Germany is a place that you might think you know--until you actually experience it for yourself. It's an unexpected and thrilling mix of old culture injected into gleaming, brand-new cities alongside old cities waking to modernity. The older generations store their beer steins at the local brauhaus, while the young people gyrate to pulsing techno in clubs with monosyllabic names. Super-fast luxury trains speed you past hulking Bavarian castles and ancient vineyards and into the bustling streets of perpetually evolving Berlin. The amazing Cologne Cathedral and the thriving art scene in Munich are much like those found throughout the rest of Europe. In the past, Germany was struggling to heal from the scars of two destructive wars and to reconcile with itself since its reunification, but today's emerging Germany is a fascinating place to visit, because in many ways, it is still discovering itself and its new identity in Europe. Come with an open mind and bear witness to the transformation as it happens all around you, right before your eyes.
One euro is divided into 100 cents. While each official euro member (as well as Monaco, San Marino and Vatican) issues its own coins with a unique obverse, the reverse as well as all bills look the same throughout the eurozone. Nonetheless, every coin is legal tender in any of the eurozone countries.
Do not expect anybody to accept foreign currencies or to be willing to exchange currency. An exception are shops and restaurants at airports and also - more rarely - fast-food restaurants at major train stations. These will generally accept at least US dollars at a slightly worse exchange rate. If you wish to exchange money, you can do so at any bank, where you can also cash in your traveller's cheques.
While German domestic debit cards - called EC-Karte or girocard - (and, to a lesser extent, PIN-based Maestro cards) enjoy almost universal acceptance, this is not true for credit cards (VISA, MasterCard, American Express) or foreign debit cards (VISA Debit/Electron etc.), which are not as widely accepted as in other European countries or the United States but will be accepted in several major retail stores and some fastfood restaurants.
Don't be fooled by seeing card terminals in shops or other people paying with cards - these machines may not necessarily be programmed to accept foreign cards, so it is best to inquire or look out for acceptance decals before shopping or fuelling your car.
Hotels, larger retailers, chain gas stations and nationwide companies accept credit cards; supermarkets, discount stores or small independent shops tend not to (with exceptions). Some places impose a minimum purchase amount (typically 10 euros) for card payments. Most ATMs will allow you to withdraw money with your credit card or foreign debit card, but you'll need to know your card's PIN for that.
Unlike in some other countries, service staff is always paid by the hour (albeit not always that well). A tip is therefore mainly a matter of politeness and shows your appreciation. If you didn't appreciate the service (e.g. slow, snippy or indifferent service) you may not tip at all and it will be accepted by the staff.
Since the introduction of the Euro, a tip (Trinkgeld, lit. "drink money") of about 5-10% is customary if you were satisfied with the service. Nonetheless, service charge is already included in an item's unit price so what you see is what you pay.
Tipping in Germany is usually done by mentioning the total while paying. So if eg. a waiter tells you the bill amounts to "€13.50", just state "15" and he will include a tip of €1.50.
Tipping in other situations (unless otherwise indicated): Taxi driver: 5%-10% (at least €1) Housekeeping: €1-2 per day Carrying luggage: €1 per piece Public toilet attendants: €0.30-0.70
Delivery Services: 5%-10% (at least 1€)
Taxes: Retail prices are reasonable and lower than in northern European countries but the value added tax, V.A.T., "Umsatzsteuer" (official, but even politicians use this rather sparsely) or "Mehrwertsteuer" (most Germans use this word) has been increased to 19% from 2007 onwards and therefore prices will slightly rise. Fuel, sparkling wine, spirits and tobacco are subject to even higher taxes.
Supermarkets: Many Germans rather look for prices than for quality when shopping for food. As a result, the competition between food discounters (which might be the cause of this very specific behaviour) is exceptionally fierce (in fact, WalMart had to retract from the German market because it failed at competing on price) and results in very low food prices compared to other European countries (though not compared to North America or the UK - as a general rule, a discount German supermarket will have similar quality compared to a North American discounter, but at mid-range prices). The chains "Aldi", "Lidl", "Penny" and "Plus/Netto" are a special type of supermarket (don't call it "Supermarkt" - Germans call it "Discounter"; a Supermarkt/super market has slightly higher prices, but also a much wider range of products even of decent quality): Their range of products is limited to the necessities of daily life (like vegetables, pasta, milk, eggs, convenience foods, toiletries etc.), sold in rather simple packaging for tightly calculated prices. While quality is generally surprisingly high, do not expect delicatessen or local specialties when you go to shop there. Many Germans buy their daily needs there and go to the more "standard" supermarket (like the chains Rewe, Edeka, Real, Tengelmann/Kaisers, Globus or Famila) to get more special treats.
Beside those major chains, Turkish supermarkets which can be found in townships with predominantly Turkish population can be a worthwhile alternative since they combine the characteristics of discounters (low price levels but limited assortment) with those of "standard" supermarkets ((Turkish) specialties and usually friendly personnel).
If you are looking for organic products, your best bet is to visit a "Bioladen" or "Biosupermarkt". (Bio- generally means organic.) There are also many farmers selling their products directly ("Hofladen"), most of them organized in the "Bioland" cooperative. They offer reasonable food at reasonable prices.
Cigarettes are easily available in most kiosks, supermarkets and newsagents. Cigarette machines are often dotted around towns and cities (be aware you will need an EU driving licence or a debit card with an electronic chip to "unlock" the machine). As of July 2009, a pack of 17 costs around €4.20 and a pack of 24 costs around €5.70. The legal age to smoke in Germany is 18. Many Germans buy paper and tobacco separately as this is cheaper.
Due to a federal reform, opening hours are set by the states, therefore opening hours vary from state to state. Some states like Berlin, Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein have no more strict opening hours from Monday to Saturday (however, you will rarely find 24 hours shops other than at petrol stations). Sunday and national holidays (including some obscure ones) is normally closed for shops everywhere in Germany, including pharmacies. However single pharmacies remain open for emergencies (every pharmacy will have a sign telling you which pharmacy is currently open for emergencies). Shops are allowed to open on Sundays on special occasions called "Verkaufsoffener Sonntag", every German city uses these days except Munich.
As a rule of thumb: Supermarkets: 8 or 9AM – 8PM big supermarkets 8AM - 10PM Rewe supermarkets 7AM - 10PM or midnight Shopping centers and large department stores: 10AM - 8PM Department stores in small cities: 10AM - 7PM Small and medium shops: 9 or 10AM – 6.30PM (in big cities sometimes to 8PM) Petrol stations: in cities and along the "Autobahn" usually 24h a day Restaurants: 11.30AM – 11 or 12AM(midnight), sometimes longer, many closed during afternoon
Small shops are often closed from 1 to 3PM If necessary in many big cities you will find a few (sometimes more expensive) supermarkets with longer opening hours (often near the main station). Bakeries usually offer service on Sunday mornings (business hours vary) as well. Also most petrol stations have a small shopping area.
In some parts of Germany (like Berlin, Cologne, Düsseldorf and the Ruhr area) there are cornershops called "Kiosk", "Trinkhalle" (drinking hall) or "Büdchen" (little hut) that offer newspapers, drinks and at least basic food supplies. These shops are often run by Arab or Turkish immigrants and are, depending on the area, open till late night.
Basic supplies can usually be bought around the clock at gas stations. Gas station owners work around opening hour restrictions by running 7-Eleven style mini marts on their gas station property. Be aware that prices are usually quite high. Another exception to this law are supermarkets located in touristy areas. Towns designated as a Kurort (health resort) are allowed to have their stores open all week during tourist season. Just ask a local for those well-kept secret stores.
Train stations are allowed to and frequently have their stores/shops open on Sundays, though usually for limited hours. In some larger cities such as Leipzig and Frankfurt, this can include an entire shopping mall that happens to be attached to the train station.
The international calling code for Germany is 49, and the prefix for international calls is 00; the area code prefix is 0.
Mobile phone coverage on the four networks (T-Mobile, Vodafone, E-Plus and o2) is excellent across the whole country. UMTS (3G data) and EDGE is also available but still somewhat limited to cities and urban areas. All mobile providers use GSM technology on the 900 and 1800 MHz frequency ranges. This is different to the GSM 1900 standard used in the United States, but modern "multi-band" handsets will usually work in all GSM networks. Non-GSM phones cannot be used in Germany. If you have a GSM mobile telephone from the USA, make sure to call your provider in the USA prior to your trip and have them "unlock" your telephone handset so that you can use it with a German SIM card.
