg to the E45-motorway at Kliplev in Jutland. Another option is primary road 21, that goes between the capital Copenhagen on the island of Zealand and Randers in Jutland. The company Molslinjen runs a ferry line between Odden on Zealand and Ebeltoft in Jutland, even though only seasonally, that is part of primary road 21. They also run a ferry line all year round between Odden and Aarhus, the largest city in Jutland.
The island of Bornholm lies relatively remote to the east from the rest of Denmark. A domestic car ferry line goes from Køge on the island of Zealand to Rønne. The trip takes 5½ hours and the daily departure is at 00:30 — half an hour past midnight. The alternative route goes via the Øresund Bridge and Malmö to Ystad in Sweden (see Driving in Sweden) and then by car ferry to Rønne. There are several departures during the day and the trip takes 1 hour and 20 minutes. Both lines are run by Bornholmslinjen.
Those of the smaller inhabited islands that are not connected by bridges or dams are served by car ferries.
Touring Denmark by car can be a wonderful experience and highly recommended. The Marguerite Route is a 4200 km long connected route of small scenic roads passing virtually all important Danish attractions. It is marked by brown signs with the white Marguerite Daisy flower and is also marked on most road maps.
Standard speed limits for motorcycles, cars and vans without trailers with a total weight of less than 3.5 tons are 50 km/h in built-up areas, 80 km/h outside built-up areas and 130 km/h on motorways — unless otherwise stated by traffic signs. Traffic enforcement cameras can be of the stationary kind, colloquially called a "starlings nest" (stærekasse), or of the mobile kind operated by a police officer from within a van standing on the roadside.
Motor vehicles must have their headlights on at all times, even in the middle of the day. Modern cars, that are sold as new in Denmark, always have the lights turned on automatically, unless you actively turn it off. This also goes for rented cars. If you drive without the lights turned on you may find other drivers flashing their headlights at you to inform you. If your car is fitted with daytime running lights these are sufficient in the daytime.
Driver's license must always be available when driving. It is not permitted to use a mobile phone when driving unless via a handsfree system. Both driver and passengers must use seatbelts, when the car is equipped with them (antique cars (veteranbil) are exempt). Crash helmets are mandatory for drivers and passengers of motorcycles and mopeds. Winter tyres are not mandatory, but when mounted they should be so on all wheels. Studded tyres (pigdæk) are permitted from 1 November to 15 April. A tyre is legal with at least 1.6 mm tread pattern. The permissible alcohol level is up to 0.5 ‰ and the permissible THC level (cannabis) is up to 0.001 mg/kg blood. Even below these limits the police may assess reckless driving and issue a fine. Fines for drunk driving or substance driving are hefty, even more so when involved in an accident. Repeat offenders will have to serve time behind bars. Foreigners responsible for an accident with an alcohol level exceeding 1.2 ‰ may end up being deported and denied entry for a fixed period.
If you are involved in a traffic accident, you are obliged to call emergency services (1-1-2) in case of fire or damages to people or animals. Advanced Mobile Location is deployed in Denmark and works when calling from a either an Android (Gingerbread, 7th version or later) or an Apple (iOS 11.3 or later) smartphone. Calling from any other phone, it is important that you know where you are and the exact address. If you don't know or you might not be able to pronounce it, you can give the operator at the emergency services the GPS coordinates. You are also obliged to stay on site until the police gives you permission to leave. Hit-and-run in case of bodily damages is regarded a severe offense. If there are only damages to vehicles or fixed property, an exchange of insurance informations will suffice, since court precedence regulates insurance claims. Car rental companies may have a procedure that you are obliged to follow. In case you feel uneasy about the parties involved in the accident, you can always call the police (1-1-4) and ask what to do. If you drive by an accident that has just happened (no emergency vehicles has arrived), slow down and make sure help is on its way. Never stand still at an accident to take photos of or film what is happening. This will get you in trouble with the police, and they will issue a hefty fine.
Something unique for Denmark is the "merge method" (sammenfletning). Traffic approaching a motorway from an onramp and traffic in the right lane of the motorway must always merge. There is no dotted line where the two lanes meet. The legal responsibility of merging is shared, and the vehicles must adjust their speed to one another. This is in contrast to the rest of Europe where traffic must yield (give way) when changing lanes from an onramp. The merge method is also applicable on other roads when two lanes become one and there is no dotted line between lanes. It is compulsory to use blinkers when merging into a motorway. It is not compulsory to use blinkers when lanes are merging on other roads.
Low Emission Zones
As of 1 October 2023 low emission zones have been introduced in Copenhagen, Frederiksberg, Odense, Aarhus and Aalborg. Diesel-powered vehicles must have a particulate filter or be at least Euro 5 in order to be used legally in the low emission zones. Foreign vehicles that were first registered before a certain cutoff date (January 1st 2011 for regular cars) must register with documentation for the vehicle being fitted with a diesel particulate filter or the Euro standard in order for it to be used legally in the low emission zones. There is a administrative fee of DKK 1,000 of not doing so. More about the low emission zones.
