With abundant attractions and unique European charm, there are so many things to love about Germany. The Berlin Wall, Neuschwanstein Castle, and the Black Forest are just some of the incredible places you can visit while you’re here. But before you go, it’s important to be prepared. There are some things to know before visiting Germany that might come as a surprise if you’re a first-time visitor. Let’s start with the basics:
Things to know before visiting Germany: accommodation
When you start planning your trip, you need to decide where to stay in Germany. Consider the sort of accommodation that’s going to suit your needs. There are country inns, pampering resorts with spas, B&B’s and fairytale castles to choose from. If you’re on a budget, you can easily find a lot of options that meet your needs. As I mentioned in my comprehensive guide to traveling Germany on a budget, you can find more than 2,000 farm stays around the country that offer free accommodation and meals to people willing to help with some of the farm work. Additionally, you can find a lot of great accommodation options on Airbnb for 30-45 euros per night. Finally, you can always stay in some of the best hostels in Munich, Berlin, Frankfurt, and the other big cities for as low as 15 euros per night.
Getting Around Germany
Learning how to get around in Germany using their modern transportation system can be a little confusing at first. But once you get the hang of it, it’s super easy. Many cities use a zone system that determines the fee of a ticket based on the location. For example, there are three fare zones in Berlin: A, B, and C. A is the center, B is a little further out and C is considered to be the outskirts of Berlin. Every city has its own transportation system; all you have to do is find out which ticket you need to get around.
There are single, strip tickets and multiticket sets you can get as well. You can also use the bus, trains, trams, subways, the suburban commuter rail, and taxis too. It’s alright if you can’t figure it out at first; just don’t be afraid to ask for help! While public transport is the topic, you can also…
Use group discounts on travel/train tickets
When traveling by train or bus in Germany, you can take advantage of some of the many group discounts. This is one of the most important things to know before visiting Germany. For example, the average one-way bus ticket in cities like Munich or Berlin costs €2.80 while a 3-day group ticket for unlimited travel for five people costs around €30! This means that you can travel on as many buses as you want for three days for the price of two one-way bus tickets! The same thing applies to train travel where most states in Germany has a system in which the first person pays a bigger amount (ex. €25) but every next person on the same ticket pays a small amount (something like €7- €8). Pretty cool, especially if you stay in hostels and get to meet a lot of other travelers along the way.
What about taxis & Uber?
When public transport is so organized and most people use it as a way of commuting, it’s no surprise that local taxis, including apps like Uber are relatively pricey. The good thing about using taxis in Germany is that you don’t have to bargain with the driver; they turn on the meter by default and will always charge you a realistic price.
Always carry cash
Other countries may have a cashless system, but not Germany. In Germany, using cash is still important and most stores, shops, bars, restaurants, and stalls may not have a card machine.
Credit cards are not very widely accepted in Germany. It’s actually one of the most cash-intensive advanced economies in the world. So, get yourself acquainted with the ATM’s around the area you’re staying. Make sure you carry enough Euros in your wallet so that you can shop, eat and sightsee to your heart’s content!
Don’t Forget to Recycle
Recycling is a big thing in Germany and you should definitely one of the things to know before visiting. You’ll find people diligently recycling their plastic and glass packaging. It’s become part of the local culture. While you’re visiting Germany, you can and should recycle as well. Most of the grocery stores have their own recycling depot right there at the entrance. The best part is you can drop your bottles and get refunded the glass deposit. This is a great initiative taken by Germany to reduce waste and keep their environment clean. It really works!
Beware of Sundays
On Sundays, a lot of shops, supermarkets and pharmacies are closed in Germany. It’s a day where the hard-working individuals get a day off to relax with their families. So, whatever shopping you need to do, make sure that you do it before Sunday! This particular law has been applied for a long time and Germans live by it. It’s not a big deal though as you can do lots of other things on a Sunday, like visiting a museum, riding a bike around the city, or chilling in a cafe, bar or restaurant. You can also stay indoors and just relax or take a walk in the countryside.
Learn some basic German
A lot of Germans speak English but some of them won’t use it if you ask them something, simply because they take pride in using their own language in their country. So, it’s probably a good idea to learn a few common German phrases. There could be people from all over the world speaking different languages in other regions, but in Germany, they only speak German.
Shop signs and road signs will all be in German. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with them. Think of it as a great opportunity to start learning a new language. Basic words that are commonly used can go a long way and the locals will appreciate you for trying. You can start learning on Babbel and get 15% off on your order.
What about tipping?
Waiters in Germany have a legitimate job with all benefits one might expect and a reasonable wage. Additionally, service tax is included in most restaurant bills. So, not leaving a tip might not raise as many eybrows as other parts of the world but try to live at least 5%-10% or at least round up the bill.
