Germany is one of those countries that exceeded all of my expectations. Even after all the research and seeing tons of photos, nothing could have prepared me for the breathtaking beauty of Germany. The landscape is spectacular, the people are friendly and welcoming, and the food is delicious. Kyle and I have talked multiple times about making Germany one of those places we go back to as much as we can. So where do you start when you’re planning a trip to Germany?
Germany is a Western European Country with beautiful landscapes, great beer, and a ton of history. Whether you want to eat and drink your way through the country, explore the outdoors, or pay respects at the Holocaust memorials, there is something for everyone in Germany. This guide will help you plan your whole trip. You can find out how much to budget, what to pack, all of our favorite things to do, and everything you need to know about planning a trip to Germany.
About half of the population in Germany speaks English, especially in the major cities. I highly recommend learning a few more common German phrases and words, this is helpful and more respectful to the citizens. A little bit of effort will go a long way. When traveling to a foreign country we always download the local language on our Google Translate app beforehand to help us out. If you download the language you can even use it offline which is extremely helpful.
Germany is a part of the Schengen Area, which is a group of 26 European states who eliminated passport and other types of border control for their mutual borders. Essentially, these 26 countries function as one country when it comes to international travel. If you are a European Union (EU) resident you are able to travel visa-free for an unlimited amount of time. While you won’t need a visa if you plan on staying longer than 90 days you must register with the local government. If you are an American, Australian, Or New Zealand citizen you must have a passport valid for at least 3 months beyond your planned trip. A visa is not required unless you plan on staying longer than 90 days. Citizens from most other countries must apply for a Schengen visa to travel in Germany. This visa will also allow travel from one country to another within the Schengen area without having to complete any other formalities. Make sure you check your specific requirements before traveling to ensure you don’t have any issues. You can click here (https://www.germany-visa.org/do-i-need-a-visa/) to read more about the requirements.
As I am writing this the exchange rate is 1 USD to 0.90 EUR. The exchange rate is constantly fluctuating but can be checked with a quick Google search.
Credit Cards and ATMs
While most places in Germany take credit cards you should still bring some cash. Remember they use Euros, so you will have to exchange your currency. This can be done at a bank before you leave, while in Germany or at the airport. We went to two local restaurants in Schliersee that did not accept credit cards. The ATMs in Germany are known as Bankomat. They are multilingual and you should be able to use your credit card with no problems but fees normally apply when using ATMs. We normally take out some of the currency we will need before traveling and then use our Capital One Venture card when we can. It has no transaction fees and makes our lives much easier.
The Power outlets in Germany are type F. They are 2-prong sockets with 230V and 50 Hz. We have this universal adapter with a surge protector to make sure we are always prepared when traveling.
Germany is one of the safest countries in Europe. Crime rates are low with the most common offense being pickpocketing. Just because the country is known for being safe make sure you still stay aware of your location and surroundings. Check out our 13 tips on staying safe while traveling abroad here.
Always trust your gut. If something or someone feels off then try to avoid that situation. The best thing you can do before any trip is to get travel insurance. Having travel insurance can protect you against cancellations, theft, and even injury. We don’t travel anywhere without having insurance. Our favorite travel insurance is provided by World Nomads.
Public transportation is easily accessible in Germany. You can access most major cities by bus or train. We normally rent a car wherever we travel so we can explore it at our own speed. Renting a car is very affordable in Germany. While it is scary driving in a new country for the first time, driving here is fairly easy. Be sure to check if you need an International Driver’s License while traveling. We were not asked to show one either time we drove in Germany but it’s technically required. I swear I read somewhere that in Italy we needed one but Germany we didn’t. I would just be safe and even if it’s not enforced, make sure you have one to avoid any issues or potential fines. You can check out the full list of countries that require an International Driver’s License here.
Planning a Trip to Germany
Best Time to Go
Late spring or early fall is the best time to visit Germany in order to avoid crowds. It also tends to be less expensive to travel to Germany during these times. The tourist season runs from May-September. During this time the weather is the best and the days are the longest, but the crowds are also the biggest. Shoulder season, which is spring and fall, has decent weather and fewer crowds. Springtime does bring frequent rain showers so make sure to pack a raincoat, waterproof boots, and an umbrella. The exception to the small crowds during the shoulder season is Oktoberfest.
Oktoberfest is a festival held annually in Munich to celebrate the crown prince of Bavaria’s marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. If you plan on visiting Germany in late September or early October you may way to consider making a stop in Munich for the famous Oktoberfest. It is such an amazing festival, but make sure to book your hotels in advance. In the winter, you can expect snow and Christmas markets which normally start in late November.
Of course, everyone’s budget will range depending on the type of traveling you want to do. Accommodations and tours are normally the most costly things while in Germany. Below are average costs as of 2019, be aware that prices will change over time but these are what we experienced while traveling to Germany.
Hotels: average about 60-80 EUR per night.
The prices will depend on when and where you stay. During Oktoberfest, you can pay as much as 300+ EUR per night.
