Information for U.S. Citizens Traveling to Germany
Since you are serious about learning German, you probably plan on traveling to Germany at some point. While life in Germany is not that different from life in the United States, there are a few things that could throw American visitors for a loop. The following links are intended to help you with travel planning and prepare you for some of the unexpected or quirky things you might run into in Germany, like having to pay for restrooms or making sure you bring along a travel adapter. Overall, though, don’t stress! Traveling to Germany or any other European country is going to be an enjoyable experience if you prepare yourself with some basic information and respect each country’s unique culture. Although my website is dedicated to teaching you the German language, many Germans speak English quite well. However, they really appreciate it if visitors at least make an effort to use German and to learn about their customs. Wouldn’t you feel the same way?
Miscellaneous travel information for Germany from the U.S. Department of State
Informative page about various aspects of living in Germany that are also pertinent for travelers.
A great website with lots of information for people visiting or moving to Germany. Very practical how-to tips.
Deutsche Welle has a nice series, Discover Germany, about different travel destinations in Germany.
The currency used in Germany is the Euro. Here’s a website that shows you all of the Euro banknotes and coins so you can familiarize yourself with the money before you go.
Driving in Germany: A good resource page, particularly for Americans and Canadians; also see our bilingual blog entries on German traffic lights and rules of the road (1, 2). If you are planning to drive in Germany, you may want to work specifically on automobile-related vocabulary (see the resources related to “Auto” on our vocab page) or take the virtual driving test offered by the Auto Club of Switzerland (for your sanity’s sake, turn off the sound). A thorough overview with links to all the road signs and what they mean (in English). Good summary of rules for driving on the Autobahn. If you are going to stay in Germany for a while and plan on getting an international driver’s license, you may be interested in this first-hand report. A nice comparison chart of rules of the road.
Lufthansa (German Airline)
Useful travel information from Lufthansa (store hours, electricity, holidays etc.)
If you are booking a hotel, the following vocabulary might come in handy:
Looking for the cheapest flight? This is BY FAR the most useful flight search engine. You can’t make reservations here, but armed with the information you find, you can make your reservations directly with the airline or through another travel site, such as Priceline or Expedia.
Public transportation: the public transportation system in all of the German-speaking countries is generally very good, except in rural areas. Excellent article about public transportation.
Train passes are an amazing option for traveling in Europe, not only for students, but for seniors and everyone in between. Rail Europe offers pretty much every train pass/ticket available in Europe (Eurail etc.). Make sure you also read our blog entry about the difficulties of purchasing individual train tickets in Switzerland. Not putting this on here to get you to buy a rail pass, but to make you aware of the frustrations I myself recently experienced (and I grew up in Switzerland). Similarly, my father recently purchased a ticket at one of the machines at the train station and was told by one conductor checking his ticket that it was fine and by the next one that it was not valid. If even the conductors can’t figure out the tickets, I feel like I’m playing Russian roulette every time I buy an individual ticket. Solution: buy a day pass or some other rail pass that is good everywhere. The passes may seem kind of pricey at first glance, but individual train tickets are not cheap anymore by any stretch of the imagination.
Weather info for dozens of cities in Germany
Legal stuff: If you are planning on drinking alcohol in Germany.
Culture: our bilingual German/English blog entries relating to living/traveling in Germany. 1 (restaurant), 2 (restrooms), 3 (land use/hiking); 4 (good-luck charms); 5 (dogs in restaurants and stores). If you are mystified by some German customs or items, there is a good chance you can find an explanation here. A nice comparison chart for restaurant etiquette (scroll down to page 2). Various other comparisons between American and German culture.
Restaurant: 10 Things you should know before going to a German restaurant. Some common phrases used by a guest and a waiter/waitress at a restaurant:
Some warnings found in travel advisories issued by other countries for people traveling to Germany.
Shopping in Germany: here’s kind of a cool app to find stores near a location in Germany. Also let’s you look at all the store ads in a local area and check directions and opening hours for the different stores.
Important Travel Tip: Speaking from personal experience, I suggest you bring a selection of over-the-counter cold drugs with you. Combination cold drugs like Dayquil or Nyquil are unheard of in Europe and generally require a prescription. The drugs that are available over the counter tend to be less potent than the drugs in the US. I am not advocating the indiscriminate use of such medications at all, but there is nothing quite as miserable as traveling in a foreign country when you are sick and then not being able to get any medications that alleviate your symptoms. Personally, I would advise anyone to take some Emergen-C for a couple of days prior to your trip and a couple of days after arrival.
A guide to German etiquette: http://www.young-germany.de/topic/live/settle-in-adjust/a-guide-to-german-etiquette. Basic German manners in a nutshell: Some of these are not that strict anymore, but they can’t hurt. Also check out our blog on Knigge, the German guide to manners.