Few countries have had as much impact on the world as Germany, which has given us the Hanseatic League, the Reformation and, yes, Hitler and the Holocaust, but also the printing press, the automobile, aspirin and MP3 technology. It’s the birthplace of Martin Luther, Albert Einstein and Karl Marx, of Goethe, Beethoven, the Brothers Grimm and other heavyweights who have left their mark on human history. You can stand in a Roman amphitheatre, sleep in a medieval castle and walk along remnants of the Berlin Wall – in Germany the past is very much present wherever you go.
In Germany, “cash is king” is more than just a saying. It is the way life works. Expect to become very familiar with ATMs and euros as you travel through this fascinating country.
The quickest, easiest and usually cheapest way to exchange money is to use an ATM, called Geldautomat in German. They are ubiquitous in German cities and can be accessed 24/7. They are present at UBahn stations, grocery stores, airports, malls, shopping streets, train station, etc. They almost always have a language option so you can operate the machine in your native language. Before you depart, make sure you know your 4-digit PIN number. Also, ask your bank if you have to pay a fee for international withdrawals and how much you can withdraw daily. Your bank might have a partner bank in Germany which can save you money.
Most Germans still prefer to pay cash and many shops and cafes do not accept cards, especially in smaller German cities. An estimated 80% of all transactions in Germany are in cash. The importance of cash cannot be overestimated. Before you enter shops or restaurants, check the doors—they often display stickers showing which cards are accepted.
Eating and Drinking
You probably didn’t choose Germany for its food, right? But the culinary revolution that’s been simmering for years under the sausage-cabbage-and-carbs layers is finally bubbling to the surface. Up and down the country you’ll find chefs playing up local, seasonal produce and making healthy, creative street food. There are exciting riffs on vegetarian and vegan food, and organic everything. Some wines these days can rival the French and Italian old-timers. Dig in and drink up – you might just be surprised
Alcohol is legal in Germany. The traditional place for drinking beer is the local “Kneipe,” Germany’s equivalent of a bar or pub. Drinking is a part of daily life for many adults.
The most popular alcoholic drink in Germany is beer. On average, Germans drink over 100 liters per year. There is an abundance of regional beers: Over 1,300 breweries make sure that people’s thirst for beer is quenched. The Germans are particularly proud of what they call the “Reinheitsgebot,” a “purity law” which has stipulated for over 500 years that beer can only be made from malt, hops, yeast and water.
In Germany, it is illegal to drive a car or ride a bike under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol consumption has been steadily decreasing. Still, each year over 100,000 people end up in a hospital due to alcohol poisoning. Some 1.3 million Germans are addicted, and about 74,000 die every year because of alcohol abuse.
Germans love bread. Every year, a German will eat about 82 kilos’ worth, and there are over 300 kinds to choose from. Leavened bread, based on sourdough or yeast, is traditional, but it is possible to buy unleavened bread almost everywhere in Germany. Germans tend to eat fresh rolls in the morning, which they buy from the local bakery. Bakers used to always make bread themselves, but now over half of the baked goods bought in Germany are mass-produced and frozen – bakery assistants just have to stick them into the oven. Germans like to eat bread with butter, jam, cheese, ham or sausage for breakfast or as an evening meal.
Germany is a paradise for lovers of sausage. There are an estimated 1,500 different types of sausage in the country. An ordinary supermarket might have about 100 types on sale. On average, Germans eat about 30 kilograms of sausage every year. This is almost half of their overall consumption of meat. Sausages tend to be made from pork, but it is possible to buy beef, lamb or poultry sausages in Germany, as well as ones made from tofu for vegetarians.
Germany’s favorite fast food originated in Turkey. The döner kebab is a flatbread filled with grilled meat, onions, tomatoes, salad and various sauces. The meat can be lamb, beef or poultry, but never pork. There are over 16,000 kebab restaurants in Germany, and altogether they sell 30 “döners” a second. The döner arrived in Germany at the beginning of the 1970s and has become a staple over the years. For vegetarians, there is a Middle-Eastern alternative: the felafel.
As soon as it gets warmer, people in Germany start barbecuing – on balconies, in gardens, in parks or at the beach. Anything can be grilled, of course; usually it’s meat, but fish, tofu sausages, aubergines or other vegetables are also used. Grilling has become an institution, and the range of barbecues on sale at DIY stores is staggering. You can also buy a basic barbecue grill at most gas stations. Some parks even put up barbecues for people to use. If you’re lucky they will be sheltered, so you can take refuge if there’s a sudden storm. It goes without saying that people are expected to clear up after themselves and to take care not to irritate their neighbors with the smoke and the smell of barbecuing meat on the balcony. To avoid any unpleasantness, it’s best to simply invite the neighbors over!
Tipping in Germany can be common but you need to know when to tip and where. Simply leaving change at the table for your delicious beer or tasty bratwurst isn’t normal.
Taxis: Its not expected, but rounding up the nearest Euros is appreciated. Hotels: Tipping is normally expected in hotels if the service is good. 1-3 Euros for the bell boy and 3-5 Euros a night for the maid staff. This can be left on the bed nightstand every night. Restaurants: Service and tax is included in the price, that being said it is normal to round up or tip 5-10% on the bill. When a waiter or waitress comes to your table you must tell them how much you wish to pay. So if the bill is 8 Euro you would say 10 Euro if you want to leave a small tip. Bars: You almost always run a tab in bars so a 10% tip at the end of the bill is considered normal. Like restaurants, you shouldn’t just leave the tip on the table but let the staff know you are tipping.
Australian Government Travel Advice
The Australian Government provides up to date information on the safety of travelling to various countries, and all travellers should take note of this advice. Liberty Tours recommends that all travellers take out appropriate Travel Insurance to cover the entire duration of their absence from home.
Follow this link for current official assessment:
Advice on health risks and vaccination recommendations can also be found using the same link.
High Season (Jul–Aug)
- Busy roads and long lines at key sights.
- Vacancies at a premium and higher prices in seaside and mountain resorts.
- Festivals celebrate everything from music to wine and sailing to samba.
Shoulder Season (Apr–Jun, Sep–Oct)
- Expect smaller crowds and lower prices, except on public holidays.
- Blooming, colourful flowers in spring and radiant foliage in autumn.
- Sunny, temperate weather that’s ideal for outdoor pursuits and exploration.
Low Season (Nov–Mar)
- No queues but shorter hours at key sights, some of which may close for the season.
- Theatre, concert and opera season in full swing.
- Ski resorts busiest in January and February.
What to pack
In winter: bring warm clothes, such as a sweater, a down jacket, a hat, gloves and a scarf, a raincoat or umbrella.
In summer: bring light clothes, but also some clothes for spring and autumn, a jacket, a sweater or sweatshirt; a raincoat or umbrella.