Stories about life in Denmark

Driving in Denmark: Doll-size parking spaces and unexpected U-turns

While a car is useful for exploring the Danish countryside, a car in one of Denmark’s larger cities can be a millstone around your neck.

The traffic is terrible, the fuel costs stratospheric, the parking spaces doll-sized. Bicyclists own the road and often ignore traffic rules.

If you’re just visiting, don’t feel you need to rent a car when you land at the airport.

Even if the home or business you’re visiting is in the suburbs, there’s a good chance you’ll save money by taking a cab – and most Danish taxis are Mercedes-Benz or Teslas. (There is no Uber or Lyft in Denmark.)

Watch out for bicyclists
If you do choose to drive in the city, be very careful about right turns.

Several Danish bicyclists are killed every year because a car or truck took a right turn and the bicyclist (who may be drunk, grooving out to music on his earbuds, or simply not paying attention) continued going straight.

There is no legal right turn on red in Denmark, and even on green, the bicyclist has the right of way.

Don’t dawdle in the bike lane
You might choose to bike to work yourself, which is common in Denmark, even for executives. Many offices contain showers so commuters can clean up and change into their business gear.

If you do bike, don’t dawdle in the bike lanes – these people are commuters, this is rush hour, and they don’t want a gawking tourist clogging up their passing lane.

Blocking the passing lane, which is on the left, will result in clanging bicycle bells from the people behind you, and perhaps some shouted insults.

150% tax on new cars
Denmark has never had a car industry, which is why the government is able to get away with such high car taxes – 85% to 150% of the purchase price of a new vehicle – and why many Danish cities actively discourage car traffic.

Almost every Danish city has at least one central shopping street that is pedestrian-only, although annoyingly, cars do tend to inch down these streets under the guise of making deliveries, pushing the crowds aside.

Driver’s licenses require expensive courses and aren’t available to under 18s.

That said, most Danes are good drivers, although they have a weird fondness for U-turns at unexpected moments.

Low alcohol level
While the Danes are hearty drinkers, operating a vehicle with more than 0.5 per mille blood alcohol level will get you a substantial penalty.

If you’ve had anything more than a single glass of beer or wine at an office party or business dinner, call a cab.

And if you’re giving a party, make sure to have lots of nonalcoholic drinks available for the people driving home.


This is an excerpt from Kay Xander Mellish’s new book, Working with Danes: Tips for Americans/Working with Americans: Tips for Danes. You can see more excerpts by following Kay on LinkedIn.

Check out our books! The Working With Americans: Tips for Danes and the Working with Danes: Tips for Americans books are a great way to understand your customers, colleagues, or counterparts on the other side of the ocean a little bit better.

Buy either book separately, or choose our fun flip book with “Working with Americans” on one side and “Working with Danes” on the other – after all, isn’t it interesting to find out what’s being said about your own country and culture?

Vist our webshop for links to buy from Amazon, iTunes, Google Play or Saxo.com, or contact Kay directly if you’d like to buy in bulk and get a special price.

You can also book an in-person or virtual Working With Americans event with Kay for your school, company, or professional organization in Denmark or the USA.

Show your Danish and American team spirit with our “Working with Danes/Working with Americans” logo merchandise. You can purchase T-shirts or hoodies in a variety of colors and sizes via Spreadshirt, which will send them anywhere in Europe or the US. If you’re planning a cross-cultural event, consider a package for team members that includes a T-shirt, paperback book, and audio book. Bulk pricing available – contact Kay directly to learn more.

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  • Avatar
    Reply BDJ December 2, 2020 at 8:36 am

    Hi Kay. As a Dane I love your small “guides” to Denmark, but I have a small comment on this article:
    The alcohol limit is 0,5 ‰ not 0,5 % 🙂 (per mille not per cent) 🙂

    • Avatar
      Reply Kay Xander Mellish December 2, 2020 at 1:26 pm

      Thanks, BDJ! I’ll fix that.

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