Travel to Germany
Germany is the largest country in Central Europe, bordered by Denmark, Poland, Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands. It is also one of the most influential European nations culturally, while being one of the world’s main economic powers.
Germany is also one of the most varied and charming European countries. Offering a mix of modern cities, cultural and historic landmarks and beautiful rural scenery. The country has a lot more to offer than beer, lederhosen and the Oktoberfest – which is often what comes to mind when thinking about travel in Germany. There are endless beautiful places in Germany to visit.
The country’s famous alpine and beer culture is mostly focused around Bavaria and Munich. With the annual Oktoberfest, held in Munich, being Europe’s most visited festival. While these regions are known for beer, Germany’s south-western regions are known for their wine growing areas (Rheinhessen and Palatinate). Bad Dürkheim on the ‘German Wine Route’ organises the largest worldwide wine festival, with over 600,000 visitors annually.
One of the best places in Germany is the Black Forest, a mountainous region in southwest Germany, bordering France. It’s a beautiful area with loads of hiking routes and outdoor activities to enjoy.
Germany also has some great cities, with the capital city Berlin being on most travelers itinerary. Berlin is famous for the Berlin Wall and the Brandenburg Gate, along with its history and urban and rugged street culture.
We hope that our Germany travel guide helps with everything that you need to know to start planning your trip to travel to Germany!
Visa Requirements for Germany
Germany is part of the Schengen agreement, which allows most of the EU citizens to enter the country with only their ID. When entering by air from a non-Schengen country, you will be expected to fill out a brief form which includes an address in Germany. You can just use the address of your hotel. It’s very unlikely that this will be checked, but you will have to enter an address if you want to enter the country.
A stay of longer than 90 days for non-EEA or non-Swiss citizens usually requires a visa, which you need to get before your trip.
To make 100% sure what you need for your Germany visa application, visit this website.
Important Cultural Information
Germany is very much a decentralised country, which embraces the cultural differences between the regions.
While Germans have the stereotype to be quite stern and serious, they are actually generally very friendly people. The German culture is open-minded and accepting. As long as you are polite, you will be treated well.
Normal courtesies should be considered when interacting with locals. Handshakes are customary and casual attire is generally accepted. When walking into a shop, a greeting of ‘Guten Tag’ is expected. When leaving a shop you would say ‘Auf Wiedersehen’.
Some cities in Germany have a vibrant LGBT community, mainly Berlin and Cologne. The Berlin tourism agency as well as other tourism organisations have specific campaigns to attract LGBT travellers.
Banking & Money in Germany
In Germany you pay with the Euro (€), just like in other 24 European countries. 100 cents makes up 1 Euro. Each country can produce their own Euro coins, where one side of the coins has their own unique designs, while the other side has a European standard design. You can use the Euro in any of the eurozone countries, without needing to exchange money when crossing the borders.
To exchange money, there are plenty of ATMs, where you can withdraw up to €500, usually for a fee, depending on your own bank conditions. ATMs are known in German as Bankomat. ATMs are multilingual, so you shouldn’t have a problem with using them.
Credit cards are well accepted all over. But it’s always useful to have a few Euro notes, especially in the countryside.
Medical Emergency Information
If there is an emergency, you can call 112 from any phone at no cost. This will get you in touch with the police, firefighters and ambulances. An alternative number for the police in Germany is 110 – also a toll-free number.
Make sure to get good travel insurance for Germany beforehand. Compare options with both WorldNomads and SafetyWing.
Wi-Fi and Internet in Germany
The major network operators in Germany include T-Mobile, Vodafone and O2. Germany operates on a GSM network, so if you’re coming from Europe and many other countries, your current mobile will probably work in Germany.
You will find several shops selling SIM cards around Germany, including in the smaller towns. You will be required to bring an official photo ID when buying a SIM card, as well as being able to provide an address (your hotel address should be good enough). Buying a SIM at the German airports will be the most expensive option, best is to find a shop selling them – popular shops to get SIM cards are Saturn’s and Media Markt’s.
