Germany Travel Tips
Banks: 08:00 to 16:00, Monday to Wednesday, Thursday, Friday; 08:00 to 17:30
Post Offices: 08:00 to 18:00, Monday to Friday; 08:00 to 12:00, Saturdays.
Government Offices: 09:00 to 17:00, Monday to Friday
Business Centers: 09:00 to 17:00, Monday to Friday; 09:00 to 13:00, Saturday.
Shops: 08:30 to 18:00, Monday to Saturday; department stores open later.
Germany boasts one of the lowest violent crime rates in the European Union. Large cities take excellent care of international visitors; and few travellers encounter any criminal activities. Along the same lines, there is little concern visitors to more remote villages in the hinterland.
When violence does present itself, it is usually between loosely organized, rival gangs. Drunken hooligans have been known to harass foreigners in urban areas (typically well off of the tourist track). However, this is not a common occurrence, and it seldom results in violence.
Public demonstrations in Germany are common and one should take care to avoid any of them that might turn unfriendly. Should you come across a group of protestors, it is wise to give them a wide berth. Demonstrations and protests are always watched closely by law enforcement, and riots—while they do happen—are rare.
As with any holiday destination, petty theft is the most prevalent form of crime facing tourists. To safeguard your belongings, try to leave any unnecessary valuables at home. Otherwise, lodge anything you can't afford to part with in the hotel safe, keep valuables close to your person (in a money belt, for example) and secure shoulder straps diagonally across your torso to deter bag snatchers.
Electricity: 220 volts, 50 hertz
Healthcare in Germany adheres to high standards, and there are no major health risks to concern travellers. Tap water is safe to drink so it is not necessary to insist on bottled water. Some travellers have taken this assurance too far and have sampled water from rural, mountain springs—an act which is never advisable.
The most common illness to plague tourists is simple traveller's diarrhea. This condition is sometimes compounded by the heavy quality of German cuisine. Carry an anti-diarrheal, and if you have the misfortune of becoming ill, try to stay hydrated and vigilantly replace lost electrolytes.
If you need to bring prescription medicine to Germany, be sure to bring the medicine in its original container, otherwise, they're likely to be confiscated by customs officials. It is also a good idea to bring a copy of your prescription in case you lose your medication or need a refill.
There are virtually no contagious diseases of concern in Germany. Rabies occasionally appears in remote areas, and all animal bites should be treated as potentially hazardous. Norwalk-like viruses also appear from time to time. Norwalk illnesses (which are not fatal) receive a flurry of press coverage when they emerge, despite the fact that they result in little more than a severe (though treatable) case of diarrhea.
The official language of Germany is German, with numerous regional dialects. Most German speakers, regardless of their preferred dialect, can speak and understand standard German. English is spoken by virtually everyone involved with tourism and citizens under the age of 40 typically have a command of the language. English is less commonly understood in extremely remote areas.
When Germany joined the European Union, the German mark was replaced by the euro as the national currency. Banknotes are issued in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euro denominations. 1 and 2 euro coins are also in circulation. The euro is broken down into 100 cents, demarked by 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent coins.
Cash can be important in Germany, especially when travelling outside of major cities. Foreign currency can be exchanged at large banks and at currency exchange counters found in the airports and train stations. ATMs are widely available throughout Germany, and a debit card is the easiest way to buy euros at a reasonable exchange rate.
Internationally-branded credit cards are accepted at large shopping complexes, with major hotels, and in high-end restaurants. It is wise to carry a modest cash reserve in case the establishment doesn't accept credit cards and there are no ATMs readily available. Traveller's checks can be exchanged in most banks, though business establishments favor cash.
Import and export of the following items is either highly-regulated or prohibited: anything bearing Nazi symbols; large quantities of counterfeit goods; products derived from endangered plant and animal species; firearms and dangerous weapons; certain varieties of seafood, meats and cheeses. Cash or goods with a value exceeding 15,000 euros must be presented to customs officials.
Everyone entering Germany must fill out a customs declaration form. The following items may be brought in duty free: 250 grams of tobacco (200 cigarettes or 50 cigars); 2 litres of wine; 1 liter of spirits; 50 grams of perfume; 500 grams of roasted coffee and miscellaneous goods not exceeding 175 euros.
The handshake is the preferred method of greeting in Germany; and it is exchanged freely between both sexes. Closer friends and younger Germans may embrace and exchange a cordial kiss on each cheek.
German society values a certain degree of formality. Use‘Herr’ (Mr) and‘Frau’ (Mrs) and last names unless specifically invited to use first names. When meeting someone new, the best rule of action is to pay attention to how the new person is introduced and to refer to them accordingly.
There are two forms of 'you' in German. 'Sie' is the formal, safer pronoun, and visitors may be surprised to hear that even good friends (on first name bases) may continue to use 'sie' when speaking to one another. 'Du', which is traditionally much more intimate, is becoming an increasingly more acceptable way of speaking to equals among younger Germans.
If you are fortunate enough to be invited into a German home, it is polite to bring a small gift—perhaps a bottle of wine or flowers. A formal thank you in the form of a card of phone call the following day may also be in order.
It is important to dress modestly when entering cathedrals and other religious places. Shorts and revealing shirts are frowned upon, and it never hurts to overdress a bit.
Punctuality is an important part of dining in Germany. If you've been invited to a dinner party, avoid showing up early, but try to arrive within fifteen minutes of the scheduled time. A formal thank-you for a lovely dinner is always appreciated.
Dining rules are continental style, with the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right. When you are finished with your plate, you can indicate this to your server or host by laying the utensils parallel across your plate with the handles pointing to the right.
At large, formal events follow the lead of your host and allow him or her to be the first to unfold their napkin. Salad lettuce should not be cut with a knife (rather folded over with the fork), and it is also complimentary to cut meat with a fork (thus indicating its tenderness to the chef) whenever possible. Again, the host is the first to offer a toast.
When dining out, expect a service charge to be included in the price of the meal. Germans may reward excellent service with an extra gratuity of 5 to 10 per cent. Tips in other service industries are more variable.
Visa and Passports:
As visa regulations are subject to frequent fluctuations, visitors are advised to consult their nearest German embassy before travel for up to date regulations.
No visa is required for travel to Germany for citizens of other European Union member states. Meanwhile, citizens of North American countries, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, South Korea and select other countries are issued a three month visa upon arrival. Of course, the traveller's passport must be valid for the duration of the visit.
Visitors seeking visa-on-arrival will receive a stamp in their passport that denotes the amount of time permitted on this entry. Non-EU visitors wishing to stay longer than three months must formally apply for a visa at their German embassy or consulate before finalizing travel plans.
Tourist Information Offices:
The headquarters for the German National Tourist Board is located in Frankfurt at Beethovenstrasse 69, 60325. Phone: +49 69 974 640 ; website: www.germanytourism.de