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Before I moved to Germany, I had a lot of misconceptions based on the short time I spent traveling in this country.
After having lived here for three years though there are so many Germany travel tips that I would give my 21 year old self.
Not just to save time and money, but also to understand the German culture better and respect it the way I do today.
In this post, I will share with you 25 things I wish I knew before travelling to Germany.
10 MUST KNOW GERMANY TRAVEL TIPS
#1 Always be prepared to pay with cash.
Even though Germany is a developed country and quite forward on many fronts. The one thing it is most definitely not forward in is digital payment infrastructure.
I learnt it the hard way when I had to go to an ATM to withdraw cash after already having had breakfast. Not only do stores not accept credit cards (except for an “EC karte” which is a debit card issued only if you have a German account), bars and restaurants are also unlikely to accept card payments.
When in Germany, make sure you always have EUR 50-100 in your pocket. ATM’s can also be hard to find and usually charge a hefty fees for withdrawal. A simple dinner out can turn into an embarrassing event when the owner refuses card payments.
#2 Good luck finding anything open on Sundays.
One of the most unpleasant things about living in Germany (at least for me) is that you cannot find a single store open on Sundays.
Like not even one.
The only exception is restaurants and some pubs.
If you delay shopping for groceries or have an emergency situation, and it’s a Sunday, well, Viel Glück!
Sunday is supposed to be a “Ruhe Tag” which roughly translates to rest day. This means no one in Germany is at work.
Now while this does wonders for your work life balance, it can be quite annoying if you haven’t been warned already.
Some exceptions might exist in cities like Berlin, and the train stations may or may not have a store open on a Sunday.
But if I were you, I wouldn’t rely on it.
#3 The Auto-bahn (highway) does have speed limits.
Apparently, a huge myth that almost everyone who doesn’t live in Germany is that the “auto-bahn” or the highway has no limits.
While it is true that you can drive at ridiculous speed in some sections, watch out for signs especially in high traffic areas where a strict speed limit is imposed.
The last thing you want to do is pay a hefty fine for enjoying the adrenaline rush a bit too much.
In general, it is always a good idea to familiarise yourself with the driving rules within a state/country especially if you plan to rent a car.
#4 Beer is cheap and plentiful.
Okay, this might be something that you already know.
But let me tell you again.
German beer is not only the best beer in the world, it is also ridiculously cheap and available pretty much everywhere.
You can find beer ranging from 0.50 cents and up in supermarkets, cafes, restaurants, gas station, shopping stores and well basically anywhere.
Quite honestly I am surprised that there aren’t vending machines on the middle of the street that keep beer. The kind that you find for cigarettes.
So if you’re a beer fan, Germany will NOT disappoint.
#5 Being loud in public is not cool.
Unless you want to face the infamous German stare or be scolded, keep it DOWN.
The only exception to this is if you are at a festival or at beer halls where loud behaviour is generally acceptable.
In buses, metros or trains though, keep it low!
#6 Toilets are not free.
Another rude shock you’ll face, but also across the rest of Europe and not just in Germany.
Toilets usually require 50 cents or 1 euro for each visit, so make sure to carry some change.
The tip that can help you here is to always use toilets in places where it is free, such as trains, restaurants, shopping malls.
Everywhere else though, even within a train or a bus station, toilets are usually pay to use.
#7 Almost all festivals are about drinking beer and getting drunk.
You probably heard of the Oktoberfest, but after living in Germany I’ve realised, pretty much EVERY festival that takes place in a town, village, Berlin or anywhere else is about drinking beer.
I am yet to go to a country that celebrates beer the way it is celebrated in Germany.
With that said, small town festivals can be even more epic and authentic compared to the big, commercial Oktoberfest, so definitely consider heading to one if you are in the neighbourhood.
#8 Bavaria is the most gorgeous state in Germany.
Alright, I am slightly biased because I live here. But I swear to you, Bavaria has the most beautiful towns in all of Germany.
If you are looking to visit castles, mountains, rivers, lakes, forests and just stunning cities that look like they were carved from a children’s book, Bavaria is where you need to be at.
Careful though, as it is also more expensive to travel (such as public transportation) as a state, but its worth every penny!
#9 Swimming in lakes is free and recommended.
Coming from India where lakes are definitely NOT meant to be for swimming, I was a bit uncomfortable the first time I jumped into a German lake.
But have I mentioned, how AMAZING it was.
Unless stated otherwise, almost every lake in Germany is swimmable. There have been cases of an odd crocodile here and there, but rest assured German lakes are quite safe.
#10 Naked people in swimming pools are common.
Not sure if this falls under typical Germany travel tips, but this is something that makes people from countries where nudity is not as easily accepted, uncomfortable.
The first time I went to a heated pool for what I thought was going to a relaxing time, was a bit of a cultural shock.
Turns out it’s entirely okay to walk around naked in the changing rooms.
Wow. I don’t think I was able to take a shower after a swim knowing I wasn’t entirely alone.
No separate cubicles. NO locks. You and your nudity are welcome!
So the next time you decide to hang at a public pool (or a “bad”), be prepared to see naked people in your changing rooms.
#11 Vegetarian food is hard to come by in restaurants.