The vast majority of Germans own mobile phones (called "Handys" in German, pronounced "hendy"); the disadvantage of this is that the once-common phone booths have started to disappear except at "strategical" locations such as train stations. They usually consist of a silver column with a pink top and the phone attached on the front. At some places there are still older versions consisting of a yellow cabin with a door and the telephone inside.
If you stay for a longer period of time, consider buying a prepaid phone card from one of the mobile phone companies; you won't have trouble finding a T-Mobile (in a "T-Punkt"), Vodafone, E-Plus or O2 store in any major shopping area.
Mobile telephony is still comparatively expensive in Germany, depending on your contract you may be charged about €0.10 to €0.40 per minute (and more for international calls).
In most supermarket chains (for example ALDI), there are prepaid SIM cards from their own virtual providers available. These are normally quite cheap to buy (10-20 € with 5-15 € airtime) and for national calls (0.09-0.19 €/minute), but expensive for international calls (around 1-2 €/min), but incoming calls are always free and SMS cost around 0.09-0.19 €. They are available at: Aldi, Penny, Plus, Tchibo, Schlecker, Rewe, Minimal, toom. A registration via Internet or (expensive) phone call is necessary after buying to activate the SIM card.
While international calls using the German SIM card can be expensive, there are some prepaid offers with good rates. Since the liberalization of Germany's phone market, there is a multitude of phone providers on the market. If you're calling from a private fixed line, you can usually choose from the different providers (and thus from different pricing schemes) by using special prefix numbers (starting with 010xx) with prices of 0.01 € or 0.02 €, sometimes below 0.01 € even for international calls. There's a calculator on the net where you can compare the prices for different destinations. Hotels usually have contracts with a particular phone provider and won't let you use a different one.
Internet cafes are common, but usually small, local businesses. You probably won't have a problem finding at least one in even smaller towns or large villages. Phone shops will often offer internet access, too.
Most hotels offer internet access. Confirm with your hotel for access and rates.
In several cities, projects exist to provide free "community" hotspots for wireless networking.
Passenger lounges at some airports and central railway stations also provide internet access to their customers.
Public libraries often offer Internet access, however usually not free of charge. The libraries are open to the public for free, taking a book home might require you to get a customer card at a low fee, though. Note the National Library in Leipzig, Frankfurt am Main and Berlin is not free.
Mobile Data Several pre-paid SIMs allow Internet access for a monthly flat fee, for example those available at Tchibo coffee stores (o2 network, 10 €/month limited to 500 MB, 20 €/month for 5 GB) or Aldi (E-Plus network). A regular O2 sim card, which can be used for calls and text messages, is €15 and another €15 buys 1GB of data valid for 1 month. Vodafone offers a prepaid sim card for €25 which includes €22.5 of credit, out of which you can get 300MB of data for 2 days for €15 and be left with €7.5 of credit.
Most universities in Germany participate in eduroam. If you are a student or member of a university, this service may allow you to get guest access to their wireless networks. Check with your own university for details in advance of your trip.
Alternatively, you can also buy prepaid phone cards you can use by calling a toll free number; this is especially a good deal if you intend to make international calls. Cards' quality and prices vary wildly, however, so a good recommendation cannot be made.
Recently, phone shops have sprung up in the major cities, where you can make international calls at cheap rates. These call shops are mostly located in city areas with a high number of immigrants and are your best option to call internationally. Apart from offering calls abroad themselves they sell international calling cards for use from any phone in Germany. You can usually spot these shops by the many flags decorating their windows.
Legal drinking age is 18 for spirits (drinks containing distilled alcohol) and 16 for everything else (e.g. beer and wine).
For centuries, beer-making in Bavaria has been governed by the Reinheitsgebot (purity law) that was made national policy with the unification of Germany in 1871, which states that German beer may be made only from hops, malt, yeast and water. The Reinheitsgebot has come down with the European integration, but German breweries still have to stick to it since for them, national law applies.
The domestic beer market is not dominated by one or a only a few big breweries. Even though there are some big players, the regional diversity is enormous, and there are over 1200 breweries with most of them serving only local markets. Usually bars and restaurants serve the local varieties that differ from town to town. When sitting in a German Kneipe, a local beer is always an option, and often the only option.
Specialities include Weizenbier (or Weissbier in Bavaria), a refreshing top-fermented beer which is popular in the south, Alt, a kind of dark ale that is especially popular in and around Düsseldorf, and Kölsch, a special beer brewed in Cologne. "Pils", the German name for pilsner is a light-gold colored beer that is extremely popular in Germany. There are also seasonal beers, which are made only at different times of the year (such as Bockbier in winter and Maibock in May, both containing a greater quantity of alcohol, sometimes double that of a normal Vollbier). Beer is usually served in 200 or 300ml glasses (in the northern part) or 500ml in the South. In Biergartens in Bavaria, 500ml is a small beer ("Halbe") and a liter is normal ("Maß" pronounced "Mahss"). Except for in Irish pubs, pints or pitchers are uncommon. For Germans, a lot of foam is both a sign of freshness and quality; thus, beer is always served with a lot of head. (All glasses have volume marks for the critical souls.) Additionally, Germans are not afraid to mix beer with other drinks (though the older generation may disagree). Beer is commonly mixed with carbonated lemonade (usually at 1:1 ratio) and called a "Radler" (or cyclist so named because it is commonly associated with a refreshing drink a cyclist might enjoy in spring or summer during a cycling excursion) (or "Alsterwasser"/"Alster" (after the river in Hamburg) in the north); "Cocktails" of Pilsener/Altbier and soft drinks like Fanta, a "Krefelder"/"Colaweizen" cola and dark wheat beer is another combination that can be found. Very very popular und famous in all the world is Beck's (from Bremen)
Pubs are open in Germany until 2 in the morning or later. Food is generally available until midnight. Germans typically go out after 8PM (popular places already fill up at 6PM).
German food usually sticks to its roots and a typical dish will consist of meat with some form of potatoes and gravy, accompanied by vegetables or salad. Modern German cuisine has been influenced by other European countries such as Italy and France to become lighter. Dishes show a great local diversity which is interesting to discover.
Since most bigger employers have a canteen for their employees, you will find relatively few sandwich shops and takeaways, and eating-out culture in Germany is dominated by the Gasthaus/Gasthof and restaurants. Putting places to eat into 6 categories gives you a hint about the budget/taste. Starting from the lower end, these are:
'Schnellimbiss' means 'quick snack', and is what you will see on the sign of German stalls and small shops that sell primarily sausage (Wurst) and fries (Pommes Frites). Sausages will include Bratwurst, which is fried and usually a boiled pork sausage. A very German variant is Currywurst: sausage chopped up and covered in spiced ketchup, dusted with curry powder. Beer and often even spirits are available in most Schnellimbisse.
'Döner Kebab' is a Turkish dish of veal, chicken or sometimes lamb stuffed into bread, similar to Greek Gyros and Arab Schawarma. Even though considered Turkish, it's actually a speciality which originated in Germany. According to legend, it was invented by Turkish immigrants in West Berlin during the 1970s. In fact, the 'Döner' is Germany's most loved fast food. The sales numbers of 'Döner' exceed those of McDonald's and Burger King products by far.
Nevertheless, fast food giants like McDonald's, Burger King and Pizza Hut can be found in most towns. Nordsee is a German seafood chain, which offers 'Rollmops' (pickled herrings) and many other fish and seafood snacks. However, many independent seafood snack-bars (most common along the German coasts) offer slightly better and slightly cheaper seafood.
Bakeries and butchers
Germans have no tradition of sandwich shops but you will find that bakeries / butchers sell quite good take away food and are serious competition for the fast food chains. Even the smallest bakeries will sell many sorts of bread or rolls, most of them darker (for example, using wholemeal or rye flour) than the white bread popular around the world and definitely worth a try.
Here you will get the obvious drink. In traditional beergardens in Bavaria, it is possible to bring your own food if you buy drinks. Most places will offer simple meals.
Smaller breweries sell their products straight to the customer and sometimes you will find food there as well, among it usually "Haxe" or "Schweinshaxe" (pig's leg), a distinctively German specialty and probably the best dish in almost every establishment of that sort.
Probably 50% of all eating places fall into this group. They are mainly family-run businesses that have been owned for generations, comparable to pubs in the UK. You can go there simply for a drink, or to try German food (often with a local flavour). Food quality differs significantly from place to place but the staff will usually give you an indication of the standard; if a cheap "Gasthaus" / restaurant is overcrowded with Germans or Asians, this indicates at least sufficient quality (unless the crowd is thanks to an organized coach excursion).
