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GERMANY – GENERAL INFORMATION

   
                      Fig.1 – Germany Flag

GEOGRAPHY

Germany is in Western and Central Europe, with Denmark bordering to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France and Luxembourg to the southwest, and Belgium and the Netherlands to the northwest.  It is the seventh largest country by area in Europe and the 62nd largest in the world.

Elevation ranges from the mountains of the Alps (highest point the Zugspitze at 2,962 metres or 9,718 feet) in the south to the shores of the North Sea (Nordsee) in the northwest and the Baltic Sea (Ostsee) in the northeast. The forested uplands of central Germany and the lowlands of northern Germany (lowest point: Wilstermarsch at 3.54 metres or 11.6 feet below sea level) are traversed by such major rivers as the Rhine, Danube and Elbe. Glaciers are found in the Alpine region, but are experiencing deglaciation. Significant natural resources are iron ore, coal, potash, timber, lignite, uranium, copper, natural gas, salt, nickel, arable land and water.

HISTORY

Credit: Central Intelligence Agency

The Celts are believed to have been the first inhabitants of Germany. They were followed by German tribes at the end of the 2nd century B.C. German invasions destroyed the declining Roman Empire in the 4th and 5th centuries A.D. One of the tribes, the Franks, attained supremacy in western Europe under Charlemagne, who was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 800 A.D.

By the Treaty of Verdun (843), Charlemagne’s lands east of the Rhine were ceded to the German Prince Louis. Additional territory acquired by the Treaty of Mersen (870) gave Germany approximately the area it maintained throughout the Middle Ages. For several centuries after Otto the Great was crowned king in 936, German rulers were also usually heads of the Holy Roman Empire.

By the 14th century, the Holy Roman Empire was little more than a loose federation of the German princes who elected the Holy Roman Emperor. In 1438, Albert of Hapsburg became emperor, and for the next several centuries the Hapsburg line ruled the Holy Roman Empire until its decline in 1806. Relations between state and church were changed by the Reformation, which began with Martin Luther’s 95 theses, and came to a head in 1547, when Charles V scattered the forces of the Protestant League at Mühlberg. The Counter-Reformation followed. A dispute over the succession to the Bohemian throne brought on the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648), which devastated Germany and left the empire divided into hundreds of small principalities virtually independent of the emperor.

THE PEOPLE

Germans by nationality make up 91% of the population of Germany. As of 2010, about seven million foreign citizens were registered in Germany, and 20% of the country’s residents, or more than 16 million people, were of foreign or partially foreign descent (including persons descending or partially descending from ethnic German repatriates), 96% of whom lived in the former West Germany or Berlin. In addition, it is estimated that Germany in 2015/16 extended shelter to over one million additional refugees increasing the numbers of foreign individuals in the country further.

SOCIAL CONVENTIONS

Especially in the English-speaking countries, Germany and the Germans have earned themselves a reputation for being stiff and strict with rules but also hard working and efficient. If you are caught breaking the rules, this will be pointed out to you by a fellow citizen. Germany, especially urban Germany, is a rather tolerant society, and your common sense should be sufficient to keep yourself out of trouble. Drinking in public is not forbidden. Behave respectfully in places of worship and places that carry the dignity of the state (like the numerous war and holocaust memorials, parliaments and other historical sites). Insults against other people are prohibited by German law and, if prosecuted for it, can result in jail time and a heavy fine. It is unknown how often charges are brought, but exercise common sense in all cases. Germany technically has no speed limit on its Autobahn even though signs limiting speeds in the metropolitan areas are common due to traffic congestion. However, there are rural stretches on the Autobahn, where cars traveling legally in excess of 150 miles can be seen. Strict rules apply; the most important one is that cars may only be overtaken on the left side. The right lanes are for slower vehicles.

LANGUAGES

German (Official)

GOVERNMENT

Federal Republic

TIME ZONE

Local time is UTC +01:00
ELECTRICITY

Germany uses 230V, 50Hz

CLIMATE

Most of Germany has a temperate seasonal climate in which humid westerly winds predominate. The country is situated in between the oceanic Western European and the continental Eastern European climate. The climate is moderated by the North Atlantic Drift, the northern extension of the Gulf Stream. This warmer water affects the areas bordering the North Sea; consequently in the northwest and the north the climate is oceanic. Germany gets an average of 789 mm (31 in) precipitation per year. Rainfall occurs year-round, with no obligatory dry season. Winters are mild and summers tend to be warm, temperatures can exceed 30 °C (86 °F).

The east has a more continental climate; winters can be very cold and summers very warm, and longer dry periods can occur. Central and southern Germany are transition regions which vary from moderately oceanic to continental. In addition to the maritime and continental climates that predominate over most of the country, the Alpine regions in the extreme south and, to a lesser degree, some areas of the Central German Uplands have a mountain climate, characterized by lower temperatures and greater precipitation.

LOGISTICAL

Entry & Exit Requirements:

Germany is a party to the Schengen Agreement. As a U.S. citizen, you may enter Germany for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa. Your entry into Germany begins the 90-day limit for the entire Schengen area. For further details about travel into and within Schengen countries, please see our Schengen fact sheet. You may also contact the German Embassy in Washington, for the location of German consulates in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, or San Francisco to obtain the most current visa information.