I guess its a known fact that Europeans eat a LOT of meat.
But in Germany, you can very well prepare to starve if you are at a traditional German restaurant and happen to be a vegetarian. It gets even harder if you are vegan.
My go-to meal at a traditional restaurant is “Käsespaetzle” which is the German version for Mac & Cheese. You can also get some vegetarian salads but I don’t find them very filling.
I also don’t get why I should pay $15 to eat lettuce and tomatoes. I could just whip that up for myself for $2 at home.
Some good options for you if you are vegetarian are Burger King ( the only fast-food chain I found that has a veggie burger), vegan/vegetarian restaurants or eating Falafel based dishes in Turkish street food shops. The last one is the easiest to find and you can come across vegetarian meals much easier in a Turkish restaurant or imbiss (small shop) compared to traditional restaurants.
#12 Supermarkets are cheap and aplenty.
The biggest Germany travel tip I can give you, especially when it comes to saving money on food, is to shop at supermarkets.
You can buy a week’s worth of groceries for less than $20 at popular supermarkets such as Aldi, REWE, Edeka and LIDL. You’ll find grocery stores in every 1-2 km radius especially near train/bus station and in pretty much every residential neighborhood.
#13 The local DB Navigator app is way more accurate than Google Maps.
If you plan to travel with train, buses or use public transport in any capacity in Germany, the DB Navigator app is your new best friend!
The Deutsche Bahn (DB) is the company that runs it and has the most updated schedule, prices and booking information for pretty much every mode of public transport.
This app is especially helpful when navigating big cities like Berlin,Munich or Frankfurt where subway lines can get overwhelming.
#14 Traveling by train with a regional or state ticket is way cheaper than booking point to point tickets.
If you’re planning to travel to Germany, you may already have considered traveling by train.
But before you jump on the Eurail pass brigade, let me tell you a small secret.
It’s way cheaper to travel in Germany using special offers. This is especially true if you plan to take only a few trains and don’t need a longer pass.
Make sure to compare the price of using one of these special offers vs. what it costs to use the Eurail pass and make sure you make the cheaper price!
#15 If you are looking for street food, you will be disappointed.
I never heard someone say, they are going to visit Germany for the food.
Well, I’ll be the first to say the cuisine falls a bit flat.
But what’s even more difficult is the lack of street food.
You might find food trucks during certain festivals or in some select areas but street food, by and far is relatively rare to find.
The only street food you can find is Turkish food such as döner and kebabs, which also tend to be meat heavy.
I also woudn’t call a döner a snack because it is usually massive for a non-German person.
Did I mention food portions in Germany are HUGE?
If you plan on eating out in Germany, prepare for a large meal. As in large enough to feed two.
I don’t know why but portion size in Germany for adults are just ginormous.
I guess Germans are not big on snacking so they usually eat two large meals during the day.
For some one like me who grew up in a country where we snack basically every two hours, it’s really hard to finish an entire meal, by myself.
#16 You need to pay for water at restaurants. And it is always sparkling by default.
Contrary to a lot of countries in the world, water is not complementary in restaurants.
You almost always have to ask for a glass of water or a bottle and you have to specify that you want “tap water”. For some reason, Germans love sparkling water and that is almost always what you’ll get if you don’t specify.
You might also have to pay for water even if you have ordered a meal.
#17 You need to validate your ticket before you travel.
Tickets for public transport need to be validated either by the machines at the station or after you get inside the bus/train. You’ll find them in the aisle in most compartments.
If you don’t validate your ticket, it is as good as not having a ticket at all. So make sure to get your ticket punched at these machines. The machine normally stamps a “date and time” which then determines how long it is valid for.
Quick Tip: You can buy single travel tickets, but if you plan to take 4-6 trips, it might be cheaper to take a day ticket for the city that you are in. This is especially true for expensive cities such as Munich.
Pro Tip: Most “special offer” or Germany Eurail passes will include local transport for the given area. So make sure to double check. Depending on what ticket you have, you might not need to pay for local transportation after all!
#18 Rules are meant to be followed. Do not jaywalk.
Germans are sticklers for rules. So be sure you try to follow them as far as you can.
It may just be that you “accidentally” do something that is not looked at politely.
I had a rude awakening when I was walking on the “bike path” and got shouted at by a rude biker who basically wanted to speed along the same path. Apparently I wasn’t “supposed” to be on his way.
But how could I have known?
Anyway, now I do. And so I’m telling you, cross the streets when the light (walking man/ampel) is green, stay away from bike paths and give up your seat in the bus or subway if it is saved for elderly people.
#19 Taxis are expensive and hard to find.
Last, but certainly not the least in this list of Germany travel tips. This can be mildly inconvenient to heavily annoying depending on how desperate you are. Taxis, even in medium sized cities are often hard to find and even to pre-book.
I’ve been stood up twice when I pre-booked a taxi without so much as a phone call. I used the “my taxi” app since Uber is banned.
I’ve learnt now, that the best way to hail a taxi for SURE is to be at a train station, the city centre or the airport. So you might just have to head to one of these places first because hailing taxis in the street almost never works.
So there you have it, 19 tips to help you travel Germany like a pro!
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