Germany has a wide range of flavors (e.g. German, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Polish, Indian, Italian, French, Spanish, Greek, Turkish) and almost all styles of the world are represented.
Turkish cuisine in Germany ranges from simple "Döner" shops to mostly family-run restaurants offering a wide variation of usually very cheap (in relation to German price levels) Turkish home cooking.
You will rarely find restaurants catering for special needs within Germany (e.g. kosher restaurants are common only in cities with a notable Jewish population like Berlin), although most restaurants will prepare special meals or variants for you if they are neither relying on convenience foods only nor too fancy. Most restaurants have at least some vegetarian meals. For muslims it is recommended to stick to Turkish/Arabic restaurants. At some Turkish or Arab food stalls vegetarians might find falafel and baba ganoush to suit their tastes. For not-so-strict Jews the halal Turkish food stalls are also the best option for meat dishes.
In most restaurants in Germany you can choose your own table. You can make reservations (recommended for larger groups and haute cuisine on Saturday nights) and these are marked by reservation cards ("Reserviert"). In expensive restaurants in larger cities you will be expected to make reservations and will be seated by the staff (who will not allow you to choose your table).
Restaurants in commercial areas often offer weekday lunch specials. These are cheap (starting at €5, sometimes including a beverage) options and a good way to sample local food. Specials tend to rotate on a daily or weekly basis, especially when fresh ingredients like fish are involved.
Many restaurants offers all-you-can-eat-buffets where you pay around 10 euros and can eat as much as you want. Drinks are not included in this price.
Rinderroulade mit Rotkraut und Knödeln:
this dish is quite unique to Germany. Very thin sliced beef rolled around a piece of bacon and pickled cucumber until it looks like a mini barrel (5cm diameter) flavoured with tiny pieces of onion, German mustard, ground black pepper and salt. The meat is quick-fried and is then left to cook slowly for an hour, meanwhile red cabbage and potato dumplings are prepared and then the meat is removed from the frying pan and gravy is prepared in the frying pan. Knödel, Rotkraut and Rouladen are served together with the gravy in one dish.
Schnitzel mit Pommes frites:
there are probably as many different variations of Schnitzel as there are restaurants in Germany. They have in common a thin slice of pork often covered in egg and bread crumbs that is fried for a short period of time and it is often served with fries (that's the Pommes frites part). Variations of this are usually served with different types of gravy: such as Zigeunerschnitzel, Zwiebelschnitzel, Holzfäller Schnitzel and Wiener Schnitzel (as the name suggests, an Austrian dish – the genuine article must be veal instead of pork, which is why most restaurants offer a Schnitzel Wiener Art, or Viennese-style schnitzel which is allowed to be pork). In the south you can often get Spätzle (pasta that Swabia is famous for) instead of fries with it. Spätzle are egg noodles typical of south Germany.
Rehrücken mit Spätzle:
Germany has maintained huge forests such as the famous Black Forest, Bayrischer Wald and Odenwald. In and around these areas you can enjoy the best game in Germany. Rehrücken means venison tenderloin and it is often served with freshly made noodles such as Spätzle and a very nice gravy based on a dry red wine.
there is no country in the world with a greater variety of sausages than Germany and it would take a while to mention them all. “Bratwurst“ is fried, other varieties such as the Bavarian “Weißwurst“ are boiled. Here is the shortlist version: “Rote” beef sausage, “Frankfurter Wurst” boiled pork sausage made in the Frankfurt style, “Pfälzer Bratwurst” sausage made in Palatine style , “Nürnberger Bratwurst” Nuremberg sausage – the smallest of all of them, but a serious contender for the best tasting German sausage, “grobe Bratwurst”, Landjäger, Thüringer Bratwurst, Currywurst, Weißwurst ... this could go on till tomorrow. If you spot a sausage on a menu this is often a good (and sometimes the only) choice. Often served with mashed potato, fries or potato salad.
Literally "meatballs from Koenigsberg", this is a typical dish in and around Berlin. The meatballs are made out of minced pork and are cooked and served in a white sauce with capers and rice or potatoes.
Soussed herring or "roll mops" in a bread roll, typical street snack.
Lebkuchen are some of Germany's many nice Christmas biscuits and gingerbread. The best known are produced in and around Nuremberg.
Stollen is a kind of cake eaten during the Advent season and yuletide. Original Stollen is produced only in Dresden, Saxony, however you can buy Stollen everywhere in Germany (although Dresdner Stollen is reputed to be the best (and - due to the lower salaries in Eastern Germany - comparatively cheap)).
Around St. Martin's day and christmas, roasted geese ("Martinsgans" / "Weihnachtsgans") are quite common in German restaurants, accompanied by "Rotkraut" (red cabbage) and "Knödeln" (potato dumplings), preferably served as set menu, with the liver, accompanied by some kind of salad, as starter, goose soup, and a dessert.
Germans are very fond of their bread, which they make in many variations. This is the food that Germans tend to miss most when away from home. Most people like their bread relatively dark and dense and scorn the soft loaves sold in other countries. Bakeries will rarely provide less than twenty different sorts of bread and it's worth trying a few of them. In fact, many Germans buy their lunch or small snacks in bakeries instead of takeaways or the like. Prices for a loaf of bread will range from 0.50 € to 4 €, depending on the size (real specialties might cost more).
Most restaurants have one or two vegetarian dishes, but there aren't many places which are particularly aimed at vegetarian or vegan customers, except a few places in big cities like Berlin. If the menu does not contain vegetarian dishes, do not hesitate to ask. Be aware when ordering to ask whether the dish is suitable for vegetarians, as chicken stock and bacon cubes are a commonly "undeclared" ingredient on German menus.
However, there are usually organic food shops ("Bioladen", "Naturkostladen" or "Reformhaus") in every city, providing veg(etari)an bread, spreads, cheese, ice cream, vegan milk substitutes, tofu and seitan. The diversity and quality of the products is great and you will find shop assistants that can answer special nutritional questions in great depth.
The German federal-states started banning smoking in public places and areas in early 2007, however the laws vary from state to state. Smoking is generally banned in all restaurants and cafes. Some places may provide separate smoking areas but it is best to enquire when booking. A loophole in these laws allows clubs and bars to advertise as a "Raucherclub" or "smoker's club", and therefore allow patrons to smoke, though sometimes charging an entrance fee. These establishments are often smoke-filled and can feel extremely unpleasant to some nonsmokers. Otherwise smokers should be prepared to step outside if they still want to light up. Smoking is banned on all forms of public transport including on railway platforms (except in designated smoking areas, which are clearly marked with the word "Raucherbereich" [smoking area]). The laws are strictly enforced.
German transportation runs with German efficiency, and getting around the country is a snap — although you'll need to pay top price for top speed. The most popular options by far are to rent a car, or take the train.
Domestic flights are mainly used for business, with the train being a simpler and often (but not always) cheaper alternative for other travel. The boom of budget airlines and increased competition has made some flight prices competitive with trains to some major cities. However make sure that you get to the right destination. Low-cost airlines are known for naming small airports in the middle of nowhere by cities 100 km away (e.g. "Frankfurt-Hahn" is actually in Hahn, over two hours away by bus from Frankfurt city).
Germany offers a fast and (if booked in advance) affordable railway system that reaches many parts of the country. Unless you travel by car, rail is likely to be your major mode of transportation. Crossing Germany from Munich in the south to Hamburg in the north will usually take around 6 h, while driving by car will take around 8 h.
Almost all long-distance and many regional trains are operated by Deutsche Bahn ("German Rail") , the formerly state-run railway company. DB's website, also available in many other languages, is an excellent resource for working out transportation options not only in Germany.
Inter City Express (ICE).
All major cities are linked by DB's ICE (InterCity Express) and regular InterCity trains. ICE is a system of high speed trains that are capable of speeding with 330km/h, the condition of tracks and signals however allows top speeds of only 160 km/h (usual), 200 km/h (routes with special electronic equipment called "Ausbaustrecke") or 250 km/h to 300 km/h (designated high-speed tracks only called "Neubaustrecke"). The top speed of 330km/h is reached on the journey from Cologne to Paris, France. Although significantly faster than by road (unless you are driving a Porsche), they are also expensive, with a 1 h trip ( Frankfurt to Cologne, around 150 km) costing around €65 one-way (normal price without any discount). However when you book the ticket online in advance, you can get a considerable discount (see Discounts). Reservations are not mandatory but are recommended, especially when you travel on weekends or holidays. This means, that with Interrail or Eurail pass you can use domestic ICE trains without supplement (except for for international ICE trains)
Next are the regular InterCity (IC) and EuroCity (EC) trains. The latter connect the larger European cities and are virtually identical to the regular ICs. These trains are also fairly comfortable, even if they lack the high-tech feeling of the ICE.
