By Caitlin Hornik
If you’re visiting Germany for the first time, here are some tips and tricks for your trip!
When traveling to Germany, you must make sure that your passport is valid for more than four months from your date of arrival. US citizens do not need a visa for stays less than 90 days.
Weather, Seasons, & Clothing
Germany’s climate is not extreme, and temperature fluctuations are on the rare side. Winters are mild (21-36 degrees Fahrenheit), while Summer temps sit in the 60s. Rainfall is common throughout the year. Ideal temperatures for outdoor adventures occur during shoulder seasons: From April through June, and September through October. High season, July-August, is when festivals are in full swing and you can expect the warmest weather. November through March is when ski resorts are bustling and there are more offerings at local theaters.
As always, it’s important to pack an umbrella because you never want to be caught in the rain without one! Depending on your planned activities, you may also wish to pack comfortable walking shoes. Light layers are also a great way to pack for the German climate.
The Euro is Germany’s currency. It is important to note that having cash on you during your trip is huge! Many small shops and cafes do not have card machines. Those that do often only accept German cards. So plan your trip accordingly and be sure to have physical Euros on you at all times!
Germany is known for its high-speed train services between cities. These trains can be pretty costly though, so using the slower intercity trains will save you some cash. There are also buses that can take you from city to city overnight!
In larger cities including Munich & Berlin, the public transportation system is comprised of buses, trains, and trams. The U-Bahn train runs underground, and the S-Bahn train is ideal for traveling long distances in less time. The public transit system works in zones, so you should always check to make sure your ticket covers all of the zones you’ll be traveling through. In some cases, your ticket will be measured by time traveled, so again, you’ll want to make sure you purchase the proper ticket! Fines will be given if you’re caught traveling without a valid ticket.
German is the predominant language. However, many Germans also speak English, so there shouldn’t be a major communication issue. It’s important to understand that there are regional dialects within the German language. High German is the one dialect spoken everywhere. Many of the signs you’ll see will only have words in German, so you may want to familiarize yourself with some basic phrases and words before you go.
Food & Beverage
If you’re traveling to Germany, it’s likely that the food and beverage staples are at least part of the reason for your trip! You probably know that Bavaria is a beer-lover’s dream, and that the Bratwurst and Sauerbraten are hugely popular. You may also wish to try Spatzle and Schnitzel, or be bold and daring and try Schweinshaxe!
While many traditional German foods are rich in flavor, many parts of the country are vegetarian and vegan-friendly! So it’s good to note that there is more to the cuisine than sausage.
It’s important to note that tipping is not expected when dining out in Germany.
Germans like to abide by the rules. As such, jaywalking is frowned upon, and you should always wait for the signal that indicates that it is safe to cross a street. Definitely don’t get caught walking in the bike lane! If you have plans to rent a bike, be sure it has both a front and a back light for safety! Otherwise, you can be fined. Along the same lines, Germans are prompt. Lateness is not widely tolerated in their culture. If your dinner reservation is for 8pm, don’t be late!
Recycling is a big part of the culture here. You will receive a small refund for recycling at grocery stores. It is even encouraged to leave your empty plastic bottles on top of trash cans if a recycling bin isn’t nearby, as someone will likely scoop your empty bottle to recycle it for a refund!
Another important part of the German culture is the closure of many businesses on Sunday. You will find that many shops and stores are closed, but that most restaurants and cafes will remain open. Plan your shopping expeditions accordingly!
You may find that free WiFi is not common in Germany. In fact, you may have to pay for WiFi more often than not. As such, you’ll want to contact your phone carrier to decide what phone plan may be best if you need to be connected to the internet during your trip.
Germany is widely regarded as a very safe place to travel. As with any new place you visit, it’s important to stay aware of your surroundings. Try not to walk around with your head in your phone, as pickpockets will see that you’re distracted and you’ll become an easy target.