Germans cut to the chase
Don’t be offended if your new German friend doesn’t show interest in small talk. Most Germans don’t like small talks at all, as they see it as wasting time. They like cutting to the chase and are very direct and honest. If you’re in a dilemma whether that new thing you bought looks good on you/makes you fat, ask a German friend if you want to hear the truth! And if you like to make German friends…
Always come on time
In Germany, “I’ll see you tomorrow” isn’t good enough. Heck, even if you say, I’ll see you tomorrow afternoon isn’t good enough either. When making plans with Germans they will want to know the exact timing. There’s an old German saying that translates to “it’s better to be three hours too soon than a minute too late”. Punctuality is extremely important to Germans and they are very serious about it. If you’re late, a lot of people will take it as an offense because you have no respect for their time. By now you’re probably getting it- Germans hate wasting time. That’s why…
You should be super-fast at supermarket packing
In Germany, most store clerks are full-time employees that are experts in their jobs and a part of that job isn’t to pack your groceries. In Germany, you have to do that yourself. And, make sure to pack things as they are scanned, unless you want to get some stares from the people behind you. Supermarkets, however, isn’t the only thing were Germans are super-fast; this applies on highways too! Not only that but Germany is also…
The only country on Earth with no speed limits on parts of its highways
If you’re planning to drive your own car in Germany, this is one of the most important things to know before visiting. Firstly, if you’re planning to rent a car, use my Sixt discount code to get up to 15% off on your car rental in Germany. If you see this sign on a German highway, it means you can drive as fast as you can. On your own responsibility of course. However, if you’re not prepared for this, you mustn’t use the left lane. In Germany, left lane is used solely by drivers who are competent enough to drive with speed of up to 250 kilometers per hour! If you move to this lane, cars will start coming behind you so quickly, you won’t know what’s going on. And if god forbid, a crash happens, you might be accused of driving too slow. Talking about traffic rules, you should also know that…
Jaywalking is a big no-no
Especially if there are small children around. Don’t be surprised if a parent shouts at you; they’re only doing it because you’re setting a bad example. See, in Germany, children have a lot more freedom than their peers in other countries but only because they can count on their countrymen abiding some strict rules of behaving in public. Additionally, if the police catch you jaywalking, you’ll likely get a €10 fine. Another thing you absolutely have to do while walking around the streets of any German city is to…
Stay away from the bike lane
Most sidewalks in Germany have two lanes; a grey lane and a colored lane. The grey lane is for pedestrians and the colored one is for bikes. So simple, yet so many visitors fail to acknowledge… If you wonder of on the bike lane, be ready for a lot of noisy bike bells and even shouts here and there. By now, you should understand why this happens. Germans are very fond of their rules. It’s these very rules and discipline that turned Germany into one of the world’s leading economies. And yet…
You need to pay for using public toilets
If you want to use a public toilet in Germany, you have to pay between 50 cents and a euro. If you traveled in other western European countries, this might not be a big surprise but if Germany is the first country in Europe that you’re visiting, beware of this. Children can use public toilets for free but if you want to use changing rooms for babies and even the handicapped toilet, you still need to pay. Finally, the last piece of advice I’ll give you about traveling to Germany is…
Know your Pfand
Any glass bottle or metal you buy from a supermarket has a Pfand fee added to the price. This means you need to leave a small deposit charge if you’re buying these products. Beer bottles’ pfand costs 8 cents per bottle and cans’ pfand costs 25 cents per can. However, what you might not know is that when you finish the beer, you can bring the can/bottle back to the supermarket and get your deposit back. Just put it in the nearest designated vending machine, get the receipt, and either use it as credit or ask the clerk to give you a refund. Or, if you don’t want to go through this hustle, leave it beside a garbage can. There are people that collect these to earn some extra money.
There’s no best time to visit Germany. It’s a fantastic destination to visit all year round. All you need to do is keep a lookout for some great flight and hotel deals. Choose whatever season sounds best to you and just make it happen! We hope the tips we provided will be useful and help you to plan your trip to Germany a bit better.
If you’re planning to book your flight to Germany, save big with this special offer by Air France.
If you’re planning to rent a car, use my Sixt discount code to get up to 15% off on your car rental in Germany.
To get the best deals on travel insurance, use my discount code at World Nomads and save up to 15%.
Are you a student? Check out STA travel for the best travel discounts for students.
If you’re looking to save on accommodation, use my Booking code and save up to 15% on all accommodation in Germany. Alternatively, if you’re looking for luxury hotels, this link gets you 10% off on your stay at all Radisson Hotels in Germany.
Finally, if you’re collecting points, you can track all of your loyalty programs and save on every trip with points.com.
Did you ever visit Germany? How did you like this list of things one should know before visiting Germany? Do you think there are some things we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments!
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