On the major lines, an ICE or IC train will run each hour or so during the day. Before you shell out the money for the ICE ticket, you may want to check if it actually makes a significant time difference. ICE trains travel faster than other IC trains only on specially equipped high-speed routes. There are also long distance trains operated by other companies than Deutsche Bahn, usually running over secondary routes. These are usually comfortable enough (although not as comfortable as ICE) and sometimes considerably cheaper, but most of them stop at almost every station en-route.
Despite being fast, modern and highly profitable, German railways are known for their frequent delays specifically on main lines--trains usually do not wait for one another (most local trains normally do for up to 5 min) you should not rely on connecting times of less than 15 min.
BahnCard is a good choice, if you plan to travel by train a lot. It's valid for one year from the date of purchase and gives you discounts on all standard tickets. Long-distance BahnCard tickets frequently do include one single journey on public transport in many destinations (look out for City ticket). However, you have to keep in mind that once you sign a contract for the card, they will automatically renew your card at the end of its time period unless you cancel it in writing before the last three months of the card starts. The DB employees may not tell you about this stipulation when you buy the card.
The German network tickets are valid for one day in all DB local trains (S, RB, RE and IRE), local private trains and public city transport. They are often a cheaper alternative to single or return tickets, because on many shorter relations local trains are not much slower as long-distance trains (IC, EC, ICE). Check the travel time at the online timetable and select the Only local transport button.
If you need a network ticket for long-distance trains, use some of european rail passes or German Rail Pass.
-Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket (translated as 'Lovely Weekend Ticket') lets you travel anywhere in Germany on a Saturday or Sunday until 3 a.m. the following day. If you have time on your hands, it is very inexpensive at just €39 for up to 5 people. The Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket is potentially an ultra-cheap form of long distance travel: You can get from Munich to Hamburg for as cheap as €7.80, taking 12 or more hours, but it is still faster and more comfortable than taking the bus.
-Quer-durchs-Land-Ticket is another one-day network ticket valid on working days from 9AM. to 3AM the following day. Ticket costs €42 for one person and €6 for every other up to 5 people.
-If your travel is contained within a single Bundesland (state), then you can buy a Länder-Ticket valid in one state, plus, usually, a few short links across the border. Time validity is 9AM–3AM following day on working days and 0AM–3AM following day on weekends. Tickets cost begin at €17 for 1 person and at €27 for group up to five people.
All network tickets can be purchased online and at ticket machines at railway stations. You cannot buy them from the conductor.
A few long distance bus lines exist within Germany, most of them orientated to or from Berlin. Besides, there is a very useful long-distance bus line, the "Neun-Euro Bus". If booked in advance, you can end up paying just nine euro for any trip on the bus line connecting Hamburg (and the airport), Hanover (and the airport), Kassel, Frankfurt (and the airport), Mannheim and Heidelberg. The bus runs during the night.
Apart from these, there is a very dense network of regional and local bus lines. In rural areas, though, many lines run only once per day. Regional and local express bus line designators usually contain the letter(s) CE (local), E (regional around Hamburg; in other areas, E is used for special runs), S (regional), SB (regional and local) or X (local within Berlin), city bus line designators may contain the letter(s) BB ("Bürgerbus", not integrated within tariff unions), C or O. Always check the departure boards carefully: sometimes, especially at night or in rural areas, you have to order your bus by phone.
Germany has a world-famous network of excellent roads and Autobahn (motorway) with no toll or fees for cars (trucks have to pay), but gasoline prices are kept high by taxation.
Car Rental and Carpools
All German airports offer car hire services and most of the main hire firms operate at desk locations
Car hire and pool cars are also available in most cities, and one-way rentals (within Germany) are generally permitted with the larger chains without an additional fee. When renting a car, be aware that most cars in Germany have manual gearbox (stick-shift), so you might want to ask for a car with an automatic gearbox if you are used to that type. Drivers with an endorsement in their licence that restricts them to driving automatic transmission vehicles will not be allowed to rent a manual-transmission car.
Most car rentals prohibit having their cars taken to eastern European countries, including Poland and the Czech Republic. If you plan to visit these countries as well, you might chose to rent your car there, as those limitations do not apply the other way round.
Another great way to get around without your own car is using one of the popular carpool services. You can arrange many connections over their respective websites if you speak some German or have a friend that can help you out. Making contact is free of charge and getting a lift is often the cheapest way to get around. The two most popular hosts are Mitfahrgelegenheit and Mitfahrzentrale, for second one you have to pay an extra charge.
All foreign licences are accepted for up to six months (or 12 months for a temporary stay only), but a translation may be necessary (http://bit.ly/gSkE01). If you want to continue driving after this period, you must obtain a German licence. These rules do not apply to driving licences issued in EU member states.
Speed limits are the following in Germany (unless otherwise shown): -30 km/h in most residential areas within cities (marked with a sign "30-Zone Wohngebiet", 20-Zone and 10-Zone also exist) -50 km/h inside towns and cities (including "Kraftfahrstraßen" (marked by a sign showing a white car on a blue background)) -100 km/h outside towns and cities -There is no constant general speed limit on the "Autobahn" or on "Kraftfahrstraßen" if there is any kind of barrier between two or more lanes of different direction. However, it is not an entirely unrestricted roadway as there are sections that are periodically or permanently assigned lower rates of speed. The recommended maximum speed on the Autobahn is 130 km/h, and if you drive on the Autobahn for your first time and are not yet used to the usual heavy traffic, you should not exceed that speed. In addition, if you are legally travelling in excess of 130 km/h and are involved in an accident you can still be held liable for part or all of the damages, regardless of fault on your part.
By recreational vehicle and campervans
German campgrounds (like most others in Western Europe) usually offer a full range of amenities. You always have your own electricity hookup, and water and sewer hookups for each are common,. Every campground has restrooms and showers as well as kitchens, washing-machines and a spin dryer.
The yellow pages of camping, or, if you like, the German camping bible, is the ADAC Campingführer, a campground guide by Germany's largest automobile club ADAC. It lists almost all campgrounds along with prices, type of location, size, opening hours, amenities, you-name-it. Since the guide uses lots of symbols which are explained in a number of languages, it is suitable for travellers from abroad, too.
There are no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented the treaty - the European Union (except Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom), Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty.
Major airlines and airports
The most important airports are Frankfurt (IATA: FRA), Munich (IATA: MUC) and Düsseldorf (IATA: DUS). Berlin-Tegel (IATA: TXL), Cologne (IATA: CGN), Hamburg (IATA: HAM) and Stuttgart (IATA: STR) serve some international flights as well.
Frankfurt is Germany's main hub -one of Europe's four major hubs- and the destination of most intercontinental flights. Munich is a growing secondary hub. Travelers can easily fly in from most places of the world and then connect with Germany's biggest and most respected airline Lufthansa which is a member of the Star Alliance. Germany's second largest airline is Air Berlin, which also serves lots of destinations throughout Germany and Europe (and some worldwide) from several airports.
The airports of Frankfurt, Düsseldorf and Köln/Bonn are connected to the InterCityExpress high speed rail lines. The others all feature either a commuter rail station or some sort of connection to the nearest rail station as well as public transport to the central station of the respective cities. Lufthansa's passengers travelling from Frankfurt Airport have the option to check-in their luggage in Cologne or Stuttgart train stations and connect to the airport by ICE. If doing so, be sure to book the train journey like a Lufthansa connecting flight (i.e. in advance together with the flight), otherwise you are regarded responsible for a missed connection.
Budget travel and minor airlines
Flying can be the cheapest way to get to Germany and from there to other European countries, especially if the flights are booked well in advance. Before booking a budget flight, compare carefully as their destinations are often a bit off the track and after adding all the fees, taxes, aditional bus tickets to get to their airports, you might end up at even higher prices than you would pay for a discounted Lufthansa or Air Berlin ticket.
There are budget flights to almost every city in Europe from Germany. The major budget airlines in Germany are easyJet, Ryanair, germanwings (for flights within Germany, too) and Wizz Air (for flights to Eastern Europe) which all offer several connections to many countries throughout Europe.
For (budget) flights to european holiday destinations, for example round the Mediterranean, Germany's major carriers besides Air Berlin are Condor (Thomas Cook) (also for main tourist destinations throughout the world) and TUIfly.
