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How to travel in Germany, a concise guide

2023-12-11 10:26:00, Kosova & Bota CNA

How to travel in Germany, a concise guide

Basic facts about Germany, how to get around, where to stay, safety issues, how to pay and leave tips, cuisine, drinks and culture. Below you will find some basic knowledge about Germany.

Germany is divided into 16 federal states, which also include the city-states of Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen. The largest states are Bavaria, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg.

How big is Germany?

It is approximately 360,000 square kilometers in size. The population is about 84 million.

What are the biggest cities?

Berlin is the capital of Germany and its largest city, with almost 4 million inhabitants. The second largest city is Hamburg in the north of Germany, followed by Munich in the south and Cologne in the west.

Dialects and minority languages?

German is the national language. Depending on the region, there are different dialects, some of which are difficult to understand.

Danish and Frisian are also spoken in the north, while Sorbian is spoken in parts of Brandenburg and Saxony. Many Germans also speak English well.

How is the weather?

In general, Germany has a moderate climate. In summer you can walk in shorts and T-shirts, although some days can be very hot. In spring and autumn, prepare for pants, sweaters and light jackets. In winter, temperatures can drop below zero and it can snow.

Germany's landscape is very diverse. If you go north, you can relax on the beaches of the Baltic Sea or the North Sea. In the center of the country you will find many forests, lakes, rivers and nature reserves. The German Alps are located in the south and are perfect for hiking and skiing in the winter.

What should you see in Germany?

Germany has many castles, ruins and unique half-timbered houses. Brick buildings characterize the northern port cities.

Here is a short list:

Berlin: Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag Building, TV Tower, Museum Island, Berlin Cathedral.

Hamburg: Elbphilharmonie, Speicherstadt district, town hall, harbor

Munich: Marienplatz Square, Munich Residenz, Nymphenburg Palace, English Garden

Cologne: Cologne Cathedral

Castles: Neuschwanstein Castle in Füssen, Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam, Heidelberg Castle, Hohenzollern Castle in Swabian Alb

Which events and festivals should not be missed?

The biggest folk festival in the world takes place in Munich every autumn: Oktoberfest, the traditional beer festival, here you can get a deeper understanding of the Bavarian tradition.

The Christmas period is a great time to visit Germany. You can see the fascinating Christmas markets.

And in February, many cities celebrate Carnival, also known regionally as Fasching or Fastnacht. Thousands of people wear costumes and party in the streets or in clubs and bars.

The biggest public festival in the north is Kiel Week, which takes place in the summer. It is one of the biggest sailing events in the world and dates back to the end of the 19th century.

Other popular festivals include Hamburger Dom (spring, summer and winter), Hafengeburtstag in Hamburg (May), Schützenfest in Hanover (June/July), Rheinkirmes in Düsseldorf (July), Maschseefest in Hanover (July/August), Cranger Kirmes in Herne (August), Cannstatter Volksfest (Wasen) in Stuttgart (September/October) and Bremer Freimarkt (October)

What is the best way to get around in Germany?

Germany is so big that it can take the better part of your day to explore from north to south, so you might as well take a flight if you're short on time. For shorter distances you can use the train, buses or rent a car.

When renting a car, keep in mind that in Germany, as you may have often heard, there is theoretically no speed limit on the highway. But in urban areas, speed limits are 50 or 30 kilometers per hour. On national roads, the speed limit is 100 km/h, and on highways, it is often 120 km/h.

How does the railway system work in Germany?

There are different types of trains. High-speed ICE and IC trains connect major cities and travel at speeds of up to 300 and 200 km/h. There are also local trains such as Regional-Express, Interregio-Express, Regionalbahn and S-Bahn, which also take you to your destination, albeit at a slower speed.

The German ticketing system is based on reliability. But there are often checks on trains and other means of public transport, and anyone caught without a ticket is fined.

Which ticket is right for me and how do I book?

