A Local's Guide to Germany
Dom Herrera, 12.09.18
History, art, architecture, a past of innovative technology, food, beer, hiking, music and nightlife. There’s so many things to see, do and taste in Germany that it’s near impossible to get everything done in one trip.
With this guide, we show you some of our highlights from one of the world’s most historically important countries, share some German travel tips and give an insight into how you can experience local German life, so that you can plan the perfect German holiday for you.
German culture facts
Germans begin counting with their thumb instead of their index finger
Showing your thumb signifies ‘one’. Showing your thumb and index finger signifies ‘two’ and so on...
To signify four, you show all four fingers but with no thumb. Why no thumb you ask?…we don’t make the rules!
German people are very punctual
If you're even a couple of minutes late to an appointment or a formal dinner, it’s considered very rude. And if you don’t arrive to a job interview exactly on time or before, you might as well not bother showing up at all!
Did you know? In 2017, Munich Airport (MUC) was named as the second most punctual airport in the world, with a punctuality rate of 82.5%! The most punctual airport was Singapore Changi Airport (SIN), which had a punctuality rate of 83.49%.
Interesting facts about Germany
Germany has fake bus stops
In an attempt to stop elderly people diagnosed with Alzheimer's from walking away and getting lost, fake bus stops have been placed outside a number of nursing homes in Germany.
In Autumn, acorns and chestnuts can be traded for sweets at the Haribo factory in Grafschaft. Apparently, the founder of the factory enjoyed hunting and came up with the idea to give poor children the opportunity to earn some free sweets!
Germany travel tips
Here's our top travel tips for Germany that you need to know before you go.
Germans prefer using cash, especially in local places, with many not accepting accepting card or alternative electronic payment methods such as Apple Pay. A recent study has shown that there is around €103 EUR in the average German wallet, more than any other country in the EU!
Book train tickets as a group or in advance
You can save quite a bit of money on train tickets in Germany by buying group tickets. Group tickets can usually be bought in groups of 3—5 people, but will depend on the area in which you’re travelling in.
The train system in Germany is pretty good. The trains are clean, efficient — and like the people — mostly on time. However, in recent years, riding the train in big cities around Germany has become a bit more expensive.
If you're travelling alone, you can also get big discounts by buying your train tickets in advance online. The earlier you book, the more you can save.
Understand the dining etiquette
When you arrive at a restaurant in Germany, don’t expect anyone to show you to a table. It’s common for people to find their own table at many places. If you don’t go and seat yourself, you’ll probably find yourself awkwardly standing at the front entrance for quite some time.
Don’t be afraid to sit next to strangers either. If a local restaurant, beer hall or cafes is busy, you might be expected to sit at a table with strangers.
Best places to visit in Germany
Best cities to visit in Germany
Good for: Underground techno scene and art
They call New York City ‘the city that never sleeps’. But Germany’s capital literally doesn’t stop. The nightlife goes on 24 hours a day and it’s home to the best underground techno in the world.
Where should you go for a techno night in Berlin? Berghain is the obvious choice. But it’s notoriously difficult to get in-to, with a super-strict door policy that no one quite understands. If you get turned down from Berghain, we recommend going to Tresor, it has a similar industrial vibe and is just under two miles away.
Berlin is often described as an ugly city, with concrete tower blocks covered in ‘grafiti’. Sure, some parts of Berlin are a little bleak, but there’s a certain majesty in that bleakness.
If you don’t like the art on the street, then you’ll find plenty more in Berlin’s fantastic selection of art galleries. And that if that’s still not for you, there’s beautiful country surroundings and parks in other parts of Berlin.
Plus, Berlin is a city with so much history that you don’t need to like the way it looks to realise its beauty.
New Year's in Berlin
With all the great nightclubs, Berlin is a brilliant places to see in the New Year. If techno isn't your thing, go to the annual party at Brandenburg Gate, which has live music and free admission! Read more Best Cities for New Year's Eve post.
Good for: Tradition
Munich is famous for its beer and its traditional hearty German meals. You can enjoy one of the many local beers and a schweinshaxe (pork knuckle) at the popular Hofbräuhaus or any of the other beer halls that you’d find on a beer hall tour itinerary.
However, for somewhere a little bit different and away from the tourist trap, visit Augustiner Bräustuben, which is full of local people and has a brilliant atmosphere at any time of the day (yes, even at 10am on a weekday!).
Munich isn’t all beer and food. It also has some of the best museums and art galleries in the country. We recommend the Deutsches Museum, which displays some of the greatest technological developments in history!
We can’t talk about Munich without mentioning Oktoberfest — the largest beer fair in the world! Oktoberfest runs from 16 days before the start of October until the first Sunday of October. Join over 6 million people who travel to Munich for Oktoberfest every year to celebrate all things German!
Do I need tickets for Oktoberfest?