Another option is to rent a mobile MiFi device, your own hotspot. Those costs from around €5 per day. There are services, which you can pick up at the airport or which gets delivered to the hotel you are staying at.
Wi-Fi is easily available at hotels and many coffee shops. Look out for ‘Wi-Fi’ or ‘@’ signs on the doors. In several cities, projects exist to provide free “community” hotspots for wireless networking. Apart from free Wi-Fi in coffee shops you may also still find internet cafes. Just make sure to use a VPN service if you’re using free Wi-Fi hotspots to protect your personal information.
Coworking is also popular in Germany. You will easily find several coworking spots spread out throughout all major cities. Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, Munich and Frankfurt are particularly popular for coworking.
Arrival in Germany
The most popular way to travel to Germany is by plane, followed by train if you are coming from other European countries. The most popular airports in Germany are Frankfurt, Munich and Düsseldorf. Frankfurt is Germany’s main hub as well as being one of Europe’s major hub’s for intercontinental flights. Munich is following close behind. Travellers can easily fly into these main hubs in Germany from most countries in the world. Lufthansa is Germany’s biggest and most respected airline.
Berlin-Tegel, Cologne, Stuttgart and Hamburg are also sizable German airports with international flights as well.
The Intercity-Express high speed rail lines are connected to the Frankfurt, Düsseldorf and Köln/Bonn airports. The other airports either have a commuter rail station or some sort of connection to the nearest train station, along with public transport.
The main budget airlines in Germany are Eurowings, easyJet and Wizz Air (flights to and from Eastern Europe) — all of which offer connections to most countries throughout Europe. The main hubs are Berlin-Schönefeld and Dortmund for easyJet and Cologne/Bonn and Stuttgart for Eurowings.
Check Expedia for available flights to Germany.
You can of course also arrive to Germany via train, with regular train services connecting Germany to all neighbouring countries – mostly operated by Deutsche Bahn (DB). Almost all neighbouring countries (especially Switzerland, Poland, Denmark, Czech Republic and Austria) and even some non-neighbouring countries (eg. Italy) are quite well connected with EuroCity (EC) trains.
Germany also has a few high speed trains, including ICE and Thalys (to Belgium).
You can enter Germany via bus or by car from neighboring countries. If traveling to Germany by car, check out Europcar for car hire. Eurolines have regular bus routes into and around Germany. The German partner is called Touring.
Areas of Germany
Germany consists with 16 states, three of which are city-states (Berlin, Bremen and Hamburg). The states can roughly be grouped together by geography, consisting of the below:
Northern Germany includes the states of Bremen, Hamburg, Lower Saxony, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Schleswig-Holstein. Here you will find popular vacation destinations in the North Sea and Baltic Sea coasts along with beautiful wind-swept hills.
Sylt is an island in northern Germany, part of Nordfriesland district – Sylt travel is popular as a seaside destination.
North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland are the three states situated in Western Germany. This area is popular wine country along with the beautiful Rhine Valley and Moselle Valley. The city of Cologne is the region’s cultural hub, most popularly known for its gilded medieval twin-spired Cathedral.
Featuring the states of Hesse and Thuringia, Central Germany is known as the green heart of Germany. Some of the most important historical and financial cities are found here, including Frankfurt and Wiesbaden. Hessen is the greenest state in Germany, as forest covers 42% of the state.
Eastern Germany states include Berlin, Brandenburg, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt. Berlin is a major highlight of Eastern Germany with its eccentric culture and historic appeal. The rebuilt historic Dresden, capital city of Saxony, is another popular city to visit. The area is also dotted with palaces and castles, some dating back to the medieval ages. It’s also home of the Ore Mountains.
Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria are the two states included in Southern Germany. The area is most popular for the Bavarian Forest, the Bavarian Alps, Black Forest, Franconian Switzerland, Franconian Lake District and Lake Constance. Bavaria is the largest German state by land area comprising roughly a fifth of the total land area of Germany. The major cities in Bavaria are Munich (München), Nuremberg (Nürnberg), Augsburg, Regensburg, Würzburg, Ingolstadt, Fürth, and Erlangen. This is beer country, where the annual Oktoberfest is held.
Transportation in Germany
German transportation is known around the world for its efficiency. Everything works timely and by the book. The most popular options to get around Germany are by taking a train or renting a car.
For travel between cities, you can often get affordable domestic flights, though sometimes taking the train ends up being quicker. Almost all long-distance and many regional trains are operated by Deutsche Bahn. All major cities are also linked by DB’s ICE (InterCity Express) and regular InterCity trains. Interrail or Eurail pass holders can use domestic ICE trains without paying extra (except for international ICE trains) – read more about Interrail and Eurail passes.
Regional and local trains in Germany include: IRE (InterRegioExpress), RE (Regional-Express), RB (Regional-Bahn) and S-Bahn (community network for a city, but can travel long distances).
Urban transportation systems include subways, city buses, light rail and even regional trains. The mainstay of most city-centre systems is the U-Bahn, running both under- and overground. Munich public transport for example has an underground (U-Bahn), suburban trains (S-Bahn), trams and buses. Frankfurt public transport is the same, while Berlin transportation also includes a metrotram. Taxi’s are also easily available throughout Germany.
Some cities include a Welcome Card for tourists, which includes access to public transport along with discounts at various attractions.
Accommodation in Germany
Finding accommodation in Germany is rarely a problem with a range of accommodation options available throughout the country. From budget-friendly boutique hotels and hostels through to high-rise designer hotels and luxury chain hotels. The only times when you may have trouble with finding accommodation is during high season in premier resorts and during major festivals (like the Dresden City Festival).
While prices vary hugely, you can expect to pay around €80–120 for a double in a mid-range hotel. Hostels range from really cheap to more higher-end luxury hostels. For a luxury hotel you can expect to pay upwards of €150+ per night.
Many hotels in Germany are following the voluntary five-star Deutschen Hotelklassifizierung rating system which is based on the assessment of 280 criteria by an independent body. Even those that aren’t aligned with this system are generally comfortable enough to please all guests. Most hotels in Germany will include breakfast in their rates, usually a continental buffet (complete with German bread and selection of cold meats), but check when booking if it’s included.
Other types of accommodation in Germany includes B&B’s, farmstays, apartments, camping, resorts, health resorts and villas.
Food & Dining Guide for Germany
According to most, German cuisine is limited to Bratwurst (grilled sausage), assorted meats and Sauerkraut. But there’s actually a lot more German dishes to try.
Most (if not all) hotels in Germany will offer a breakfast in their rates. Breakfast will include a mix of muesli, cereals, yoghurt, jams, honey, cheeses, cold meats and eggs. This will be accompanied with a few varieties of German bread, fresh fruit and coffee.
Look out for the Imbiss stands selling street food – ranging from sausages to hamburgers, meatballs or a Schnitzel. On the coast, fish replaces the usual meat fair at the Imbiss stalls – often smoked and put on a sandwich. Another popular snack is a pretzel, known as a Brezeln, which is covered in salt. Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cakes) is a traditional Germanic treat equivalent to English tea.
If you’re looking for somewhere serving traditional German food, look out for a Gaststätte or Brauhaus. The latter also meaning that they have fresh beers brewed in-house.
Traditional German dishes to try include:
- Bratwürste: famous sausage – best with mustard!
- Schnitzel: bread crumbed pork fillet (sometimes the size of your plate!)
- Schweinbraten: roast pork
- Schweinhaxe: a huge crispy knuckle
- Eisbein: salted knuckle or shin
- Matjesbrötchen: Soussed herring or “roll mops” in a bread roll
- Königsberger Klopse: meatballs made out of minced pork and anchovies, cooked and served in a white sauce with capers and rice or potatoes
Even though service and VAT are included in the menu price at restaurants, tipping in Germany is still typical. You would generally just ‘round up’ to the amount to a more round figure. Eg. if you’re bill was €7.20, you can round up to €8 or €9.