(average per person)
Beer Hall: 9-15 EUR
Restaurant: 15-20 EUR
Beer: 3-5 EUR
U-Bahn (Subway) and S-Bahn (Above Ground)
One-way: 1-4 EUR
One-day: 7 EUR
3-day: 17 EUR
Bus: 15-30 EUR
Slow-speed: 40-70 EUR
High-speed: 80-100+ EUR
If you plan on traveling for an extended period or visiting multiple cities you should look into getting a Eurail pass. If you only plan on riding the train once or twice then point-to-point tickets will definitely be the cheaper option.
Car: 15-18 EUR (per day)
Note: Gas in Europe can be very costly and will affect your budget if you rent a car. It cost about $5.57 USD per gallon while we were traveling there, which is more than twice what we are used to paying per gallon. Make sure you take that into account when budgeting.
What to Pack
When planning a trip to Germany you need to take into account the weather. You will need a variety of clothing depending on the season and part of the country. If you are visiting the mountains in the winter you will want to layer your clothes. From April to November you can experience frequent rain showers so be sure to pack a rain jacket.
Where to Stay
Accommodations in Germany are extremely affordable compared to other European Countries. You can find a wide variety of places to stay from luxury hotels to renting an Airbnb. We recommend checking out Booking.com or Expedia to find the best deals. Our favorite hotel is the Karma Bavaria. Its located in Southern Germany, about an hour from Munich. It made a great home base for us while we were in Germany. The people are so friendly and accommodating and the property is gorgeous.
Wild camping, or camping wherever you want, is technically illegal. You can find campsites in certain areas that are fairly cheap though.
Best of Germany
Top Cities to Visit
Despite the fact that it is more expensive than other German cities, Munich has so much to offer. It is home to the famous Glockenspiel clock, plenty of awesome beer halls, and the annual Oktoberfest celebration.
Berlin is not only the capital of Germany but it is also the largest city in Germany. There are tons of things to do here including one of the most popular attractions, The Berlin Wall. Berlin is also known for its art scene and its Holocaust Memorial.
Frankfurt is a centrally located city on the river Main. It is the financial capital of Europe and home to the busiest German airport. One of the most beautiful Christmas Markets is hosted in Romerberg Square in December.
Cologne, Germany is home to the greatest Gothic cathedral in Germany. There are also wonderful museums including the Imhoff Chocolate Museum that showcases the chocolate-making process from the cocoa bean to the delicious finished product.
Best Things to do
You can’t travel to Germany and miss seeing at least one castle. If you want to feel like you are in a real-life fairytale visiting some of the castles while in Germany will make that dream come true. I mean, there are only about 20,000 to choose from. Neuschwanstein was our personal favorite. It was more beautiful in person than we imagined. We even hiked about two hours past the look-out point to see if we could get a better view.
The most iconic annual celebration in Germany! If you’re going to be near Munich in late September or early October it is definitely worth making Oktoberfest part of your itinerary. What could be better than drinking a stein of German beer with tons of people from all over the world? We had such a good time and definitely want to go back. Make sure you book your tickets and hotels in advance.
Our full guide to Oktoberfest is here.
Explore the Outdoors
There are so many different places to hike and take in the scenery in Germany. You can go to Berchtesgaden National Park and hike to the Ice Chapel or explore the Black Forest. There are also multiple beautiful lakes including our favorite, Lake Eibsee. Right next to Lake Eibsee you can find the Zugspitze. Zugspitze is the highest peak in Germany. Being at the top, 2962 meters above sea level, was unbelievable. There is also a panorama restaurant at the top of the mountain where you can eat while looking over all the gorgeous snow-covered mountains.
Take in the History
There are museums in pretty much any city you decide to visit. The Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart was so much fun. It was so interesting to learn how vehicles have evolved over the years. The Porsche Museum is also located in Stuttgart. There are also tons of art museums like the Alte Pinakothek. Located in near Munich this is one of the oldest galleries in the world.
If cars or art aren’t your thing you could visit the Holocaust museum in Berlin or take a tour of some of the concentration camps. Be aware that while it’s great to learn more about history it is a very emotional experience to see these things in person. It can absolutely take a toll on your heart. We decided that we weren’t ready to visit any of the Holocaust memorials. Not to say we won’t in the future, that was just our personal opinion at the time.
What to Eat
No matter what part of Germany decide to travel to you can expect to find a delicious Bratwurst. It is a German sausage typically made from pork, but can also be made from veal or beef that is pan-fried or roasted. If you are in Bavaria make sure to try the Currywurst as well. It’s so good.
Spätzle is a type of pasta made with eggs, flour, salt, and milk or water. They are kind of like a German egg noddle and so extremely delicious. Get the cheese spätzle, you will thank me later.
My favorite German food, Pretzels. Germans serve pretzel all day long. The breakfast offered at our hotel even had them as a part of buffet options! The best one I had in Germany was at Oktoberfest. Crisp on the outside but soft and warm on the inside, and the size of my head!
You cannot go to Germany without having at least one beer. I am not normally a beer girl but I have had the best beer of my life while in Germany. It seems like you can find a beer hall around every corner. The food at the beer halls is typically cheap and the beer is out of this world. We went to the famous Hofbrauhaus while in Munich. The three-story tavern is about 500 years old and has quite the history.
Planning a trip to Germany doesn’t need to be scary. I hope this guide helped you to plan your trip easier. Have you been to Germany?