No, you don’t need a ticket for Oktoberfest, but it does get very busy. You can make table reservations at each individual beer tent to secure a good spot. These reservations fill up quickly, so you’ll have to make them at the start of the year around January/February.
If you’re reading this and panicking because you haven’t made a reservation for Oktoberfest, don’t worry, you can still have a great time without a reservation!
Oktoberfest without a reservation
The vast majority of tents have areas that they save for people without reservations and are available on a first come, first served basis. If you’ve got a big group, you must arrive early to secure these spots — no later than 2pm on a weekday and no later than 11am on a weekend.
If you don’t fancy getting up early, you can visit the standing-only ‘pig pen’ area at the Hofbraüfestzelt. The ‘pig pen’ is one of the only places at Oktoberfest where you don’t have to be seated to get a beer (other than the outside food and beer stalls). But, be warned! The ‘pig pen’ gets very lively — prepare for a crazy night if you choose to drink here!
Oktoberfest dress code
It’s not compulsory to dress-up for Oktoberfest, but by not dressing-up, you might feel a like you don’t fit in. And dressing up is all part of the fun!
Women typically some type of variation on the traditional dirndl dress or a female lederhosen, with flat ballerina shoes or ankle boots. While men wear a traditional lederhosen, with a button-up shirt and boots.
Good for: Something a little different
Hamburg doesn’t have the edge that Berlin has and it hasn’t got the Bavarian tradition of Munich. But Germany’s second biggest city will give you a totally different taste to Germany than the more popular cities.
It has its own cuisine, one of the most underrated nightlife areas in Europe (the Reeperbahn) and a variety of interesting architecture and infrastructure. Your experience in Hamburg can be as wild or laid-back as you want — and that’s what makes it stand out among the great German cities.
Best towns to visit in Germany
Good for: A taste of local life
Arnis is Germany’s smallest town by size and popularity and can easily be explored in half a day. It’s perfect to for a look into the everyday life of a local German. And, because of its title as Germany’s smallest town, is fairly tourist friendly too!
Good for: Weather
Freiburg is best known for being the sunniest town In Germany. It’s relatively quiet but it has good hiking opportunities in the surrounding area and acts as a great place to base yourself if you want stay in the Black Forest area. We recommend heading down to the local morning market to taste the delicatessen style food from the stalls set up by people who live in Freiburg!
Good for: History
Trier is said to be Germany’s oldest town and is a must-visit for any history buff. The great thing about Trier is that it’s so historically rich, yet it’s not overrun by tourists. You’ll find yourself marvelling at giant buildings and structures that have stood for over a thousand years with practically no one around. Most notably is the Porta Nigra, built some time after 170 AD, it’s the largest Roman city gate in the world!
Weather in Germany
Germany has relatively hot summers (July—August) and cold winters (December—February). The south experiences more extreme weather than the north of Germany, with slightly hotter summers and colder winters.
Summer in Germany
On average, throughout the whole of the country, the average temperature for a German summer is 22ºC.
How many days of sunshine in Germany?
Germany has an average of 1,480—1,700 hours of sunshine each year (61—70 days worth), depending on the part of the country.
Winter in Germany
German winters have an average temperature 3ºC throughout the country, with extreme weather going way below -0º. Germany does snow, but usually only for short spells.
Christmas Markets in Germany
Germany has some of the biggest and best Christmas markets in the world. Whether you're visiting one of the 60 Christmas markets in Berlin or walking among 'Krampus' in the markets in Munich, Germany's Christmas markets are sure to get you in the Christmas spirit. Find out more about Germany's Christmas markets and others on our list of Alternative Christmas markets.
Visa information Germany
If you’re a resident from a Schengen country, you don’t need a visa to travel in Germany.
As Germany is a country within the Schengen area, there are over 60 countries that are under the visa-waiver programme and can visit Germany without a visa for a maximum of 90 days within a six month period.
Other countries outside of the visa-waiver programme will need to obtain a visa to enter Germany.
Travelling to Germany or to another country within the Schengen area from the USA? Find out if and when you'll need to apply for a Schengen visa.
Which airlines fly to Germany?
Lufthansa is the flag carrier of Germany and one of the world’s largest airlines. Lufthansa offer flights to Frankfurt Airport(FRA) and Munich Airport (MUN) from across all over the world.
Germany price guide
The local currency in Germany is the Euro.
Exchange rate: $1 USD = €0.86 EUR (Euro) (September 2018)
Accomodation Backpacker/budget traveler -€15—30 EUR per night for hostel or private room Mid-range - €60—€100 EUR for a private apartment or double room in 3 or 4 star hotel Top-end - €150+ EUR per night for a luxurious loft apartment or double room in a top-end hotel
Meal for two at a mid-range restaurant - €45 EUR One way bus or train (local) - around €3 EUR Taxi (1km journey) - €2—3.50 EUR Bottle of water — €1.80 EUR Local beer — €3.50 EUR A portion of Currywurst — €2.50