Where to eat & drink in Germany
Germany is packed with things to do, some of the best places to visit in Germany include the cities, the Bavarian Alps, the Black Forest, the Rhine, the small towns, and the fairytale castles.
City lovers absolutely must include Berlin in their Germany travel itinerary. Berlin is known for its art and music scene and eccentric culture along with being home to world-class museums, great cafes, delicious food and a vibrant nightlife. Sites like the Holocaust Memorial, Brandenburger Tor, Reichstag building and the East Side Gallery are highlights of Berlin, and covered in most Berlin walking tours.
Munich is another great German city to visit. Known for its annual Oktoberfest celebration, It’s a great city to visit year round, with many things to do in Munich. From century-old buildings and interesting museums through to trekking trails, green parks and popular beer gardens.
Hamburg is great to visit for its green parks and canals, Cologne for its great medieval Cathedral and one of the best carnivals in the world, Frankfurt for cool science museums and a great restaurant scene, and Hanover for diving into the German culture. Definitely check out the Belgian Quarter in Cologne.
Düsseldorf is another lovely city in Germany – read our Düsseldorf weekend guide.
For those who love hiking, there are loads of hiking trails in the Black Forest to explore. The Bavarian Alps also offer great hiking trails and skiing in the winter months.
If fairytales are your thing then there’s the Neuschwanstein Castle, a perfect model for the Disney castle.
Things to do & see in Germany
Shopping in Germany
Shopping in Germany ranges from street markets, boutique shops and small art galleries to large malls with luxury fashion labels. For vintage shops, independent shops and record stores, Berlin and Hamburg are the best cities to visit.
While you will find markets year-round, the best are at Christmas time where Germany hosts of a variety of Christmas markets throughout the country. Here you will find some of the best German crafts along with delicious traditional cuisines and always plenty of beer.
If you’re looking for high-end designer goods, you’ll have the best luck in the big cities. German brands include Birkenstock, Jack Wolfskin, Hugo Boss and Adidas. While the prices won’t be much lower, you’ll find a broader selection. Shopping in Munich offers a great selection of both local and international brands, Maximilianstrasse for example offers a plethora of international designer stores.
Things to buy in Germany as souvenirs include Germany honey (Echter Deutscher Honig is the best), smoked eel (found along the German coasts), cheese, chocolates and sweets and houseware (particularly knives, pots and pans).
Nightlife in Germany spans from highly cultural events to wild and raucous parties. In the larger towns and cities, cultural evenings can be spent at the theatre or the opera (Deutsche Oper Berlin, Dresden’s Semperoper, the National Theatre in Munich or the Hamburgische Staatsoper).
Throughout the main cities you will also always find live music venues along with various nightclubs. Germany is well known for its electronic music scene, with a heavy following of hip-hop and heavy metal as well.
Berlin in particular is known for its large selection of nightlife venues – from high-end nightclubs through to grungy underground bars in Berlin.
Safety Tips for Germany
As with most of Europe, Germany is a safe country.
Crime levels are low, however pickpockets and bag snatching are notorious in big cities, like Berlin. Make sure to stay alert while in crowded areas, like the popular tourist hotspots and main train stations.
Ready to travel to Germany yet?
Germany is always a fun and interesting country to visit in Europe. It’s got a mix of historic and cultural heritage, modern cities paired with century-old architecture, and breathtakingly beautiful forests, mountains, and river scenes.
Germany travel is relatively easy for for travelers to navigate. The transport system is timely and works well, English is easy to come by (if you stick to the main cities), the culture is easy to adapt to and the food is usually enjoyed by most palettes.
When putting your Germany travel itinerary together make sure to include at least one city (like Berlin, Cologne, Munich or Hamburg) as well as some of the outlying areas and smaller towns.