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17 tips and tricks to know before visiting Germany

17 tips and tricks to know before visiting Germany

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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

Hildesheim

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

cologne night

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

german fast train

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 euros) but every next person on the same ticket pays a small amount (something like 7-8 euros). 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

christmas market germany

Other countries may have a cashless system, but not Germany. When visiting Germany, using cash is still important and most stores, shops, bars, restaurants, and stalls may not have a card machine.

Credit cards are not as widely accepted in Germany as you might think. 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

things to know before visiting Germany

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 and this is something you should know before visiting 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.

If you’re planning to book your flight to Germany, save big with this special offer by Air France.

Learn some basic German

learn 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?

things to know before visiting Germany

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 eyebrows as other parts of the world but try tipping 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

be 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

visiting germany tips

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. When visiting 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

autobanh

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 AutoEurope discount code to get up to 15% off on your car rental in Germany. If you see the Autobahn (white circle with a black border and black diagonal stripes) 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, the left lane is used solely by drivers who are competent enough to drive with a 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

jaywalking

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 euro 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 off 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

toilet germany

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 visiting Germany is…

Know your Pfand

pfand Germany

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.

Final Thoughts

There’s no best time for visiting 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 AutoEurope 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%.
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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Medha Verma

Sunday 13th of October 2019

Loved reading this post. I've been to Germany only once and that too for a short period of time so I learned some of these things by experience, for example, that their public transport system is relatively well developed. However, I did not think that it was so important to carry cash, given that they pretty much accepted credit cards everywhere! I loved how their 'autobahns' didn't have a speed limit, I loved driving fast on the highways there. Such a great idea to rent a car there, the scenery is pretty awesome too.

Passport Symphony

Tuesday 15th of October 2019

Thanks, Indeed Germany is a pretty country.

Shreya Saha

Thursday 10th of October 2019

I have been to Germany before, but I wasn't aware of a lot of things I read here. I am impressed with the Pfand rule. It will push people to deposit their bottles back to get the deposit. I am not much of a drinker, hence I haven't face this really when I was there.

Passport Symphony

Saturday 12th of October 2019

I am glad to hear that Shreya and indeed that's an amazing rule.

Yukti Agrawal

Wednesday 9th of October 2019

Very helpful tips for first timers going to Germany. I too faced some of the things mentioned in this list like closing of markets and shops on Sundays. I was not knowing this and then I was astonished to see whole city was closed on Sunday. I am also a very big fan of public transport in Germany instead of using taxis or Uber as they are very timely and cost effective.

Passport Symphony

Friday 11th of October 2019

Thanks, Yukti. I totally agree with you public transport are better than taxis.

Diana

Wednesday 9th of October 2019

All super helpful tips for a first timer to Germany! It took me a few times of going there to remember that the whole country operates on cash. Most countries as developed as Germany will accept credit card everywhere, but Germany's history I guess turned it off to any sort of credit or debt forever.

Passport Symphony

Saturday 12th of October 2019

Thanks, Diana. Yes, it too took me some time to remember that the country solely depends on cash.

Marlies

Tuesday 8th of October 2019

A lot of these tips you can use in a lot of European countries. Like when everything is closed on Sunday, packing your own groceries and paying to use a public toilet. I however did not know it's not common to use credit cards all over Germany. Thanks for the tips!

Passport Symphony

Tuesday 8th of October 2019

Thanks, Marlie. I am glad you liked it.

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