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Health & safety

Dangers & annoyances

By all accounts, Berlin is among the safest and most tolerant of European cities. Walking alone at night is not usually dangerous, although there's always safety in numbers as in any urban environment.

Despite some bad press, racial attacks are quite rare in Berlin. Having said that, although people of any skin colour are usually safe in the central districts, prejudice towards foreigners and gays is more likely to rear its ugly head in the outlying eastern districts such as Marzahn, Lichtenberg and Hohenschönhausen, which are scarred by high unemployment and post-reunification depression. No matter the colour of your skin, if you see any 'white skins' (skinheads wearing jackboots with white boot laces) heading your way, run the other way - fast.

Drugs should be avoided for obvious reasons, but particularly because a lot of the stuff is distributed by mob-like organisations and the exact contents are unknown.

Most U-/S-Bahn stations are equipped with electronic information and emergency devices labelled 'SOS/Notruf/Information' and are indicated by a large red bell. If you require emergency assistance, simply push the 'SOS' button. The information button allows you to speak directly with the stationmaster. When riding alone at night, enter the car right behind the driver or, on a bus, sit in a seat where the driver can see you.

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While you're there

Medical services

The standard of healthcare is excellent in Germany, and with nearly 9000 doctors and dentists in Berlin alone you're never far from medical help. The US and UK consulates are among those who can provide you with lists of English-speaking doctors.

If you are a citizen of the EU, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) entitles you to reduced-cost or free medical treatment due to illness or injury, though not for emergency repatriation home. Check with your local health authorities for information on how to obtain an EHIC. Non-EU citizens should check if a similar reciprocal agreement exists between their country and Germany, or if their policy at home provides worldwide healthcare coverage.

If you need to buy travel health insurance, be sure to get a policy that also covers emergency flights back home. While some plans pay doctors or hospitals directly, note that many healthcare providers may still demand immediate payment - usually in cash - from nonlocals. Most do not accept credit cards. Except in emergencies, call around for a doctor willing to accept your insurance.

There are no vaccinations required to visit Germany.

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Emergency rooms

Hospitals are plentiful throughout Berlin. The following are university-affiliated and have large 24-hour emergency rooms:

Charité Campus Benjamin Franklin (84 450; Hindenburgdamm 30; Botanischer Garten) In the Steglitz district in southern Berlin.

Charité Campus Mitte (450 50; Schumannstrasse 20-21; Oranienburger Tor, Hauptbahnhof-Lehrter Bahnhof) The most central of the big hospitals.

Charité Campus Virchow-Klinikum (450 50; Augustenburger Platz 1; Amrumer Strasse) In the Wedding district in northern Berlin.

Zahnklinik Medeco (Dental Clinic) (2309 5960; Stresemannstrasse 121; 7am-9pm; Potsdamer Platz) Call or check the Yellow Pages for other branches.

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