These Germany travel tips are what I learned on an excursion to the regions of Bavaria, Franconia and Hesse.
I traveled everywhere by train, subway and trolley, taking full advantage of the knock-your-socks-off month-long 9 Euro Deutsche Bahn (DB) deal (approximately $9) this past summer.
The nationwide train deal is supposed to return this winter – but at 49 Euros a month, which is still a major bargain.
Contactless Credit Card Payment vs. Cash
Despite what you may have heard or read, not everything everywhere is contactless payment. You can still use cash.
Indeed, several of the restaurants I ate in preferred it. So did shops for any purchase less than 10 Euros (approx. $10).
- Germany Travel Tip – bring Euros
At train stations, ticket machines require a four-digit PIN for credit card payment. No PIN, no ticket, and not every train station has a DB Travel Center with a helpful staff able to bypass a PIN-less transgression.
Depending on the type of hand-held payment device a restaurant or shop uses, a PIN also is required for payment.
- Germany Travel Tip – have a working PIN for any credit card you want to use.
Bring Your Own Soap, Washcloth, Shampoo, Conditioner
Hotels and guest houses which used to provide soap, shampoo and conditioner now often provide only soap, and that’s most likely to be a dispenser of liquid soap, not a bar of soap.
Since I was traveling with carry-on only, I did not pack shampoo, conditioner or a small hotel-sized bar of soap, expecting the hotel would provide it. Wrong. Hair dryers, yes, shampoo or conditioner, no.
I washed my hair more than once with regular body shampoo. My hair survived.
- Germany Travel Tip – if you like soap, bring your own. Ditto your own shampoo and conditioner
Two of the places I stayed had soap dispensers only by the sink, not in the shower. Nothing in the shower. Don’t ask how I managed to do it.
- Germany Travel Tip – If you want to make sure you have soap or shower gel in the shower, bring your own. If you are taking carry-on only – as I did – take a small bar of soap, and save your allowable liquids for other things.
Germans might use washcloths at home, but hotels often don’t provide them. Three of the five places I stayed in did not.
- Germany Travel Tip – if you like to use a washcloth or bath sponge, bring our own.
Don’t believe the websites or brochures, which aren’t always updated – especially the English versions.
I visited museums – or tried to – which were not open on the days or hours the website said.
Ditto showing up for a guided English-language city tour sponsored by the city tourism office, which was not free as the website said, but 9 Euros (approx. $9), and it was on a different day and time than listed on the website, so I missed it.
In smaller cities and towns, everything is closed on Sunday. Everything, that is, except for churches, cafes, restaurants and some museums.
If you have an emergency need for aspirin or antacid, you’ll have to tough it out because even the apothekes (drugstores) are closed. You can get a beer, but not a band-aid.
- Germany Travel Tip – always have a few band-aids, Tums and Tylenol in your toiletry kit.
Beer and Breakfast
It’s okay to drink beer in the street. This is Germany, after all.
Breakfast is an important meal. Larger hotels offer lavish buffets, with miles of cheeses and yogurts, sliced salamis and wursts, veggies, eggs with brilliant orangy (not yellow) yolks, crusty rolls and dark bread, perhaps even champagne.
And even the smallest guest house turns out a spread. A do-it-yourself open-faced sandwich is a welcome change from the standard American scrambled eggs and bacon.
- Germany Travel Tip – give in and have a sandwich for breakfast
My Wurst Eating Habits
In addition to beer, Germany has an infinite variety of wurst, or sausages. And just about each city or region in Germany city has its own special wurst.
Weisswurst in Munich, Nuremburger brats in Nuremburg, Currywurst in Berlin. While you can find these local specialties in other cities as well as their “home” city, you should always eat the local wurst in its hometown.
The bratwurst is ubiquitous. You can find them anywhere, usually served in a brotchen – or soft roll. Sauerkraut? Ixnay. That’s a side dish at dinner. Mustard? Of course – your choice of mile or spicy for everything except Weisswurst, which has its own, special, sweet mustard.
- Germany Travel Tip – even in Frankfurt, a wurst is never ever called a frankfurter.
For more information, visit the German Tourist Board website.
Also, I’m a great fan of Fodor’s Essential Germany guidebook – in great part because I wrote three chapters for the current edition, just published.
ecoXplorer Evelyn Kanter is a journalist with 20+ years of experience as a newspaper and magazine writer, radio & TV news producer & reporter, and author of guidebooks and smartphone apps – all focusing on travel, automotive, the environment and your rights as a consumer.
This photo was taken on a recent trip to Namibia, home of the world’s largest sand dunes.
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