Regular train services connect Germany with all neighbouring countries. Almost all neighbouring countries (especially Switzerland, Poland, Denmark, Czech Republic and Austria) and even some non-neighbouring countries (e. g. Italy) are quite well connected with "EuroCity" trains. They are a little bit slower and slightly less comfortable than the European high speed trains but reach nevertheless up to 200 km/h. They are a worthwhile way to travel--not only for budget travellers (although budget airlines might be cheaper) or landscape viewers (especially the Rhine valley lines).
There are also several European high speed trains to cross into or get out of Germany.
International ferry services exist, notably to Scandinavia.
Germany is served by buses cooperating in the Eurolines network. The German partner is called Touring.
Especially in the English-speaking countries, Germany and the Germans have earned themselves a reputation for being stiff and strict with rules but also hard working and efficient. If you are caught breaking the rules, this will be pointed out to you by a fellow citizen. The two exceptions to rules in Germany seem to be queues and speed limits. The German language is not as softly spoken as English, so even a friendly word can sound harsh to the English-speaker.
More important, the German sense of "politeness" differs significantly from the Anglo-American concept of courteous remarks, small talk and political correctness. Germans highly value honesty, straight talking, being able to cope with criticism and generally not wasting other people's time. Many times, unfortunately, this applies to your interactions with them, and not their interactions with you. Once tempers are lost, they are very hard to reign in again. Consequently, business meetings tend to lack the introductory chit-chat. The Germans tend to be very formal people (especially in business) and titles rule the roost. Any titles (such as Dr., Prof. etc.) are used recursively, e.g. Herr Prof. Dr. Müller. Some colleagues that have worked together for many years still call each by their title and surname. When a German introduces himself to you, he/she will often simply state their surname, prompting you to call them "Mr/Mrs...". Using first names immediately may be seen as derogatory.
There is also a strong desire to achieve mutual agreement and compromise. As for the infamous efficiency: Germans are the world's leading recreationists (at an average of 30 days of paid leave per year, not counting public holidays), while maintaining one of the highest productivity rates on earth. A late-running train is considered a sign of the degradation of society.
The Germans tend to be quite impatient (which may be related to that efficiency) and don't think twice about queue jumping or driving over the speed limit if it gets them where they want to be faster. If there is a queue in the supermarket (which are common sights at cheaper supermarkets such as Aldi, Lidl and Netto), there will be much huffing and puffing, snide comments and tutting until someone comes along and opens a new till.
Despite popular belief, the Germans do have a sense of humour, albeit an eccentric one. It is not true that Germans have no sense of irony and sarcasm. Although, it might be good to know when and how to be ironic or sarcastic. If you are around people you know well, sarcasm and irony are very common kinds of humor. Nevertheless, being ironic or sarcastic with your boss or professor is considered very inappropriate.
General rule of thumb: be on time!
In official contexts (when conducting business) punctuality is seen not as a courtesy but as precondition for future relations. Most Germans arrive 5-10 min early and take this for granted from everyone.
For personal relations, importance attached to punctuality may differ from individual to individual.
Behaving in public
Germany, especially urban Germany, is a rather tolerant society, and your common sense should be sufficient to keep yourself out of trouble.
Drinking in public is not forbidden and is even a common sight in the far west (Cologne and the Rhine-Ruhr Area). In some larger cities (such as Cologne) there are local laws that in theory make drinking alcohol in public a misdemeanor punishable with a fine of tens of euros; these laws are rarely enforced against tourists, except in cases when drinking leads to rowdy behavior (such laws have also been successfully challenged in court in several places). Behaving aggressively or disturbing the peace will earn you a conversation with German police officers and possibly a fine. Behave respectfully in places of worship and places that carry the dignity of the state (like the numerous war and holocaust memorials, parliaments and other historical sites).
Insults against other people are prohibited by German law and, if prosecuted for it, can result in jail time and a heavy fine. It is unknown how often charges are brought, but exercise common sense in all cases.
On German beaches, it's in general okay for women to bathe topless. Full nudity is tolerated everywhere though not a frequent sight outside of the numerous nudist areas (labeled "FKK" -- "Freikörperkultur", literally free body culture). These are especially common at the east German Baltic coastline, due to the high popularity of nudism in the former GDR. It's also possible to spot nudists in Berlin's public parks and in Munich's "English Garden". In most saunas nudity is compulsory and mixed sessions are common practice. One day of the week is usually only for women.
Know the locals
The general rule of thumb is that wealth rises towards the south: Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria are the two richest states, competing with Switzerland and Austria for quality of life. A more liberal atmosphere is dominant as the traveler goes northward: Hamburg and Berlin have had homosexual mayors, bars and clubs are open all night and the density of young artists in Berlin Friedrichshain easily surpasses that of London, Paris or Manhattan. Northern Germany is in the same cultural sphere as the Netherlands and Scandinavia with even the food and architecture more pragmatic, simple and unrefined than in the traditionally Catholic south. Contrary to the general trend, Hamburg is the richest city in Germany (and one of the ten richest regions in Europe) even outpacing trendy Munich.
The Nazi era
In the late 19th Century, Germany was arguably the most enlightened society in the world. As a mental exercise, try to think of five famous physicists, philosophers, composers or poets without mentioning a German name. This dignity and prestige faced a severe setback during the period of National Socialist rule under Hitler. Since then, the Third Reich has been a permanent scar on the German national identity, and is considered a blot on Germany's national honor and will remain so for a very long time. Every German pupil has to deal with it at about 5 different times during his or her schooling and most classes visit a concentration camp (most of these sites have been transformed into memorials). Not a single day passes without educational programmes on television and radio dealing with this period of time. Growing up in Germany, whether in the GDR or West Germany, meant and still means growing up with this bitter heritage, and every German has developed her or his own way of dealing with the public guilt. For the traveler, this can mean confusion. You might come across people (especially young ones) eager to talk to you about Germany's troubled history, feeling the urge to convince you Germany has come a long way since then. Choose adequate places to talk about the issue and be polite about it. If you are visiting friends in Berlin, you might find it hard to keep them from constantly dragging you into one of the abundant memorials.
Humour, even made innocently, is absolutely the wrong way of approaching the matter and is insulting. Even worse, what might sound funny abroad may earn you jail time (up to 3 years) and a hefty fine in Germany. All Nazi-era slogans, symbols, and gestures are forbidden (except for educational purposes, and even these are strongly regulated), and displaying them in public is illegal. Foreigners are not exempted from these laws. Do not even think about jokingly giving a stiff arm Nazi (roman) salute! For example: a German court recently had to decide if it is legal to wear a crossed out swastika (to show one's opposing the ideas of national-socialism), since it still contains a forbidden symbol!
Buddhist and Hindu visitors should note that even though the swastika is not banned as a religious symbol, you might get some strange looks from the people living there if you wear the symbol, as most Germans are not aware that the swastika is also a religious symbol. You could also end up having to explain your religious situation to the German police.
Probably the best way to deal with the issue to stay relaxed about it. If your company likes to talk about German history, use the opportunity for a sincere, maybe even very personal conversation. If you want to steer clear of awkward moments, don't bring up the matter.
However, this is not the case when you ask them about the division of Germany into East and West. Communist symbols, GDR songs and other East-German related regalia are circulated freely and many are somewhat nostalgic about the country, hence the artistic and commercial movement "Ostalgie" (nostalgia for the East). Just avoid bringing up the topic of the Berlin Wall impulsively, as it is still a very divisive issue.
Germany provides almost all options for accommodation, including hotels, B&B's, hostels, and camping. You might also consider staying with members of a hospitality exchange network.
Most international hotel chains have franchises in the major German cities, and a large variety of local hotels exist. All hotels in Germany are ranked by stars (1 to 5 stars). The rankings are made independently and are therefore reliable. The rate always includes VAT, is usually per room and includes in most places breakfast. Prices vary significantly by city (Munich and Frankfurt are most expensive).
B&Bs ("Pensionen" or "Fremdenzimmer") (usually) provide less comfort than hotels for cheaper prices. The advantage is that you are likely to meet Germans and get a touch of the German way of living. A sign saying "Zimmer frei" indicates a B&B with a room available.
Hostels provide simple, budget accommodation primarily in shared rooms. They are good places to get to know other travellers. In Germany, as in many countries, two flavors exist: international youth hostels and independent hostels.