There is only one law enforcement agency in Denmark and that is the police (Politi), a civilian agency. Prosecution service is part of the police, but only chief prosecutors wear uniforms. All police officers can enforce traffic laws. The department for targeted traffic-law enforcement is called Færdselspolitiet, which is staffed by police officers with seniority. Police officers on motorcycles are always traffic police. Any vehicle with blue (not red or orange) flashing lights turned on have right of way, even without a sound signal. When spotted in your rear-view mirror, slow down, steer to the outermost right of the road (but not to the emergency lanes on motorways) and perhaps turn on your right blinkers until the vehicle(s) has passed. A police officer that wishes to pull you over will show a red sign with the text: "Stop. Politiet". A police officer driving a motorcycle will command you to pull over using hand signs. Police officers are persons of authority and in Denmark they will speak with you in an informal way. This is in contrary to other European countries, and if you seem to be confused about this, the police officer will try to control the conversation. Don't push your luck or it will become formal very fast. If the police officer suddenly tells you the time, and you have not asked for it, you are likely under arrest. The legal requirement for an arrest is for the police officer to say: "Klokken er XX:XX, du er anholdt!" — The clock is XX:XX, you are under arrest! You will not be told your rights (a tourist might be given some leeway) but you may ask for them, since it is understood that people know their rights and plights in a transparent democracy; the entire layout of the Danish society is based on this parameter.
There is a legal difference in Denmark between a fine (bøde) and an administrative fee (afgift). A fine is given by law enforcement and is kept on criminal records (strafferegister). An administrative fee can be given by any state or municipal entity, even a private contractor, and are not kept on criminal records.
A basic set of parking regulations for motorcycles and cars (with a total weight of less than 3.5 metric tons) applies to all of Denmark (Greenland and Faroe Islands excluded). These regulations can be less restrictive on a municipal level – never more restrictive. Two definitions are used: Stopping (standsning) with a duration of less than three minutes, and parking (parkering) with a duration of three minutes and more. A broken down vehicle must be removed within 18 hours before parking regulations takes effect.
The most restrictive definition of the parking regulations is where stopping and parking is prohibited (standsning og parkering forbudt). The traffic sign signalling this is round with a red border and shaded with blue with a red "x" in the middle. Where this sign is at the roadside, it is only allowed to stop when traffic has stopped and is waiting to resume. In some situations stopping and parking is per definition prohibited, for example on motorways (motorvej), expressways (motortrafikvej), on median strips, at yellow line curbs, less than five meters from railroad junctions, in slow lanes, on bicycle lanes, in taxi stands, on bridges that leads over motorways, in tunnels and viaducts.
Within built-up areas parking is not allowed on sidewalks, in bicycle lanes, pedestrian paths, on median strips and the like. Municipalities can permit parking on sidewalks, which must be either marked or signposted. Outside built-up areas partially stopping and parking of vehicles on sidewalks with a total weight of less than 3.5 metric tons is permitted, which means the wheels on the right side of the vehicle may be on the sidewalk.
Buses and lorries (with a total weight of more than 3.5 tonnes) must park at dedicated parking spots within built-up areas. Dedicated parking spots for lorries can normally be found within industrial areas of a city.
On a municipal level there might be organised dedicated parking zones, where parking is regulated by either time limited parking (disc parking) or paid parking. Beware that electronic payments, credit cards and smartphone app's, are widely used to pay for parking, and it may not be possible to deposit cash money to the vending machines. Some vending machines might print a time stamped ticket to place in a visible place behind the windscreen of the car. Others do not, they require the vehicle's license plate data to be entered on a touch screen for central registration.
Fees for breaches to parking regulations
Authorities or their sub-contractors can issue a parking fee (parkeringsafgift) to those that do not adhere to parking regulations. Parking fees are not regarded as traffic fines since they are not kept on criminal record. Traffic fines are issued for breaches of other traffic regulations.
The parking fee for illegal parking on public roads is 510 kr. Illegal parking on a parking space reserved for people with disabilities or outside a gate (without a curb) qualifies for a double parking fee (1020 kr.). If the vehicle is not removed within 24 hours, authorities can legally issue a new parking fee. A total of three parking fees can be issued in the same case.
Parking fees can be paid in post offices and banks for an additional transaction fee. The cheapest way of paying parking fees is electronically via a bank transfer, but this is in reality only feasible for Europeans.
Standard fuel (brændstof) in Denmark are 92 and 95 octane unleaded petrol (gasoline; Danish: benzin) and diesel. Prices for petrol and diesel are high due to taxation; around the average of prices in Europe. Diesel is generally less expensive than petrol. 98 octane petrol is also available on some filling stations. Fuel gas is not available. There are more than 1,500 public charging stations (ladestander) for electric cars.