Here are 10 tips for traveling in Germany to make it a bit easier!
Rest stop may or may not have toilet paper (like Japan), so bring your own just in case to prevent a ‘learned it the hard way’ lesson! Also let me forewarn you that the seats are made of stainless steel and if you happen to accidentally sit down on one on a cold day your in a for quite the surprise, it’s COLD!! The water was also alarming cold as well as we numbly washed our hands. Also for rest stops off the autobahn make sure you bring some loose change 50€ coins because you may need to pay to us the bathroom. You can then use the ticket as a credit when making the purchase in the store, too bad we found this out AFTER we had paid & left the store, sigh.
GPS units work great for finding places…most of the time unless it happens to be telling you to turn onto a Pedestrian only street, down a one way street, or down a one way street only for trams! Yes, all 3 have happened to us so far and we’ve only been here 2 months. So use with caution and be prepared to override it when common sense tells you to do so.
The free continental breakfast at a good hotel (such as Holiday Inn Express, we’re not talking 5 star) is way better than what you’ll find in the US. In the US I leave those free breakfast still hungry, not so here. You should find an assortment of fruits, breads, meats, cheese, pastries, cereals, oj, water, coffee, & espresso! No need to bring your own breakfast treats.
Most Germans can speak English even though when you ask them ‘Sprechen Sie English?’ they ALWAYS say ‘a little bit’ and then proceed to carry on a full English conversation with you. You may have a harder time with some of the older citizens but so far we’ve been able to communicate whatever we have needed to without a translator, etc. They don’t always give themselves credit for how much they know and speak in English.
When dining at restaurants water is NOT free like in the US. They do not even serve tap water but filtered or sparkling water in a bottle so it normally costs either the same amount or close to a glass of Coke. There are no free refills either. Ice is also not to be expected.
If you are wanting to visit castles make sure you check the opening times online before you go. I have found that many of the local castles close in Nov or Dec and do not open again until the end of March or April. Sure you can go see the outside of the castle but that will be it. Also if there is a tram that goes up the mountain, it will be closed during that time as well. There are a few castles that stay open year round like Vianden Castle in Luxembourg (only closed 3 days a year), and Heidelburg Castle so there are still some to see. There are also ruins around that you can climb on all throughout the year.
Germans consider walking and hiking to be a hobby and they take it seriously! You will be able to find walking trails in almost every town, some even having special Nordic walking trails. You also may have to ‘hike’ to see castles, the paths are often full of uphills & downhills, and possibly steep sides so watch your step. For some serious fun try a Barefoot park when your leave your shoes behind and explore the park and ‘obstacles’ in your bare feet!
Cafes can be found in almost every town and will offer some great treats and drinks. We like to look for them in each town. Sometimes they are a combination of a bakery and cafe and other times just a cafe. For a few Euro you can get a sweet treat and drink to refresh you during a day of sightseeing. Our favorite was a cafe that served ice cream and hot waffles covered with cherries, ice cream and whipped cream, yum!
Germany appears to be a bit behind the times when it comes to technology. Make sure that you always carry Euro on you as many places do not take credit card. Even some of the places that do take credit card often require you to have one with a chip in it, which is not a standard issued US credit card. If they do happen to accept credit cards know that there will be an international transaction fee on your bill, generally it’s not much, around 1-2% of your purchase.
Make sure you let someone know where you are going and when you’ll be back (great rule in general for traveling), again behind a bit with the technology, and cell phone service is often spotty at best. They work great in the towns with 3G but those are few and far between. Often even trying to send a text message can be a slow and painful process. Do not rely on it to look up information about the places your visiting while you travel, make sure you do your research ahead of time. Nothing like waiting for a page to slowly load so you can find the address of the castle while you drive around the city lost. Or to find out that you have No Service, which happens often!
What is your best tip for traveling in Germany?