Money & costs
Germany is fairly inexpensive, although what you spend depends largely on what kind of traveller you are, what experiences you wish to have and, to a lesser extent, the season in which you’re visiting. Staying in midrange hotels, enjoying two sit-down meals a day, using public transportation, spending some money on sightseeing, activities and going to bars or clubs will costs between €120 and €150 (per person, travelling as an adult couple). For mere survival, you’ll need to budget from €40 to €70 per day, and this will have you sleeping in hostels or budget hotels, eating snack- and fast-food or preparing your own meals, and limiting your entertainment. You can stretch the euro further by taking advantage of various discounts. Of course, if you’re a high roller, Germany has no shortage of luxury hotels, Michelin-starred restaurants and fancy bars to help you part with your money.
Comfortable midrange accommodation starts at about €80 for a double room with breakfast in the cities, and €60 in the countryside. Many hostels and hotels have special ‘family’ rooms with three or four beds, or they can supply sleeping cots for a small extra fee. In some places, children under a certain age pay nothing if staying in their parents’ room without requiring extra bedding.
A two-course meal in an average restaurant costs between €20 and €30 per person, including a glass of beer or wine. Drinks prices (even nonalcoholic ones) can run surprisingly high, even in basic eateries. Eating out doesn’t have to take a huge bite out of your budget, however, as long as you stick to cafés and casual restaurants where you’ll get meals for under €10. If you’re travelling with kids, ask about a special kids’ menu or kids’ dishes. Holiday flats with kitchens are ideal for trimming food costs. Generally, prices in supermarkets are a bit lower than in the UK, USA and Australia.
Museum admission ranges from €0.50 for small local history museums to €10 for international-calibre art museums, even more for blockbuster exhibits. Some sights and museums are free, or have admission-free days, and discounts are offered for children, teens, students and seniors. Tourist-geared discount cards (often called Welcome Cards) offer free public transport and discounts on admissions, tours and the like and can be a good deal.
Car-hire costs vary; expect to pay around €45 a day for a medium-sized new car. Driving is the most comfortable and convenient mode of getting around the country, although in cities parking may be elusive and expensive. However, if there are three or more of you travelling together, it may be the most economical way of getting around. In cities, buying day or other passes for public transport is almost always cheaper than buying single tickets. If you’re travelling by train, consider a rail pass or see if Deutsche Bahn is offering any special promotions.
The euro has been Germany’s official currency since 2002. Euros come in seven notes (five, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros) and eight coins (one- and two-euro coins and one-, two-, five-, 10-, 20- and 50-cent coins). At the time of writing, the euro was a strong and stable currency, although some minor fluctuations are common. For current rates, check with your bank or online at www.xe.com/ucc or www.oanda.com.
You can exchange money at many banks and post offices as well as foreign-exchange offices. Rates are quite good and service swift and unbureaucratic at Reisebank offices at large train stations; look for branches listed throughout this book. American Express and Thomas Cook/Travelex offices are also reliable stand-bys.
Taxes & refunds
Prices for goods and services include a value-added tax (VAT), called Mehrwertsteuer, which is 19% for regular goods and 7% for food and books. If your permanent residence is outside the European Union, you can have a large portion of the VAT refunded, provided you shop at a store displaying the ‘Tax-Free for Tourists’ sign and obtain a tax-free form for your purchase from the sales clerk. At the airport, show this form, your unused goods and your receipt to a custom official before checking your luggage. The customs official will stamp the form, which you can then take straight to the cash refund office at the airport.