International Youth Hostels ("Jugendherbergen") are owned and run by the association "Deutsches Jugendherbergswerk" (DJH), which is part of the Hostelling International (HI) network. There are more than 600 hostels spread all over Germany in big and small cities as well as in the country side. Not only individual travellers are guests but also school classes and other youth groups. To sleep there, you have to be or become a member in a youth hostel organisation belonging the HI network. Generally, this entails simply filling out a card and payng a few extra Euro per night. In general, the advantage of these places is that they tend to serve a buffet style breakfast for no additional charge, though this is not an absolute rule. However, the quality is often below that of private hostels, and many do not provide a good opportunity for socializing.
Privately run independent hostels are starting to be an attractive alternative for a similar price. More than 60 already exist in Germany, getting more and more every year. They are located in bigger cities, especially in Berlin, Munich, Dresden, and Hamburg. Only few are in the country side. Sometimes run by former travellers, hostels refrain from having strict rules. Especially small ones are frequently places where you can feel at home. Many are known for their vibrant, party atmosphere and can be an excellent way to meet other travelers. There is no need to be a member in some organisation to sleep there. About half of the hostels have organized themselves in a "Backpacker Network", which provides a list of their members hostels. A website which lists almost every independent hostel in Germany is Gomio. Of course, international room booking agencies such as Hostelworld and Hostelbookers are also good resources, and give travelers the ability to leave reviews.
There are countless campsites in Germany. They vary significantly in the infrastructure and standard. The ADAC, the German automobile club, offers an excellent guide for most German camping groups. If you are member of your national motorclub assistance and guides are free or at substantial reduced prices.
Some travellers just put up their tents somewhere in the country side. In Germany this is illegal, unless you have the landowner's permission. Practically however nobody cares as long as you are discreet, stay for one night only and take your trash with you. Be aware of hunting ranges and military practise grounds or you could be in significant danger of being shot.
Sanitary and medical facilities in Germany are excellent. The phone book lists telephone numbers for various medical services, many hotlines and services exist that are open during "off hours". See the section Medical Emergencies above if you are in an emergency
If you have an non-urgent medical problem, you may choose from any local doctor. The German health system allows specialists to run their own surgery so you usually will be able to find every discipline from Dentistry to Neurology on duty within reasonable reach. In remote regions finding a doctor might require a ride to the next town but the German infrastructure allows fast connections. GPs/family doctors will usually describe themselves as "Allgemeinmediziner" - meaning "general medician".
Pharmacies are called "Apotheke" and are marked by a big, red "A" symbol. At least one pharmacy in the area will be open at all times (usually a different one every day), and all pharmacies will post the name and address of the pharmacy-on-duty in the window. Some medication that is sometimes freely available in other countries (e.g. antibiotics and the "morning-after pill") needs a prescription in Germany, so you may want to check before your journey. The staff of an Apotheke have specially trained personnel, as it is mandatory to have a university degree in pharmaceutics to run an Apotheke in Germany. A German pharmacist is able to offer advice on medications. In Germany pharmaceuticals tend to be expensive, so it might be wise to ask the pharmacist for "Generika" (generic drugs): A "Generikum" is virtually the same produce, often even produced by the same pharmaceutical trust, just lacking the well-known brand name and being considerably cheaper.
EU citizens that are members of any public health insurance can get a European Health Insurance Card. The card is issued by your insurance provider and lets you use the public health care system in any EU country, including Germany.
If you're from outside the EU, or if you have a private health insurance, check if your insurance is valid in Germany. If not, get a travel health insurance for the trip - German health care is expensive.
Foreign insurance, even if it covers travel abroad, may not be accepted by local hospitals.
Tap water has a good quality, is very strict controlled and can be freely used for consumption. Exceptions have to be labeled ("Kein Trinkwasser", no drinking water), usually found on fountains and in trains.
Many lakes and rivers, as well as both the North Sea and Baltic Sea are generally safe for swimming. Nevertheless, while there may be no life-threatening pollutants in most bodies of water, you would do very well to inform yourself about local regulations. If you intend to swim in a large river, at best do so only on official bathing locations. Keep away from structures (power plants might cause streams you don't see from the surface) in the river or reaching from the shore into the river, also keep out of the path of ships. Both structures and ships, even if they look harmless or far away, may create major sucks underwater. Take particular care of children.
If you intend to swim in the North Sea you should inform yourselves about the tide schedules and weather conditions - getting caught in a tide can be fatal, getting lost in the mist, too. Hiking in the Wattenmeer without a local guide is extremely dangerous, so keep out if you do not really know your way around. There are no tides in the Baltic Sea.
You should be aware of rabies (Tollwut) which has been a problem in some areas in the past, even if forestry officials combat it very seriously. If you want to go to Germany for hiking or camping you should inform yourself about the situation at your destination and take appropriate precautions. Normally, you won't have to worry about it because the main transmitting animal is the fox.
The biggest risks hikers and camper face are two diseases transmitted by ticks. In some parts of Germany there is a (low) risk of contracting tick-borne encephalitis; vaccination is advised if you plan out-door activities in high-risk areas. The risk of Lyme disease is higher and vaccination is not available. Therefore you should try to prevent tick-bites by wearing long trousers and appropriate shoes. Chemical repellents can also be effective. You should also check for ticks afterwards since the risk of transmission is lower if the tick is removed early. The savest way to remove a tick is by using a credit card sized device called a "Zeckenkarte" (tick card), wich you can get at most pharmacies. Other methods (fingers, using glue, etc.) might lead to the tick injecting even more infectious material into the wound. If in any doubt consult a doctor.
Today, wild animals, although they abound, are mostly very shy, so you might not get to see many. While a few wolves in Saxony and a bear in Bavaria have been sighted, their immigration from Eastern Europe caused quite a stir. In the course of events, "Bruno" (the bear) was shot, and while the wolves are under heavy protection local hunters have been suspected of killing them illegally. The most dangerous animal in Germany's forests is by far the wild boar; in particular, sows leading young are nothing to joke about. Wild boar are used to humans, since they often plunder trash cans in villages and suburbs, and their teeth can rip big wounds. If you see one, run.
Germany is a very safe country. Crimes rates are low and the rule of law is strictly enforced.
Take the usual precautions (such as do not walk in parks alone at 3AM, do not leave your camera unattended, and do not flash around a big fat wallet) and you will most likely not encounter any crime at all while staying in Germany.
The nationwide emergency number for the police, fire and rescue services is 112 (same as in all EU countries). This number can be dialed toll-free from any phone, including phone booths and mobile phones (SIM-card required). If you are reporting an emergency, the usual guidelines apply: stay calm and state your exact location, the type of emergency and the number of persons involved. Do not hang up until the operator has received all required information and ends the call.
There are orange emergency telephones interspersed along the main motorways. You can find the closest SOS-phone by following arrows on the reflection posts at the side of the road.
Ambulances (Rettungswagen) can be summoned via the national toll-free emergency number 112 and will help you regardless of insurance issues. All hospitals (Krankenhäuser) except for the smallest private ones have 24-hour emergency rooms able to cope with all kinds of medical problems.
The overwhelming majority of foreign visitors will never deal with issues of open racial discrimination or racism in Germany. Large cities in Germany are very cosmopolitan and multiethnic with large communities of people from all continents and religions. Germans are also very aware and shamed of the historical burden of the Nazi era and are usually open-minded and tolerant in contacts with foreigners. Non-white visitors may get an occasional wary look (particularly in Eastern Germany), but not to a greater extent than in other countries with a predominantly white population.
The situation may be different in some predominantly rural parts of Eastern Germany (including the outskirts of East Berlin). The feeling of being left alone with widespread underemployment and unemployment and the desperation caused thereby can lead some people to xenophobia ("they are stealing our jobs") and therefore racism, making them easily influenced by right-wing groups. As a result there are more incidences of racist behavior than in the West with a few incidents of violence. Most of these happen at night when groups of drunken "Neo-Nazis" look for trouble (and solitary victims) downtown or near public transport stations. The anger of these groups is directed against anything which is different. Hence, it might not only affect foreign visitors, but also homeless persons, West Germans and people with alternative looks such as Punks, Goths, etc.
Public displays of overt antisemitism are strictly forbidden by laws that are very much enforced. The Hitler salute and the swastika are banned, as well as the public denial of the Holocaust. Violations of these laws against racism are not taken lightly by the authorities. There is no such tolerance for things like "I was only joking about the matter", and it is considered very rude and tasteless behavior by most Germans.