If you are transiting Germany en route to other countries, make sure you know all of the entry and exit requirements for your final destination. If you don’t have the right documentation, you might be denied boarding to your connecting flight. For example, some countries (e.g., South Africa) require a certain number of blank visa pages, or more than six months remaining validity on your passport.

Embassy Locations:

US Embassy in Germany

Gießener Str. 30

60435 Frankfurt am Main

Federal Republic of Germany

Phone: (069) 7535-0

Embassy of Canada to Germany

Leipziger Platz 17

D – 10117 Berlin, Germany

Tel: +49 (30) 20 312-0

Health:

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) or via the CDC website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/topics/infectious_ diseases/en/. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

Banks & Currency:

Germany has the Euro (EUR, €) as its sole currency along with 23 other countries that use this common European money. While German domestic debit cards – called EC-Karte or girocard – (and, to a lesser extent, PIN-based Maestro cards) enjoy almost universal acceptance, this is not true for credit cards (VISA, MasterCard, American Express) or foreign debit cards (VISA Debit/Electron etc.), which are not as widely accepted as in other European countries or the United States but will be accepted in several major retail stores and some fast food restaurants. Hotels, larger retailers, chain gas stations and nationwide companies accept credit cards; supermarkets, discount stores or small independent shops tend not to (with exceptions). Some places impose a minimum purchase amount (typically 10 euros) for card payments. Most ATMs will allow you to withdraw money with your credit card or foreign debit card, but you’ll need to know your card’s PIN for that.

Communication:

Germany has one of the world’s most technologically advanced telecommunications systems; as a result of intensive capital expenditures since reunification, the formerly backward system of the eastern part of the country, dating back to World War II, has been modernized and integrated with that of the western part.

Germany is served by an extensive system of automatic telephone exchanges connected by modern networks of fiber-optic cable, coaxial cable, microwave radio relay, and a domestic satellite system; cellular telephone service is widely available, expanding rapidly, and includes roaming service to many foreign countries

International: country code – 49; Germany’s international service is excellent worldwide, consisting of extensive land and undersea cable facilities as well as earth stations in the Inmarsat, Intelsat, Eutelsat, and Intersputnik satellite systems.

Cell Phone Usage:

Please contact your cell phone provider to determine whether your contract includes coverage in the country you are visiting. Depending on your contract you may have to add international services and/or country specific services.

ENTERTAINMENT

Food & Drink:

German food usually sticks to its roots and a typical dish will consist of meat with some form of potatoes and gravy, accompanied by vegetables or salad. Modern German cuisine has been influenced by other European countries such as Italy and France to become lighter. Dishes show a great local diversity which is interesting to discover. Since bigger employers have a canteen for their employees, you will find relatively few sandwich shops and takeaways, and eating-out culture in Germany is dominated by the Gasthaus/Gasthof and restaurants. However, many US fast-food chains are visible and the restaurant culture in metro-areas these days is international.

Shopping:

Retail prices are reasonable and lower than in northern European countries but the value added tax, VAT, “Umsatzsteuer” or “Mehrwertsteuer” has been increased to 19%.  Some German brands of high end goods such as kitchen utensils, stationery, and hiking gear are considerably cheaper than abroad. V.A.T. is always included by law in an item’s price tag (only exception is for goods that are commercially exported but then duties might apply). There exists a reduced V.A.T of 7% i.a. for hotels, edibles, print products, public transport (short-distance only) and admission price for opera or theatre. Germany will refund a portion of the V.A.T. for purchases made while visiting  as long as you reside outside the European Union. Please inquire, when in Germany.

BAGGAGE

Baggage rules for international and domestic air travel have changed much in recent years, differ from carrier to carrier and these days even may cover your on-board bags. Checking luggage may cost a separate fee or may be free depending on your personal status with the carrier. We therefore encourage you to read your ticket’s small print and/or contact your carrier for exact rules.
TIPPING

Unlike in some other countries, service staff is always paid by the hour. A tip is therefore mainly a matter of politeness and shows your appreciation. If you didn’t appreciate the service you may not tip at all and it will be accepted by the staff. Since the introduction of the Euro, a tip of about 5-10% is customary if you were satisfied with the service. Nonetheless, a service charge is already included in an item’s unit price so what you see is what you pay. Tour directors and coach drivers may be tipped based on $ 1.- per person per day for the driver and $ 2.- per person per day for the tour director (2017). If you travel on a private arrangement with a tour director performing well you may want to tip a bit more.

LAUNDRY

Laundry service is available at most hotels in the main centers. Generally you should allow about 24-hours before the item is returned to you, however, some have an emergency service available at an extra charge. Pack lightly and rather use such laundry services on a longer trip. It may in fact save you baggage fees with the airlines (see baggage).

PHOTOS & VIDEOS

In some countries you must refrain from photographing sites such as Military bases and industrial installations. Also be aware of cultural sensitivities when taking pictures of or near churches and other religious sites. It is always courteous to ask for permission before taking photographs of people.

USE OF DRONES 

The use of drones is being legislated by many countries. In some cases drones are already forbidden and their unauthorized use may carry severe penalties. If you plan to travel with a drone please contact the embassy or consulate of the country you wish to visit.

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