Visitors to Germany must have a valid passport. Please be aware that in the US there is a large backlog for passport requests and we strongly urge you to apply for a passport sooner rather than later as they can take weeks if not months to arrive. You can apply for a passport at your local post office. When traveling around the country, carry a copy of your passport with you, NOT the actual document. The risk of it being set down and forgotten or (much more unlikely) stolen is far greater than leaving it at the hotel, which are generally safe (particularly the hotels we have chosen). It is also a good idea to leave a copy or two with a friend or family member at home.
Citizens of the US, Australia, New Zealand and the European Union countries are not required to obtain a visa to enter Germany unless you plan to stay longer than 3 months in the country. For detailed information on which nationalities require a visa please click here.
Germany uses the Euro, a currency found throughout much of Europe. Many travel books will suggest bringing travelers checks, which we strongly advise against. The best route (and the best exchange rate) is to wait until you get to the country and use your ATM/debit card (don’t forget your PIN). Many stores and restaurants also accept Visa, but it is also a good idea to get cash from one of the many 24-hour ATMs. Before you leave, be sure to call your bank and advise that you will be using your card in Germany. For current exchange rates, see our currency converter here.
Germans speak, of course, German. High German is spoken throughout the country, and a variety of dialects (many which are difficult to understand) are common throughout the rest of the country, including Bavaria, the province in which Oktoberfest takes place. Many Germans speak English, however, especially in hotels, restaurants and tourist sites.
Germany uses 220V, 50 Hz alternating current, which is compatible with United Kingdom 220V but not US 110V applications, which will need a transformer that you can buy at a travel shop or Radio Shack type of store.
Germany is on Central European Time, which is 1 hour ahead of GMT, 6 hours ahead of Eastern Standard time, and 9 hours ahead of the Pacific Standard time and 14 hours ahead of Australia.
Cell Phones Within Germany
Germany’s main cell phone provider is T-Mobile, and you can purchase phones that are with pre-paid minutes. The upside is that incoming calls are free (tell your friends and family to use an international calling card from home); the downside to this is that you must purchase the phone itself. Phone cards can be purchased at most stores, and both coin and card-operating telephone booths can be found along many main streets. Beware that rates of outgoing international calls might be high!
Internet cafes are scattered throughout most large cities and generally cost €1-2 per hour. Many hotels also offer complimentary Internet service, either by WiFi or a public computer.
Traveling within Germany
Germany offers a large network of fast trains (S-bahn) and subways (U-bahn) in most large cities (including Munich) which offer services every 3-10 minutes. Transportation in Germany is very prompt, so if you’re taking one of the many buses also offered throughout the city be sure to arrive on time! You can also travel in and out of the country by train, which in Munich is located in the Hofbahnhauf station where tickets can be purchased on site.
Germans tend to be direct yet polite, and are nearly always willing to help out if you have a question. Be aware, however, that there are several things considered rude. Jaywalking, for example, is not acceptable – you will almost never see a German crossing during a red light. Sidewalks are often divided with a solid line to differentiate paths for pedestrians and bikers—be sure to stay out of the bike lane or you may get a comment or two!
A service tip is usually included in the bill you will receive at most sit-down restaurants, but if you felt the service was exceptionally good you can leave up to an additional 10%. Most of the time, you just round up to the nearest big amount.