German Police (German: Polizei) officers are well trained, always helpful, professional and trustable, but tend to be rather strict in enforcing the law, which means that one should not expect that exceptions are made for tourists. When dealing with police you should remain calm, courteous and avoid getting into confrontations since you may be fined for insulting police officers. Most police officers should speak/understand at least basic english or at least have colleagues who do so. The younger they are, the better the chance to catch one who speaks good english. Otherwise some do speak french, spanish or theyre parents langauge like turkish, polish, russian and so on. Police uniforms and cars are green or blue. Green used to be the standard, but most states and the federal police have transitioned to blue uniforms and cars to comply with the EU standard.
If you get arrested, you have the right to have an attorney. Foreign nationals also have the right to contact their respective embassy for assistance. You are never obliged to make a statement that would incriminate yourself and you have the right to remain silent. Wait until your lawyer arrives and talk to your lawyer first. If you do not have a lawyer, call your embassy (or someone else who can hire one for you) else the local justice official will appoint a lawyer for you.
If you are victim of a crime (for example robbery, assault or theft in public) and wave an oncoming patrol car or officer, it is not uncommon that the officers will (sometime very harshly: "Einsteigen") command you to enter the back seat of the police cruiser. This is an action to start an instant manhunt to identify and arrest the suspect. In this case remember that you are not under arrest but to help the officers to enforce the law an maybe get back your property.
Prostitution is a legal business in Germany.
All larger cities have a red light district with licensed bars, go-gos, escort services and separees. Tabloids are full of ads and the internet is taking over as the main contact base. Be aware of the huge amounts of online fakes. Brothels are not necessarily easily spotted from the streets (outside of redlight districts) to avoid legal action by neighbours. Places best known for their redlight activities are Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt and Cologne.
Due to Germany's proximity to Eastern Europe, several cases of human trafficking and illegal immigration have taken place. Police regularly raid brothels to keep this business within its legal boundaries. In general, the police are not interested in the clients, but your identity will be checked. It is better to have a photo ID with you. Otherwise, you might be taken to the police station to check your identity.
Alcohol may be purchased by persons 16 years and older. However, distilled beverages and mixed drinks with those (including the popular 'Alcopops') are available only at 18. It is not technically illegal for younger people to drink, but it is illegal to allow them to drink on premises. If the police notices underage drinking, they may pick the person up, confiscate the drinks and send the person home in the presence of an officer.
Smoking is allowed starting at age 18. Vending machines for cigarettes require a valid "proof of age", which in practice means that you need a German bank card or a (European) driving license to use them.
The situation on marijuana can be confusing. The Constitutional Court ruled that possession for "personal use", though still illegal, should not be prosecuted. Germany is a federal state therefore the interpretation of this ruling is up to the state authorities. In fact charges are sometimes pressed even for tiny amounts, which will cause you a lot of trouble regardless of the outcome. As a general rule the northern states tend to be more liberal while in the south (especially Bavaria), even negligible amounts are considered illegal. The customs officials are also aware of the fact that you can legally buy marijuana in the Netherlands and therefore set up regular border controls (also inside trains) as the import is strictly prohibited.
Even if you get off the charges, the authorities may cause different problems, like revoking your drivers license and if you have more than a few grams, you will be prosecuted in any case. Also, the drugs will be confiscated in all cases.
All other recreational drugs (like ecstasy) are illegal and possession will lead to prosecution and at least a police record.
Gay and lesbian travelers
In some areas of Berlin and eastern Germany 'gay-bashing' is popular with Neonazis or other gangs, so use common sense and be geared to the behavior of the locals around you: if they display homosexuality, it is safe for you; otherwise, if not better avoid it. In small towns and in the countryside, display of homosexuality is almost unknown while it may be commonplace in Berlin and other big cities.
The attitude towards gays and lesbians is rather tolerant with openly gay politicians and celebrities being considered increasingly normal. While some, especially the elderly, Germans inwardly still don't approve of homosexuality or bisexuality, they usually suppress open utterances of homophobia. Therefore, in most cases, display of homosexuality (holding hands or kissing) will at most provoke stares or sometimes comments by children or elderly people.
The official language of Germany is German. The standard form of German is called "Hochdeutsch" (High German). This is accent-free or better dialect-free German, the "official" form of the language. It is understood by all and spoken by almost all Germans. However, every region has its historical dialect, which might pose a challenge sometimes to those who speak even good German and even to native speakers as well. This is usually noticeable only in the south and rural areas of the north and east. Thus, when traveling in Bavaria, Saxony and Baden, you are stepping foot in places where dialect remains a strong part of the local identity. The general rule is that south of the Main River divides north Germany from the south in both language dialects and local culture.
If you intend address the person you're speaking to in German, refer to the person as "Sie" if you aren't acquainted with that person yet. "Du" can be used if both of you are already close (the form of the verbs will also change).
All Germans learn English at school, so you should be able to get by with English in most places. Many people--especially in the tourism industry and higher educated persons--also speak French, Russian or Spanish, but if you can't speak German, English remains your best bet.
If you address a German with English, always first ask "Do you speak English?" or even better its German translation, "Sprechen Sie Englisch?" as that is considered a sign of politeness.
Germans less fluent in the English language often answer questions very briefly (one or two words) because they feel uncertain how to create a complete English sentence. This might sometimes appear impolite but is not at all meant this way. Germans less fluent in English also often say "become" instead of "get" because the German word "bekommen" ("get") is phonetically so close to "become". Since it's polite to reply "Bitte" if someone thanks you, Germans may literally translate this with "please" instead of "here you are" or "you're welcome". Another source of confusion is that Germans call mobile or cellular phones a "Handy" and many of them regard this as an English word.
It is worth noting that English is in the same language family as the German language. Hence when you read German signs, there are a good number of words that may resemble their English counterparts.
While Germany uses the 24 hour format for times, people very often use 12 hour times in conversations. There is no real suffix like "AM/PM", though you can add "vormittags" (before noon) and "nachmittags" (after noon) when it's not clear from the context. Another difference is that when saying the time is 7:30, English speakers would say "half (past) seven" whereas Germans say "halb acht" ("half eight"). In addition, Germans say two-digit numbers "backwards": instead of "twenty-two" they say "two and twenty." Numbers below 20 are said the same way as in English. This becomes especially important when you inquire for prices, although most who speak English with you should use the correct form. It is still better to double-check what is really meant.
The roots of German history and culture date back to the Germanic tribes and after that to the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. Since the early middle ages Germany started to split into hundreds of small states. It was the Napoleonic wars that started the process of unification, which ended in 1871, when a large number of previously independent German kingdoms united under Prussian leadership to form the German Empire (Deutsches Kaiserreich). This incarnation of Germany reached eastward all the way to modern day Klaipeda (Memel) in Lithuania and also encompassed today´s regions of Alsace-Lorraine (France), a small portion of eastern Belgium (Eupen-Malmédy), a small border region in southern Denmark and over 40% of contemporary Poland. The empire ended in 1918 when Emperor (Kaiser) Wilhelm II was forced to abdicate the throne at the time of Germany's defeat in World War I (1914-1918) and was followed by the short-lived ill fated Weimar Republic, which tried in vain to completely establish a liberal, democratic regime. Because the young republic was plagued with massive economic problems stemming from the war (such as hyperinflation) and disgrace for a humiliating defeat in the First World War, strong anti-democratic forces took advantage of the inherent organizational problems of the Weimar Constitution and the Nazis were able to seize power.
Hitler and Nazi Germany
The year 1933 witnessed the rise to power of the nationalistic and racist National Socialist German Workers' (Nazi) Party and its Führer, Adolf Hitler. Under the Nazi dictatorship, democratic institutions were dismantled and a police state was installed. Jews, Slavs, Gypsies, handicapped people, socialists, communists, unionists and other groups not fitting into the Nazi's vision of a Greater Germany faced persecution, and ultimately murder in concentration camps. Europe's Jews and Gypsies were marked for total extermination. Hitler's militaristic ambitions to create a new German Empire in Central and Eastern Europe led to war, successively, with Poland, France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States - despite initial dazzling successes, Germany was unable to withstand the attacks of the Allies and Soviets on two fronts in addition to a smaller third front to the south of the alps in Italy.