You can buy tickets online, via the Deutsche Bahn app, at ticket machines/Fahrkartenautomat or ticket counters. If you book early, you can get cheaper tickets, but tickets cannot be changed. If, however, you cannot catch the train you have booked due to previous train delays or the train departure has been cancelled, then you can use the ticket on another train. However, if it is your fault that you missed the train, the ticket is no longer valid. Flex tickets, which are quite expensive, allow you to choose any train connection on a given day.

You can get discounts from various rail passes/cards but these are not useful for short visits as you have to sign up for an annual subscription. However, if you are in the country for more than a few days, you can buy the Deutschlandticket. This is also a subscription, but can be canceled every month and costs only €49 per month. This ticket allows you to use all local public transport throughout Germany.

Larger cities are often divided into zones such as A, B and C. When buying a ticket, check in advance which zone your destination is in as ticket prices vary accordingly. Most stations have maps showing different areas in relation to the stops so you can easily find what you need.

What alternatives are there to car, train and plane?

Full! It is relatively cheap to travel by bus over long distances. In cities, you can choose from city buses, metro trains or trams. Many places also offer rental bikes or e-scooters that you can reserve through various apps.

You can also choose to book taxis in major cities through apps. This can help you know the price in advance and not be overwhelmed, as the price is preset in the app. Keep in mind that getting a taxi in Germany can be expensive.

What accommodation options are there?

The well-known international line of hotels such as Hilton, Holiday Inn or Maritim can be found in Germany, especially in the larger cities. There are also many smaller private sector hotels and guesthouses. Hostels and holiday apartments are also available, as well as cheap accommodation with locals through platforms such as Airbnb.

Germans love camping! There are many campsites in Germany where you can spend your holidays close to nature at a reasonable price.

It is important to know that smaller hotels may not have someone working at the front desk 24/7. If you arrive late at night, check the website in advance or call to let them know when you'll be arriving so you're not left standing in front of a closed door.

How safe is Germany?

Germany is generally safe. However, storms, floods or even riots can occur from time to time, such as on May 1, Labor Day.

It is always a good idea to take care of personal belongings to avoid theft.

Payment and tips and how do people pay in Germany?

Germans prefer to pay in cash! It is therefore advisable to always carry euros with you. Many restaurants and bars do not accept credit cards.

How much and when do you tip?

Whether you pay by card or cash, try to tip around 10% in restaurants in Germany. The waiters will tell you the amount and you will give them the total price, including the tip you want to pay. For example, if you have a bill of €46, you can round it up by telling the waitress to keep €50.

What is typical German cuisine?

German food varies depending on where you are. In the north, near the sea, you will find many seafood dishes, while in the south there are many delicious dishes from Bavaria or Baden-Württemberg, such as roast pork, pork knuckle, dumplings or spaetzle (pasta that is similar to noodles ).

Bakeries in Germany have a large selection to choose from. You can choose from a variety of German bakery products including many different types of bread, rolls and small sandwiches.

What do people like to drink in Germany?

Germans are fond of beer and wine. There are 13 wine producing regions in Germany. These areas are great day trip destinations.

As for soft drinks, coffee and tea are popular, as well as the famous Apfelschorle, apple juice mixed with sparkling water. Germans generally like mixed drinks, beer is sometimes mixed with soft drinks (Radler) and wine is also mixed with sparkling water (Weinschorle).

culture

When discovering a new country, it is an advantage if you know and understand the characteristics of the local people to avoid misunderstandings.

What is important to Germans?

It's not just a stereotype, Germans generally like punctuality. They usually let each other know if they are going to be five minutes late.

Germans aren't really fans of social conversation and tend to keep quiet on public transport. Don't feel offended by this.

Caring for the environment is very important to Germans. Waste is separated, bottles and cans are recycled. Don't be surprised if a bottle seems more expensive than you expect, you're also paying a deposit. Once you return the empty bottle, your deposit will be refunded.

Germans have no problem with nudism. There are nudist beaches by the sea or lakes or saunas.

Now, after this guide, you are briefly and accurately acquainted with many specifics about Germany, all you have to do is deepen your knowledge in practice by starting the trip and getting to know the country better! /DW

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