It was "Stunde Null" or zero hour. Germany had destroyed itself and much of Europe and only had itself to blame. By April of 1945 Germany was in ruins with most major cities bombed to the ground. The reputation of Germany as an intellectual land of freedom and high culture (Land der Dichter und Denker) had been decimated and tarnished for decades to come. At the end of the war, by losing 25% of its territory, east of the newly Allied imposed Oder-Neisse frontier with Poland the occupied country was faced with a major refugee crisis with well over 10 million Germans flooding westward into what remained of Germany. Following the end of the war at the Potsdam conference the Allies decided the future of Germany's borders and taking a Soviet lead stripped her of the traditional eastern Prussian lands. Therefore, German provinces east of the rivers Oder and Neisse like Silesia and Pomerania were entirely cleared of its original population by the Soviets and Polish - most of it an area where there had not been any sizable Polish or even Russian minorities at all. Even more refugees came with the massive numbers of ethnic Germans expelled from their ancient eastern European homelands in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia.
Post-World War II
After the devastating defeat in World War II (1939-1945), Germany was divided into four sectors, controlled by the French, British, US and Soviet forces. United Kingdom and the US decided to merge their sectors, followed by the French. Silesia, Pomerania and the southern part of East Prussia came under Polish administration according to the international agreement of the allies. With the beginning of the Cold War, the remaining central and western parts of the country were divided into an eastern part under Soviet control, and a western part which was controlled directly by the Western Allies. The western part was transformed into the Federal Republic of Germany, a democratic nation with Bonn as the capital, while the Soviet-controlled zone became the communist/authoritarian Soviet style German Democratic Republic (GDR). Berlin had a special status as it was divided among the Soviets and the West, with the eastern part featuring as the capital of the GDR. The western sectors of Berlin, (West Berlin) was de facto an exclave of the Federal Republic, but formally governed by the Western Allies. On August 13, 1961 the Berlin Wall was erected as part of a heavily guarded frontier system of border fortifications. As a result hundreds of Germans trying to escape from the communist dictatorship were killed here in the years to come.
In the late 1960's a sincere and strong desire to confront the Nazi past came into being. Students' protests beginning in 1968 successfully clamoured for a new Germany. The society became much more liberal, and the totalitarian past was dealt with more unconcealed than ever before since the foundation of the Federal Republic in 1949. Post-war education had helped put Germany among countries in Europe with the least number of people subscribing to Nazi or fascist/authoritarian ideas. Willy Brandt became chancellor in 1969. He made an important contribution towards reconciliation between Germany and the communist states including important peace gestures toward Poland.
Reunification and the Berlin Republic
Germany was reunited peacefully in 1990, a year after the fall and collaspe of the GDR's Communist regime and the opening of the iron curtain that separated German families by the barrel of a gun for decades. The re-established eastern states joined the Federal Republic on the 3rd of October 1990, a day which is since celebrated as the German National Holiday (Tag der Deutschen Einheit). Together with the reunification, the last post-war limitations to Germany's sovereignty were removed and the US, UK, France and most importantly, the Soviet Union gave their approval. The German parliament, the Bundestag, after much controversial debate, finally agreed to comply with the eastern border of the former GDR, also known as the "Oder-Neisse-Line" thus shaping Germany the way it can be found on Europe's map today.
Germany is an economic powerhouse boasting the largest economy of Europe, and is in spite of its relatively small population the second largest country of the world in terms of exports.
The financial center of Germany and continental Europe is Frankfurt am Main, and it can also be considered one of the most important air traffic hubs in Europe, with Germany's flag carrier Lufthansa known for being not just a carrier, but rather a prestigious brand, though its glamour has faded somewhat during recent years. Frankfurt features an impressive skyline with many high-rise buildings, quite unusual for Central Europe; this circumstance has led to the city being nicknamed "Mainhattan". It is also the home of the European Central Bank (ECB), making it the center of the Euro, the supra-national currency used throughout the European Union. Frankfurt Rhein-Main International Airport is the largest airport of the country, while the Frankfurt Stock Exchange (FSE) is the most important stock exchange in Germany.
The formal head of state is the President ('Bundespräsident'), who is not involved in day-to-day politics and has mainly ceremonial and representative duties. He can also suspend the parliament, but all executive power lies with the chancellor. The President of Germany is elected every 5 years by a specially convened national assembly, and is restricted to serving a maximum of two five year terms.
The two largest parties are center-right CDU ('Christlich Demokratische Union', Christian Democratic Party) and center-left SPD ('Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands', Social Democratic Party). Due to the proportional voting system, smaller parties are also represented in parliament. Medium-sized parties of importance are center-right CSU ('Christlich Soziale Union', Christian Social Party, the most important party in Bavaria which collaborates at the federal level with the CDU), liberal FDP ('Freie Demokratische Partei', Free Democratic Party), the Green party ('Bündnis 90/Die Grünen'), since summer 2005, the new Left Party ('Die Linke', a socialist party with significant strength in East Germany), the result of a merger between the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) (legal successor of GDR's state party, SED (Socialist Unity Party)) and the Alternative for Work and Social Justice (WASG) (founded by SPD's ex-leader, Oskar Lafontaine, to accommodate SPD's former left wing creating an alternative to Gerhard Schröder's "Agenda 2010" policy), and, since 2011, the Pirates' Party ('Piratenpartei', a civil rights and liberties movement). There have been some attempts by extreme right-wing parties (NPD - National Democratic Party / REP - Republicans) to get into parliament, but so far they have failed the 5% requirement (except in some East German state parliaments, currently Saxony and in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania); extreme left-wing parties (MLPD - Marxist-Leninist Party / DKP - German Communist Party) virtually only have minimal influence on administrative levels below state parliaments.
Being a federal republic, Germany is very much a decentralised country, which does justice to the cultural differences between the regions. Most travelers will perhaps only think of beer, Lederhosen and Oktoberfest when Germany comes to mind, but Germany's famous alpine and beer culture is mostly centered around Bavaria and Munich. Here the beer is traditionally served in 1 liter mugs (but not in Kneipen (pubs) and Restaurants). The annual Oktoberfest is Europe's most visited festival and the world's largest fair. Germany's south-western regions, however, are well known for their wine growing areas (e.g. Rheinhessen and Palatinate) and Bad Duerkheim on the 'German wine route' organises the biggest wine festival worldwide with over 600,000 visitors annually.
The fall of the wall in 1989 and the subsequent German Reunification are the main events of recent German history. Today most Germans as well as their neighbours support the idea of a peaceful reunified Germany and while the eastern regions still suffer from higher unemployment and of brain-drain, the reunification process is overall seen as a success. October 3rd is celebrated as the day of "German National Unity" or "Reunification Day".
Cars are a symbol of national pride and social status. Certainly manufacturers such as Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche and Volkswagen (VW) are world famous for their quality, safety and style. This quality is matched by Germany's excellent network of roadways including the renowned Autobahn network, which has many sections without speed limits that attract speed hungry drivers. There are actually speed tourists who come to Germany just to rent an exotic sports car and fly down the autobahn! Amazingly for its size Germany is home to the third largest freeway/motorway network in the world. Germany also features an extensive network of high speed trains - the InterCityExpress (ICE).
Most cities have a vibrant gay and lesbian scene, especially Berlin and Cologne. The Berlin tourism agency and other tourism organisations have started campaigns to attract gay and lesbian travellers to their cities. In fact, some politicians (e.g. the Mayor of Berlin and the foreign minister) and stars in Germany are homo- and bisexuals.
Germany was the host of the FIFA World Cup 2006.
The electricity supply runs at 230V 50Hz. Almost all outlets use the Schuko plug, most appliances have a thinner but compatible Europlug. Adapters for other plugs are widely available in electronics stores.
Germany - what a beautiful country with wonderfully friendly people. I especially love staying near to the B500 in the "Pension Williams," Seebach, in the Black Forest. No matter when I travel in Europe I always try to include Germany:-)
my home, but seriously, not all of us and especially not the majority of young people like techno!!! there are a million places to go and whether you like Rock, Pop or Folk you'll find a club or Pub to party in. And btw also not all of us wear lether shorts and drink beer all day. But our Beer truely is the best
i Like Germany bcz it really very beautiful and modern Country in the World especially in Europe.There is no any Country in Europe like Germany.It is the best Country of Europe bcz the special thing i like in Germany is The rules bcz the rules are very nice and also Cleanliness.So if u r planning to go Europe must go in Germany.
TRAVEL ADVISORY! (AUGUGUST 18, 2010): STUTTGART
Charges of corruption in Stuttgart in connection with the "Stuttgart 21" rail project have triggered massive demonstrations (and hopefully not worse!) in and around the main train station.
Peaceful demonstrations such as a prayer have already been raided by the police. The police has indicated to crack down harder. This could escalate to instances in which police in riot gear are called and tear gas could be used to evict squatting protesters in and around the station!
AVOID STUTTGART especially the MAIN TRAIN STATION.